James Chen vs r/Kappa
Date Published: August 4, 2017
Editor’s Note: The Reddit thread: r/Kappa is [NSFW].
Since the release of Capcom’s Street Fighter V, the fighting game community (FGC) has slowly seen a growing divide among itself. On one side, stand the “faces of the community”, or rather the players and community members who are seen on the front lines of tournaments, in front of the camera, or behind the mic.
On the opposite side, stand the casual player base, who enjoy spectating and playing fighting games, but for monetary reasons, time constraints, or other hurdles, rarely travel out to major fighting game events.
Tension has been growing within these two factions, as different opinions constantly collide, leading to a war of words on who is right, and whose opinion matters in the FGC. The latest example of this struggle happened when longtime fighting game commentator James Chen called out the online fighting game thread r/Kappa for being a negative influence in the FGC.
James Chen, who has been a long time fighting game community commentator, and all-around personality, has always had a tendency to get a little too emotionally invested in fighting games, mainly Capcom’s Street Fighter series. No one disputes that James Chen is perhaps one of the most passionate FGC members there is, however his passion, along with his messaging has come off as disingenuous in the eyes of the non-traveling FGC, primarily one of the most outspoken groups in fighting games—r/Kappa.
r/Kappa is not for the faint-hearted, it is known for being coarse, unapologetic, and lastly, extremely cruel to those who either cross them, or in their eyes, do anything unfavorable within the FGC. However, the most important trait within r/Kappa is that despite their somewhat unseemly ways, they are honest with regards to how they feel about the state of the FGC, which has been exemplified no better with the harsh criticism of Capcom and Street Fighter V.
During the third episode of James Chen’s UNCHENSORED—a live streamed FGC related talk show hosted on Twitch, where he speaks his mind in unfiltered [NSFW] fashion. James had some harsh words for r/Kappa and its community members, so much saying “they are cancer, they’re poison.” James also made the point that because r/Kappa is not a part of the community that travels and only spectates, that “they shouldn’t have a say in shit.”
After a rather emotional 10-minute rant on r/Kappa’s influence in the FGC, James Chen brought up two things I found to be the most interesting. The first is how he believes that “If Street Fighter dies, the fighting game community is done.” This way of thinking has been my own for a long time, until being introduced to other fighting games and communities, who seem to thrive regardless of Capcom’s or Street Fighter’s well-being. Smaller communities seem to rally around what they deem to be of quality and enjoy playing, and games like Tekken 7 and Guilty Gear XRD: Revelator 2 have been praised for those qualities even on the always critical thread r/Kappa.
However, the biggest takeaway from James Chen’s rant, was the fact that despite standing for positivity, and wanting to have the fighting game community grow and prosper, his message is ultimately deemed disingenuous as he generalized r/Kappa for only being a hateful community, disparaging their sponsorship of players, as well as the glaring fact that he personally has something at stake when it comes to Capcom’s and Street Fighter V’s success—his employment, with regards to high profile commentating roles.
Overall, while James Chen did make valid arguments, and has shown to also be critical of Capcom, his way of thinking is old fashioned. The fact that Capcom was the torchbearer for starting the competitive fighting game circuit with Capcom Pro Tour, doesn’t justify the notion that Bandai Namco’s Tekken World Tour or Warner Brothers Injustice 2 Championship Series would crumble if Capcom’s circuit ceased to exist. Those two things are not mutually exclusive considering those games are catered to completely different fighting game audiences.
From an outside perspective, it is understandable to see how r/Kappa gets its negative reputation, as there are a few undeserving hate threats from time to time, however as a frequent visitor and reader of r/Kappa, personally, I don’t believe the threads’ members are as bad as they are portrayed out to be.
It would be one thing to not give Capcom and Street Fighter V a chance, however that was not the case, r/Kappa did not immediately turn on SFV, it simply expressed its dissatisfaction with its direction, and while there is a bit of an echo-chamber effect, it still does not excuse Capcom’s constant mishaps with regards to how the game was shaping up or how they interact with the side of the community who is critical of them.
At the end of the day, there is no winner within this FGC feud, however there is definitely a case to be made for both sides, r/Kappa could go about things in a more constructive way, as they are an instrumental voice within the FGC whether or not the likes of James Chen approve of it. Being a little coarse at times isn’t always a bad thing, however I do understand how the “pile-on” effect can take things a little too far.
However, on the other hand, the fighting game personalities like James Chen, cannot be disparaging, and patronizing towards the side that is just as passionate, but does not travel, seen or heard as often, and while he did apologize for his remarks, the apology still had the same hint of insincerity to it.
The fighting game community is at a crossroads; however, I do believe that it is strong enough to sustain itself with quality games and enjoyable environments, rather than just constant growth of large scale events or success measured monetarily.