It's Okay to Talk About Misconduct Within the Smash Community

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Disclaimer: This article exclusively reflects the writer’s opinions. In no way does it represent the official views of GameTyrant.

On March 6, Smash History released the latest portion of its all-time Top 100. Despite the ongoing popularity of the retrospective article series, moderators at r/smashbros—the largest Smash subreddit and a major hub of the online community—quickly took down the writer’s post announcing the publication of this segment. According to moderator DosRogers, the post was removed for violating r/smashbros rule 1h, which prohibits “witch hunts.”

The controversy surrounding this Smash History piece is centered on a now-retired top player. Smash History placed this player within their all-time Top 40, providing a comprehensive analysis of his past that included discussion of both his in-game accomplishments and the fact that his legacy has been stained by allegations of emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse towards a former business partner, who is also part of the Smash scene. These allegations are public knowledge; Smash History didn’t target this player or make any new accusations. They simply published a known fact in order to provide balanced perspective in his blurb.

What exactly is a witch hunt? According to Merriam-Webster, a witch hunt is “the searching out and deliberate harassment of those (such as political opponents) with unpopular views.” Under no interpretation of this definition did the Smash History writers instigate a witch hunt with their article. Perpetrating emotional and sexual abuse is not simply an “unpopular view,” it is a reprehensible act that shouldn’t be defended or hidden from view. Again, the writers were simply stating facts. In fact, the only reason I haven’t mentioned the names of any of the parties involved is because I want to make sure this article won’t be taken down from r/smashbros as well.

It's possible that a witch hunt may have arisen in the comments of Smash History's post, but the correct way to deal with that possibility would have been to keep a close eye on the discussion and remove any posters who raised their pitchforks—not to bring the entire article down.

It's also important to note that the victim's statement about the incidents in question begins by saying that she cannot divulge the identity of her abuser, per her lawyer's advice. However, she does not in any way ask others to refrain from discussing that individual's identity. In fact, the information provided in the remainder of the statement makes the identity of her abuser extremely clear to anyone with prior knowledge of their enterprise. Regardless, I'm not writing to talk about the abuser or his actions; I'm writing to draw attention to the takedown of Smash History's article.

Although I’m sure the r/smashbros moderators’ intentions were pure, their censorship of Smash History’s article is concerning. They have positioned themselves as arbiters of justice and knowledge in a community that has historically shielded top players from accusations of misconduct—or at least blindly valued the testimony of top players over that of accusers, a dangerous precedent to set.

Over the last few years, allegations of top player misconduct have divided the Smash community. Some of these individuals have been banned from the community indefinitely; some have atoned and been accepted back into the scene; others are firmly on the path to redemption. Some of the worst allegations are largely unknown to the majority of the community. Redemption should absolutely be attainable for players who have committed questionable acts in the past, but the first step towards redemption is the acknowledgment of wrongdoing. If we are going to confront this toxic behavior as an ongoing issue within the Smash scene, we need to be able to talk about confirmed incidents with honesty and candor.

While I myself am on good terms with the creators of Smash History and would like to see their article reinstated, my concerns about this situation go far beyond friendship. I believe the censorship of Smash History’s article is indicative of a broader cultural issue within the Smash community. Although initiatives like Smash Sisters have successfully introduced some women to competitive Smash, the scene remains overwhelmingly male. Keeping instances of sexual abuse under wraps effectively protects abusers and creates an environment in which women might feel silenced or even unsafe. Everyone wants to see continued growth in the Smash scene, and increasing the game’s appeal towards female players is a great way to draw from a nearly unused player base.

Moderating any community—particularly one as large as r/smashbros—is difficult, and historically the subreddit’s moderators have done a good job keeping discourse productive and civil. None of the arguments above should be seen as a personal attack on the moderators; they simply made an in-the-moment decision to avoid what they perceived as a potentially toxic discussion.  It’s my hope that, in the future, the r/smashbros moderators will consider the importance of open discussion in order to protect underrepresented groups and make the Smash scene more welcoming to everyone, both online and in person.