A top organizer for one of the biggest tournaments in fighting games, Apex, has stepped down after he and his family received death threats.
Jonathan “Alex Strife” Lugo became the target of attacks from a small group of angry fans after the tournament decided to leave out a popular title from its lineup. Competitive Super Smash Bros., the popular Nintendo brawler, generally features two versions of the game: Super Smash Bros. Melee, the 2001 classic, and Project M, a fan-made modification that improved on the less popular Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Project M is not an officially licensed Smash title, but possesses the franchise’s second-largest following. The community-driven project aims to combine the more refined mechanics of Melee, noted for their technicality and speed, with the unique characters of Brawl, which many felt to be too defensive and “floaty.”
Fans of the title were understandably frustrated when Apex left the game out of its lineup for 2015. But this consternation quickly escalated into something more. Commenters on social media began by calling Apex "trash," but these quickly turned into threats on his life and threats of rape against his family members. Lugo spoke out against the treatment on Twitter:
“To those thinking it was just the threats it was not. It was the threats, rape threats on my friends, and certain people who I thought were friends just talk me down. I am just sick of the drama. I do not want to have to get into it but I just wanna say this is my decision and my decision alone. We all have limits. Apex will go on but I won’t. Please do not take it as anything beyond that.”
In response, Smash community figureheads took to social media to speak out against the vocal minority that lead to Lugo’s resignation. Former commentator and influential community member Wynton “Prog” Smith minced no words in his call for civilized conduct:
done. end it. go play and remember why the fuck you got involved in the scene. have fucking fun instead of starting bullshit.— MIOM| el-prog (@progducto) November 10, 2014
The community that built Smash into an esport has responded positively, rallying around a common cause. The hashtag “#WhyISmash” has surfaced, as thousands of stories of Smashers describing what the 15-year-old game and its tight-knit community mean to them.
#WhyISmash The games and its communities are amazing! I've met my best friends, I love helping people improve, I wanna be the best, TEEEAMS!— DJ Nintendo (@DJNintendo17) November 10, 2014
#WhyISmash two words: extended family— VGBC | TKbishop (@TKbreezy) November 10, 2014
#WhyISmash Because I've "wasted" 15 years with this series and wouldn't trade any moment of it for anything.— MIOM| el-prog (@progducto) November 10, 2014
Still, the incident with Lugo is yet another example of a dark, toxic corner of the community that uses social media to force out esports community members, and is another part of broader narrative about harassment in gaming. The same kind of sustained harassment campaign motivated the resignation of League of Legends player Zach “Nien” Malhas and plagued Greg “Idra” Fields throughout his career as a StarCraft 2 player.
Photo by me_Studios/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)