The long-running story of domestic abuse claims made against former EVO champion Infiltration has come to an end, and with it, so have his ties to the sponsor/team Panda Global on November 15th. The fallout of this story, as well as the decisions made by both PG and Infiltration, tell us a lot about the current climate of esports, and does an important thing to make sure that players, no matter how good they are, face repercussions for their actions. So often when a top player of any game, but fighting games in particular, is reported to have done something morally or legally wrong, but typically the former, the defence that they seem to get most often is “but they’re so good at the game,” as if talent in any kind of sport can act as an absolution.
In spite of the constant crowing that people should treat players only as players, to do so is impossible, and would set dangerous precedents. That’s why the decisions surrounding Infiltration feel like a step in the right direction. This is because steps have been taken, not just by PG and Infiltration, but also by Capcom, to make sure that there are consequences to the actions of players.
Infiltration chose to withdraw from the rest of the current Capcom Pro Tour, as well as the entirety of the 2019 season. He continued to state his innocence, and said that his decision to temporarily withdraw from competition came about because he “could not do any more damage to [his] team and the FGC.”
But whether or not this is damaging to the FGC remains to be seen. A level of accountability added to a landscape that, in spite of growing esports infrastructure, can still feel like a libertarian old west can surely only be a good thing. The illusion that we can treat players only as players and not people who make decisions for which, good or bad, they should be held accountable, is one that should be shattered.
This aforementioned infrastructure also plays a key role in the fallout of the Infiltration story. One of the most interesting things about the statement that Capcom issued is that they make a point of saying that “while this incident did not happen during a Capcom Pro Tour event, we do not condone any acts of violence or harassment.” It is easy for TOs and organisers to treat things that happen outside of events as divorced from the players’ ability and right to compete, but hopefully Capcom’s decision can act as a precedent for organisers and companies all around the FGC. The statement also says that “a second offense will result in a lifetime ban from participating in all future Capcom Pro Tour events.”
From this story, it looks like the FGC is getting a much needed awakening when it comes to the actions of players. After all, Infiltration isn’t just that guy that shows up to your locals once a month who you hear suspect things about. He’s a former world champion, and its vitally important that Capcom have taken the steps that they did, and have made it clear that breaking a code of conduct will not be tolerated. By giving him another chance, they allow room for improvement for Infiltration, not allowing one incident to be the end of his career. They seem to be walking a fine line between overreacting and not reacting at all, and what they’ve chosen to do shows how things need to change if the FGC is going to continue to grow and develop.