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2016 Digital Media Wire L.A. Games Conference

On April 19th, the most important videogame conference you’ve never heard of was held. While the masses were preparing the descend on Boston’s PAX East later in the week, a few hundred game industry executives gathered in the W Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard to discuss exactly how the next few years in gaming will play out at Digital Media Wire’s L.A. Game Conference.

lagc 0164 bannerThe DMW L.A. Games conference isn’t your typical gaming convention. You won’t find cosplayers or boothbabes. There are no special game reveals or console announcements. Instead you'll find a series of panel discussions by giants in the industry speaking candidly about very specific topics. This year there were eighteen panels total, with titles ranging from the broad ‘Virtual and Augmented Reality for Games and Entertainment’ to the niche ‘Finding Success in the Chinese Market’. You could listen to the VP of Walt Disney’s game division discuss the best way to manage intellectual properties in one room, or how eSports can be integrated into brand marketing in another. If all of this sounds slightly boring, well, it is at first glance. On it's surface, sitting in a room listening to people break down games and players into metrics and graphs is not as compelling as even the most mundane display at E3 or PAX. 

lagc 0269 dmwpodium

There were no WW2 tanks or dancing animals to be found. But it quickly becomes apparent just how important these panels are. These discussions are a roadmap to how gaming will develop in the near future with no time wasted on pomp and circumstance. For example, it was made clear during the panels that as much as virtual reality is dominating the news, blogs and youtube, it’s not a big concern for major game companies. Large publishing and development houses aren’t planning on spending any significant amount of money on VR Game development. The market simply isn’t big enough and the cost of developing a AAA title could never be recovered. Instead most are happy to simply publish whichever indie titles that seem promising. So if you’re expecting a VR Call of Duty or Final Fantasy anytime soon. It’s not going to happen. It’s information like this which makes the L.A. Games Conference so fascinating. You can see the wide difference between the perception of the game industry and the reality behind it.

lagc 0283 clintonfoy

A few years ago eSports wasn’t even a topic on the conference agenda but this year there were two separate panels dedicated to it. It’s interesting to note that the people on stage who are be helping to shape competitive gaming weren’t full time gamers or even game developers. They were former bankers and lawyers who are now owners of their own eSport companies or franchises. eSports is a segment of gaming that is growing quickly in the number of both players and spectators and also in the amount of money it’s responsible for. As big as it is now, Bill Mooney (Skillz) expects it to grow 20x over the next decade where it will quickly begin to rival traditional sports in terms or marketshare and marketing revenue. As the audience for traditional sports ‘ages out’, or gets older, they aren’t being replaced by new fans. Instead that new audience is joining the eSports fanbase. So as Soccer, Football and Baseball are seeing their popularity shrink each year, eSports are growing tremendously. This hasn’t been missed by the owners of those traditional sports teams. Many NFL and NBA team owners are in talks to buy, or have already purchased, eSport franchises. There is a looming issue, though. Clinton Foy, from CrossCut Ventures, an investment group and owner of the ‘Immortals’ eSports team addressed the lack of maturity in the behavior of the players in a very matter of fact way. ‘It’s a shit show’ he said. Explaining that the problem lies in a player base that is filled with young kids who grew up playing online on the internet where there are no consequences to bad behaviour. And now that poor behavior has filtered into the professional side of gaming. The solution, according to Mr Foy, lies with the owners of the teams. As owners pour more money into the franchises, they will be the ones to demand that the players adhere to a higher standard to protect the team’s image. He says that as the money grows, players will be forced to ‘Level up’ in their maturity.

lagc 0219 vrloungeThe panels are a large part of what makes the LA Games conference special, but no less important is the downtime between the panels. Scheduled networking breaks give attendees times to meet and discuss topics among themselves. While some attendees took test drives of VR apps in the VR lounge, I listened as a former development exec outlined how social media talent can be better utilized in game content. Even though social media has invaded all parts of life, there’s still no substitute in business for meeting and speaking to someone face to face. And that's an opportunity that the LA Games Conference excels at.

The 2016 DMW L.A. Games Conference was again a eye opening experience and a clear look into the behind the scenes machinations of the video game industry. When you’re ready to move beyond simply playing games and aspire to being a part of creating them, then there’s no better way to spend a day (and $500 for a ticket).

