The community-run Super Smash Bros Code of Conduct Panel, which was started to help deal with accusations of harassment and abuse in the community, has voluntarily shut down. The group was inundated with accusations of harassment during a massive wave of revelations about competitive Smash players over the summer.
As a result, project manager Josh Kassel and the other members of the panel decided to disband, feeling overwhelmed with the task at hand.
“[T]he reality is that at, our current pace of work, we would need five or ten years just to go through all the accusations and possible cases brought up this summer,” Kassel wrote in an official statement. “Thousands of hours would be spent listening to testimonies or getting details of the darkest parts of our community, and that is when you consider only the people from this summer. Any questionable behavior in the meantime would get added to a waiting list that could be a decade long.”
Community Tries to Self-Police
The panel introduced a formal code of conduct that several major tournaments adopted as official policy. The goal was to make it so players with a history of violence, harassment, or sexual misconduct would not be allowed to join major events.
However, they quickly found that the task was daunting: many people in the community simply didn’t want to be beholden to a formal code of conduct. Many accused the panel of having no authority to conduct investigations or issue bans.
And, Kassel notes, the job was thankless. The panel worked as volunteers, with no promise of reimbursement and for the thankless task of ejecting problematic people from their community. The issues of lack of pay, emotionally grueling investigations and outright harassment from the community wore on the group.
Kassel says that the panel found itself embroiled in investigations that revealed some horrible things lurking in the darkest corners of the community.
“We received cease and desists, and heard the intimate details of cases so personal and heartbreaking that it taxed the people managing it to their last threads. Tales of pedophilia and molestation, of death threats or of legitimate mental illness,” Kassel wrote in the official statement.
“And in some cases, clear examples of how easily all of us can let one another down. All of this was done because we believed in the cause, and all of it was done with no material reward whatsoever. But the task before us is too big for it to be sustained through faith and strength of will alone.”
A Scathing Indictment
The news that the community’s attempt to self-govern harassment and misconduct became overwhelmed and had to shut down should sound some alarms for the game’s competitive community.
That a code of conduct panel found itself unable to respond to the overwhelming number of cases in front of it and had to simply disband rather than continue their work is indicative of how toxic, unwelcoming and amoral a sizable portion of the game’s community has become.
Between the scandals currently rocking the game’s competitive community from within and Nintendo’s recent decision to stop a virtual Smash Bros Melee tournament from being held, it’s been a rough few months to be in the competitive scene for Smash. Many now wonder how much longer a formal scene can remain in place as pillars of the community crumble.