Seth Killian’s last day at Capcom was on Friday. Community managers and PR types become well known to our readers because they’re so frequently quoted, but their departures typically don’t rate a news item because it usually amounts to no more than insider talk. Seth, whose title was “Strategic Marketing Director, Online & Community” wasn’t really that. In his approach, honesty, and credibility in representing a community, not just a corporate brand, I always considered him something more.
We worked at neighbouring buildings when I first started at Kotaku, working weekends in addition to my day job in 2008. I met him at E3 that year. He noticed this Okami-themed post about a Trader Joe’s in San Mateo, which was right across the street from Capcom’s USA headquarters. Seth realised that we that we worked in neighbouring buildings, so we struck up a professional friendship over lunch, sometimes sushi or a burrito in town, then typically at the Sizzler in Daly City.
Barely three months into my first games writing job, and not being a fighting gamer by any means, I really didn’t know Seth’s profile. So my introduction to him was not as a former U.S. champion in Street Fighter, or the co-founder of the EVO championships. I got to know him first as a guy who earnestly believed the fighting games community was the video games community most able to transcend differences of race, class, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, whatever.
This may sound incongruent with the more recent, very sensational presentation of some of the community’s more insensitive or thoughtless members — and Seth was no apologist for that behaviour. But his rationale made and it still makes perfect sense. A lot of that culture depends on physical, in-person socialisation, thanks to fighting tournaments and a resilient arcade presence. There’s also a strict, results-matter ethic thanks to the makeup of the games themselves, in which characters may have different move sets, but player skill, in the end, determines a winner. The respect that earns transcends many barriers to acceptance.
Seth didn’t just spout this stuff to me between trips to the salad bar. He spoke candidly about it in panels and in feature reporting on the fighting games community. Even when he prefaced his remarks as personal opinions only, they still were quotes that reflected on his employer, Capcom, the foremost maker of fighting games, and I give Seth great credit for expressing them, and to Capcom for allowing his candor.
His finest hour, in my view, came in October last year. in a panel on games design at New York University, a professor asked Seth about misogyny in Street Fighter, either in the presentation of its characters or in players’ comments about them. Seth answered forthrightly, saying that while increasing numbers of women at fighting game events spoke to greater acceptance, both the community and Capcom had a long way to go.
I think the last holdouts of the boy’s club mentality are getting more vocal, because the neighbourhood is starting to get mixed. That’s why you start seeing the crosses on the lawn once in a while. But then you can push past that and get to the breaking point. I feel like we’re on that breaking point now on the gender issue.
But yeah, Capcom is not always pushing things in the helpful direction. Point fairly taken for sure.
That’s why Seth Killian’s departure from Capcom is news. He was no cheerleader. He was an advocate, sure, but he advocated for changes more than a product: He wanted better games, better behaviour, a better and stronger fighting games community. Working for Capcom simply meant he could bring that advocacy to a very prominent stage. I hope he is bringing it to another.