 

Ms. H Examines: Noel Brown’s Ban from Video Game Tournaments

Noel Brown’s Ban from Video Game Tournaments
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are mine alone and do not represent those of AllGames.com

 After researching Noel Brown and his present and past behaviors, I questioned why I should give him further notoriety by covering his antics. As you may know. whenever a catastrophic event occurs, the media seemingly concentrates on the perpetrator instead of the helpless victims. I prefer not to spread more publicity about someone such as Noel Brown. However, I’m providing my thoughts on this topic in the hope that others will learn about consequences that could result from someone’s wrong behaviors -- even if not directly impacted by them.

Specifically, the purpose of this article is to share my thoughts on whether or not Noel Brown’s ban from playing in Capcom and Evo professional video game tournaments is adequate or if his punishment should have been more severe.

 Background

Noel Brown is a professional video game player who participates in tournaments, usually involving the Street Fighter games. Based on my research, he is not one of the expert players who regularly wins or even places in video game tournaments.

Noel Brown 240x300He has become known mostly for how he reacts violently and inappropriate in certain situations rather than his expertise in playing video games. For example, in 2011, Noel Brown engaged in a physical altercation with another video game player. In 2013, he was arrested for domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend. More recently, in May, 2016, he sexually harassed a female which was recorded and caught on tape. As a result, Noel Brown was banned from playing in Capcom and Evo video game tournaments for the rest of 2016, 2017 and possibly 2018.

Noel Brown’s ban was effective soon after the sexual harassment action occurred. His return to playing in video game tournaments depends on how well he conducts himself during the time he is banned.

Will this ban be sufficient to cause a change in Noel Brown’s behavior and his tendency towards violent and unsuitable behavior? Before I answer, let me state that I think that everyone, depending on the specific offense, deserves a second chance. However, it appears that Noel Brown has already been given numerous second chances. He needs to understand he does not have a place in public video game tournaments if the violent and improper behaviors continue. He can play video games to his heart’s content, but not in public tournaments or events that involve interactions with other people, specifically Capcom and Evo video game tournaments for now.

Was Noel Brown Guilty?

There is no doubt that during this latest incident, Noel Brown was guilty of sexual harassment that was not consented to by the female. I was not present at the event where the harassment occurred; however, a video exists of the inappropriate touching by Noel Brown. (The woman wishes to remain anonymous.) In the video, there were a lot of people congregating and moving around. As the female walked in front of him, Noel Brown groped her in plain view of the cameras. Even if the cameras were not rolling, the behavior he displayed was not appropriate and was uncalled for.There is no doubt that during this latest incident, Noel Brown was guilty of sexual harassment The woman did not consent to being groped; therefore, Noel Brown was called out for sexual harassment, and subsequently banned from Capcom and Evo tournaments. Even if this act was not done in public and was not recorded, he would still be guilty of sexual harassment.

noel brown

Who is to Blame

If Capcom or Combo Breaker, the organizer of the tournament had a zero tolerance for sexual harassment, Noel Brown would not have been given a second chance to display bad behavior at the tournament. However, it appears that Capcom and Combo Breaker do not have a strong sexual harassment policy. And if there is a policy, it is not actively enforced.

Instead, Capcom and Combo Breaker gave Noel Brown what I consider to be a slap on the wrist instead of taking a serious stand against what he did. Sexual harassment is a serious charge and as such should come with serious consequences. I do not see any evidence of Noel Brown learning his lesson that sexual harassment is not acceptable by having an insignificant break or ban from playing in these  tournaments.

The above being said, Capcom and Combo Breaker cannot be blamed for Noel Brown’s behavior. Being an adult, Noel Brown is the only one to blame for what he did. 

Noel Brown’s Response

In reviewing Noel Brown’s response regarding sexually harassing the female, he indicated that this was no big deal. In fact, he mentioned he and the female victim were texting later that day. My response to him is “So what?” Just because you carried on a conversation with her does not negate what you did earlier.

