Fighting Game Competitor Urges Tournaments To Do More About Stalkers 

Sherry Nhan, better known in the fighting game community as Sherryjenix, recently shared an unsettling story in a video posted to her YouTube channel. She claims she has been relentlessly contacted for almost two years by a man obsessed with her, behaviour that has since materialised in the real world. And now she wants to know how tournament organisers are prepared to step up security.

Street Fighter's C. Viper, who Sherry Nhan usually plays

Nhan's story isn't unique. According to a 2011 study conducted by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 18.3 million women in the United States have experienced stalking behaviours "that made them feel very fearful or made them believe that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed". Men also fall victim to such tactics, but at about one-third the rate.

Nhan said her stalker first reached out to her through Facebook, but she cut communications with him as his messages began to pour in. With social media out of the question, he soon moved to email. In her video, Nhan scrolls through message after message, pointing out one that mentions he keeps a picture of her in his backpack. While she makes it clear that none of his contact has been overtly threatening, Nhan collected these emails as possible evidence after marking them as spam.

The behaviour escalated in Nhan's home state of California near the end of January. "He followed me and my friends around Universal Studios and ended up sitting behind us on our last ride of the day," Nhan told me. "I'm not sure how or when he found us. I was only made aware of his presence because he tried to rush in with us on the ride and a worker had stopped him to ask if he was with us. I spoke to my friends and they agreed we should leave."

The next day, Nhan went to her local police department, emails in hand, and asked about getting a restraining order put in place. As is often the case, she said, they were less than helpful. Due to the lack of outright threatening behaviour from the man in question, they allegedly told Nhan there was nothing they could do. It's worth mentioning that, for issues concerning restraining orders, California law defines harassment as "repeated actions that seriously alarm, annoy, or harass, and serve no legitimate purpose," which seems well within the realms of Nhan's experience.

As a player and well-known personality within the fighting game community, Nhan attends a number of events every year, most of which she talks about online. The person stalking her has used this information to attend the same functions, including SoCal Regionals in 2015 and last month's Genesis 4. Nhan was uncomfortable bringing it up with the tournament heads because her stalker is a member of the community, but she and her friends kept an eye out and avoided him.

"At this point, I realised that this person would be willing to cross boundaries physically," she said, "and things could only escalate from this level."

When reached for comment, Genesis organiser Sheridan "Dr Z" Zalewski confirmed that neither he nor his staff were made aware of the stalker's presence, and agreed that more proactive policies should be in place to combat the harassment Nhan experienced despite the inherent issues of policing such behaviour.

"Most tournament organisers are far from professionals at understanding harassment," Zalewski explained. "Patterns of harassment are so mired down in details about intent vs. effect and how either person responds to the other's words that I think we'll have to find actual professionals who understand where lines need to be drawn about verbally warning, restraining, and banning people and consult them."

In the past, Zalewski said, his staff adjudicated a similar situation by placing an informal restraining order on a player who had constantly harassed a woman online, requiring them to keep a distance of at least 3m between themselves and the victim or be escorted from the venue. While not perfect, the tactic worked. Zalewski touched base with the woman in question afterwards and agreed to ban her harasser from Genesis events should the intimidation continue.

"Just as a general matter of policy, I think it makes sense to enact the 'informal restraining order' upon anyone reporting even slightly credible harassment to us as a basic first response before determining if more or less serious action needs to be taken," he added.

After her experiences at Genesis 4, Nhan was ready to formally bring the issue up with other tournament organisers. Their responses, she said, were disappointing. Where important leaders in the Smash community immediately reached out to Nhan and agreed to ban her stalker from their events, hosts of traditional fighting game events took a more business-oriented stance. In Nhan's words, she was told legal issues kept them from barring the man from entry due to the lack of a restraining order, and some were even wary of a possible public relations backlash.

"The solution that was given to me was that I could report this person if I was to run into him at an event," she continued. "That is a great start, but with the realisation that I would have to be actively searching for this person at every event, I didn't feel that the solution was sufficient. I don't know what he is capable of because he has already crossed boundaries physically."

Nhan is also concerned for others. It's her understanding her stalker has acted similarly with other women in the past, and she worries that allowing him to continue attending events will only give him a wider range of victims.

"I see where the tournament organisers are coming from, but I feel there should be a system in place to decide whether or not a person will get banned," Nhan said. "Obviously, we wouldn't want to recreate the Salem Witch Trials, but with sufficient evidence, a case should be made. A system should be implemented so things won't have to escalate to threats before any official action is taken."


