Content Warning: This news is incredibly disturbing given the nature of the allegations. If you’re uncomfortable with the topics of sexual violence or harassment, skip this one.
So the FGC is in turmoil this week as various abuse allegations surfaced involving tournament organizers, commentators and players alike. The range of abuses is varied and incredibly heartbreaking to hear. And it’s not going to be easy to talk about this too much. There are actually multiple accused abusers here, so let’s break them down. Let’s start with the one that got EVO 2020 canceled, Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar.
And yes, EVO 2020 is canceled. The event was originally planned to be a multi-week online event due to COVID-19. It was scheduled to start this month, but that plan has been scrapped. Refunds will be issued to people who already paid for EVO 2020.
Mikey “Crackpr0n” Pham made a lengthy Twitlonger post detailing how Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar abused them on several occasions. Cuellar is also accused of abusing other teenage boys in the 90s and early 00s. The allegations against him have rocked the core of the FGC, and have spurred a flurry of similar allegations against players and personalities. Given Cuellar’s prominent position within the fighting game community, it’s a pretty sour batch of news to consider. It just really highlights how ubiquitous sexual violence really is across the board, and that gaming is never immune to these problems.
EVO posted a statement on its social channels indicating it was looking into the matter, and has halted plans to hold the event this year while they review next steps.
EVO 2020, which was set to feature the likes of Mortal Kombat 11, Street Fighter 5 and Tekken 7 in an online tournament that was supposed to run for five weekends starting July 4, will no longer happen after various companies and developers have pulled support. Cuellar has also been removed from his position as CEO within the organization.
Read EVO’s full statement below:
“Over the past 24 hours, in response to serious allegations recently made public on Twitter, we have mad the first of a series of important decisions regarding the future of our company. Effective immediately, Joey Cuellar will no longer be involved with Evo in any capacity. We are currently working toward his complete separation from the company and have relieved him of all his responsibilities.
Going forward, Tony Cannon will act as CEO; in his position, he will take a leadership role in prioritizing greater accountability across Evo, both internally and at our events.
Progress doesn’t happen overnight, or without the bravery of those who speak up against misconduct and injustice. We are shocked and saddened by these events, but we are listening and committed to making every change that will be necessary in making Evo a better model for the stronger, safer culture we all seek. As a result, we will be canceling Evo Online and will work to issue refunds for all players who chose to purchase a badge. We will donate the equivalent of the proceeds as promised to Project HOPE.”
But the sad reality is that this is far from the only allegation to spring up in the last few weeks within the Smash Bros. community.
Prominent Super Smash Bros. player Troy “Puppeh” Wells has accused Smash caster Cinnamon “Cinnpie” Dunson of a series of sexual assaults that began when he was 14 and she was 24.
Puppeh says the two had exchanged sexual conversations on Snapchat, but the physical relationship began as they were traveling together in 2016. It all just goes to show that any relationship can be abusive and traumatizing, because of the imbalance of power and authority at play. The fact that it started at such a young age is particularly disturbing and indicative of willful intent to cause harm.
Smash Bros. player Zack “CaptainZack” Lauth alleged he had been sexually abused at the age of 15 by NRG pro gamer Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada — who was 20 at the time — during CEO Dreamland 2017.
This set off a wave of rumors and counter-allegations. Quezada and Lauth both initially denied the rumors of the abuse, but both denials were later deleted. Lauth posted a further acknowledgment on social media, which can be seen in part below.
“I’m tired of living a life of lies,” Lauth wrote. “I’m tired of covering up for someone else’s mistakes. I would like to say, however, that I never once threatened Nairo with coming public about my relations with him. The only reason I am saying my truth now is because I can’t take it anymore. The stress of having this experience weighing on me for three years of my life is too much for me to bear.”
Quezada later admitted fault in a Twitter response saying, his behavior was “wrong.” He went on to say he was taking time away for reflection, whatever that means.
Commentator and competitor D’Ron “D1” Maingrette was accused by Kaitlyn “KTDominate” Redeker of assaulting her on her 18th birthday. The incident apparently happened after Redeker was intoxicated, and allegedly Maingrette bragged to people about it.
Her story was corroborated by others in the community, including Eric “ESAM” Lu.
D1, in a statement of his own, said he has no recollection of the event but does not deny having sex with Redeker.
After a vague sexual assault allegation surfaced on Twitter, Richard “Keitaro” King Jr. posted a TwitLonger statement confirming he had intentionally given alcohol to a minor and then had sex with the 16-year-old player while she was drunk. This took place in 2018.
“With everything happening in the community, I hope for it to become a better/safer place, even if that means I have to withdraw myself from it,” said King. “I am tremendously sorry for all of this.”
Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, is a legendary Smash 4 player. Barrios has been a fixture of the community for years, and now the truth about his behavior comes out. After multiple people accused him of sexual harassment, including sending sexually explicit and suggestive messages to minors, he admitted the allegations were true.
Jackie “Jisu” Choe was the first to accuse Barrios, and states that he showed her sexually explicit images when she was 15. William “Leffen” Hjelte, another pro player, later corroborated the claims by saying he witnessed such events transpire. Several other anonymous women came forward with similar stories and screenshots showing such instances of sexual harassment.
Barrios ultimately apologized for the messages and admitted that he had sent messages to more minors, although he claimed he didn’t know they were underage.
The eSports team he was a part of, Tempo Storm, has dropped him. Tempo Storm said it would provide professional support for Barrios’ victims, as well as rehabilitation resources for Barrios himself “to ensure this behavior does not happen again in the future.”