Noel Brown seems to make excuses for his actions. For example he responded that he doesn’t understand why other people are concerned when they are not involved in what happened. Here are his words:

“I don't understand how someone else calls sexual harassment on someone else's behalf if they're not any of the parties involved. Actually all three [her, her boyfriend and I] of us drank and ate pizza together that night after seeing the screenshot.”

Apparently, Noel Brown is downplaying what he did and does not understand what constitutes sexual harassment. I think that he feels sexual harassment involves only the two people who are directly involved in these acts and does not know the reach of sexual harassment. If he knew anything about sexual harassment, he would know that in addition to the person directly impacted by the sexual harassment act, anyone who saw and is offended by such behavior, even if not directly impacted can accuse another person of sexual harassment.

I don't understand how someone else calls sexual harassment on someone else's behalf if they're not any of the parties involvedNoel Brown

Noel Brown also had an excuse for the physical altercation he experienced with another player at the video game tournament in 2011. He indicated he was provoked to violent behavior because the player threw his personal items that had been taken out of his pocket to the floor -- even after he had warned the player of the consequences if he did so. His violent recourse was caught on tape as the physical fight broke out between the two video game players.

 Noel Brown needs to learn that violence is not the answer when someone does not do as he instructed. The video showed he was the aggressor, and lunged at the other video game player. I do not know the real reason behind the aggressive, violent behavior, but I do know this retaliation was uncalled for and immature for a grown man to display.

Noel Brown needs to learn that violence is not the answerIn each of the previous violent incidents, I think Noel Brown feels that he did nothing wrong -- which is unreal to me. Capcom and Combo Breaker seems to be validating his recent act of sexual harassment and the seriousness of the matter by giving him minimal punishment. When the ban is lifted, Noel Brown will have chances to perform more harm to others should he be allowed to participate in future video game tournaments.

Noel Brown and the Reputation of Video Games

Violence and sexual harassment unfortunately probably happens in other type tournaments -- not only in video games. However, video games often suffer undue negative publicity when it comes to violence, i.e. there is the notion that somehow playing violent video games causes violent behavior. Noel Brown is perpetuating this unfounded reputation of video games by failing to control his immature violent actions and continuing to show behavior that has negative impressions relative to video games -- simply because he is associated with video game playing. Even though this recent sexual harassment event did not involve an altercation, the groping of the female while at a video game event placed video games in an unfair negative light.

Positives

Capcom, Combo Breaker and Evo are to be commended for banning Noel Brown from future tournaments -- even if the ban will last a short time. Capcom is stating that if it happens again, Noel Brown will be banned for life.

The plus is that at least for the rest of 2016, 2017 and maybe 2018 Noel Brown will not be making news relative to his actions, at least not in the world of video games. One may think that by not playing video games in the public for awhile, he will have the chance to maybe reflect and change. But based on his history of violent and unsuitable behavior, I’m sure that it will resume once he is allowed to play.

Negatives

Noel Brown has been given many chances to change his behavior for the better. This latest incident of sexual harassment while in a video game atmosphere should have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Back in 2013, CapCom categorized the domestic violent incident that occurred involving Noel Brown as a personal matter and dismissed the seriousness of what happened during that time. Now, three years, later, Noel Brown has not changed but continues to perform actions that in this case, was not violent but was grossly improper.

 Next Steps - Eradicate Noel Brown from Video Game Tournaments

Why wait for another public or non-public incident involving Noel Brown to happen? Noel Brown should have been given a life-time ban from playing in public video game tournaments for Capcom and Evo after this latest incident. He has already been given many chances to change his ways -- which is not happening.

It is up to the video game companies, namely Capcom and others to show that video game tournaments is a time for friendly comradery between video game players -- and nothing else.

As long as Noel Brown lingers around in the background, waiting to return to tournaments to show just how violent and inappropriate he can be in public, some people's negative perception of video games will fester, and people may be harmed. On a positive note, Noel Brown can always play video games in other places where he is not yet banned -- the keywords being “not yet.”

 To put it simply, in my opinion Noel Brown should be banned from playing video game tournaments publicly for life at Capcom and Evo tournaments. He has shown time after time that he cannot control his behavior and act like a civilized, mature adult. Believe me, I do not think anyone will notice he is no longer around.

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