Alex Jebailey, organiser of the hugely popular Community Effort Orlando series, is well aware of the importance security plays at his tournaments. When the horrific Pulse nightclub shooting occurred just two weeks before his 2016 event, Jebailey was concerned with ensuring attendees felt safe. He hired extra security to put their minds at ease.

"While our job as tournament organisers is to provide a safe environment for all attendees, it would be impossible for us to monitor every single individual," Jebailey explained to me. "However, at Community Effort Orlando, if anyone is uncomfortable during or leading up to an event, they should get in contact with myself or the staff immediately so we are made aware of the situation. We will handle it the best we can and, if it's beyond our control, make sure that the proper authorities are also made aware."

Combo Breaker's Rick Thiher also ran into this issue first-hand after a player sexually harassed a woman on-camera at the end of last year's event. Thiher was quick to ban the offender from attending for two years, and Capcom followed suit by barring them from their Capcom Pro Tour tournaments. Their efforts were a clear sign that this behaviour has no place at a fighting game competition. But it's not always that easy.

"As open-registration public events, our productions cannot refuse or prohibit service without being diligent about discrimination laws," Thiher told me. "We are legally able to remove any attendee [that] we can justify is threatening, harming, or otherwise disrupting an event; but without a restraining order or other official documentation, we generally cannot take preemptive action."

As for security that's already in place, Thiher explained that Combo Breaker employs a mix of paid security staff, paid general staff and "trusted attendees" to keep an eye on things. That said, this setup heavily relies on people looking out for each other and generally keeping out of trouble, which isn't always the case at major events of any kind. Combo Breaker also maintains a safe room for distressed attendees.

"I've offered Sherry the support I can and plan to ask staff to watch out for her if she attends, but beyond that we're kind of stuck," Thiher concluded.


This kind of behaviour isn't confined to the fighting game community. Gather any large group of people in one place and there's sure to be at least one arsehole ruining the experience for someone else. After being told that her case doesn't qualify as stalking, Nhan is currently talking to lawyers to figure out her next step, and it's likely this will remove the barriers keeping tournament heads from enacting more drastic measures.

"If my voice is heard, I hope it sets a standard across the board that these stalking actions are absolutely not tolerated or welcomed," Nhan said. "The safety of attendees should always take precedence."


Comments

    When she says "he's already crossed boundaries physically" it seems to me like the bloke has not touched her at all, but has come closer to her than what she's comfortable with.

    Sounds like he's done nothing threatening, just shown up unexpectedly and hung around, which is probably why the police haven't done anything.

      Are you serious? She means physically as in at first it was online now he's physically stalking her.

        So what? Fans of celebrities do this all the time. Hell, paparazzi make a living out of it.

          Just because someone is a public figure doesn't give anyone the right to follow them around. Paparazzi are pond scum but they are doing a job. This guy is a random fan whose intentions are not known, but is engaging in very sketchy behaviour. Any rational person would treat this with a serious amount of caution and trepidation.

            Yeah, there's a difference to being cautious and getting a restraining order...

          I would say the difference is intent.
          A celebrity is going to expect it and they know they reason the paparazzi are following them. They want to get the shot of you they can sell to make money. That is why they are doing it
          When somebody who is constantly messaging you and tells you they keep a photo of you in their bag is following you, what is their intent. I would be concerned about that as well

      Wow you are completely missing the point Zambayoshi. She clearly meant boundaries in relation to personal proximity. This guy is stalking her and she is correct that this kind of thing escalates.
      Sadly the police are doing nothing until she gets raped or physically hurt because the system is broken with this kind of thing.

      Last edited 08/02/17 5:26 pm

        The system isn't broken. If you can identify the person and they're doing it consistently you can definitely get a restraining order.

          Depends what they are doing. If they are harassing you then yes. If they are just 'there' without interacting with you in any way then probably not. It's a grey area. From what we know, the emails to Sherry haven't been threatening or sexual in nature. She basically says the guy is a fan. The law isn't going to stop the guy being in the same general vicinity as her unless he represents a threat. Contrary to what @arnna says above, you cannot assume that 'this kind of thing escalates' as a general rule, because it doesn't. It happens sometimes (or all the time in the movies). I've been stalked like this before by an acquaintance who had that kind of glaze of craziness. Yes it was annoying. Yes I worried that this person would one day snap if they felt 'rejected', but they did nothing threatening to me and so I accepted that I just had to put up with it in the same way as you'd put up with a work colleague that you don't like.

            Indeed... In which case he is entitled to be there. Can't ban other people from public places because of imaginary issues in your head.

    What are the tournament organisers going to do? Tell her not to publicise her handle or email address? :\

      Security would be Competitor green rooms with bouncers, guardian escorts between green rooms and competition floors.

      Even on a non-sexual level, tournaments are full of trolls who want nothing more to harrass players they hate as they walk around. Fans are okay, fanatics are not... and when some fandoms are born on the internet on streaming/social media, the lack of social skills they create and pass into real life is scarey to see.

      Imagine the troll or crybaby in your favourite game knew who you were and was standing next to you at a convention centre questioning your skills, insulting your sexuality or telling you what he did to your mum... sounds crazy right... it happens. The internet has broken a few brains on what is and isnt acceptable. I fell sorry for any women gamers in competitive scenes.

      There was the Pokemon Tournament where two people made threats on twitter and drove to the event with guns in the car before police arrested them.

    The naivete of some is truly staggering. Stalkers are able to find addresses and phone numbers, even if they are a private listing.
    Many organisations have no clue on how to handle it, and really should ban such people in order to protect the the people who are attending in an official capacity - which ears they are legally responsible for what happens.
    This is similar to the US female sports announcer who had a stalker film her through a keyhole and also similar to how many many women are killed.

    So he was stalking her, and she wants to know what the tournament organisers will do (apparently going to the police takes too much effort?), but she also didn't bother telling them ahead of time? Well, she could trying applying some fucking common sense for a start.

      As stated in the article, she did go to the police, but were less than helpful, and the event holders have a legal issue with barring the person from the event.

      Might wanna try applying common sense to your argument.

        The problem with a lot of "victims" who seek help from Police is they expect a certain outcome and when the one they get isn't what they want they scream Police weren't helpful. Now I can tell you from firsthand experience the reason Police won't help somebody is because they don't have legal powers to act on.

        Now in Australia anyone can get a protection or restraining order against somebody. To do that you have to go to the Courts, not the Police. Once you have said order in place it means old mate can't go to the function and the things he is apparently doing would be breaches which Police can act on.

        Now I don't know the full details, we'll only ever get her side of the story but in Australia it is a real pain in the arse to investigate a stalking case, not impossible but it can be tricky. That being said you never turn away an investigation just because it is too hard so there might be more to the story.

          That I understand but the legal system does not work properly for people in this situation. It is not good enough to just say it's the status quo, things need to change. Women especially are vulnerable to this kind of harassment and far too often something violent has to occur before anything will be done.
          But I do agree that there may be more to the story.

            That isn't required for the police to intervene. There are certain elements that need to be fulfilled before you can get a restraining order though.

      ...but she also didn't bother telling them ahead of time...

      Maybe people getting all riled up and telling her to "apply some fucking common sense for a start" is the reason she hesitates to ask for help...

      Last edited 08/02/17 4:57 pm

        The issue is that it's hard to expect someone to help when they don't know that there is a problem. She's remedied that now.

      My read on the article is that she wasn't upset at the organisers, as they said they avoided him and had her friends keep an eye out for her.
      But now that he has followed her to multiple real world events she is telling them ahead of time and asking what can be done

    Judging ONLY from her video - she is asking too much, for what she has stated the man has done.
    Yeah, he's a dick (from what she has said). Stalking is not cool.

    Did he know?
    She failed to mention she has asked him to not continue such behavior. Should he know basic social acceptable behavior? Apparently not - if he is e-mailing so much. "Mate, this isn't cool. Leave me alone."

    Does he know she feels threatened?
    He probably does now - that it is all public. But he probably thought his actions were romantic (yes, he's insane). But did she tell him? "Mate, you scare me, do not contact me again. I fear my safety. Please, thanks."

    Is she obligated to do the above?
    Absolutely not. But it is probably more helpful in future that you set a clear expectation of behavior now. Because...

    Getting others to BAN him from places
    She's also out of line (from the information given in her confession/blog). Asking T.O's to ban someone for what? Everyone, wants to help you. Just give us something to go with. A lot of emails and him showing up on the ride behind you, is not enough to go on.

    Right now, I'd only be comfortable enough, to say to the guy, "Hey, man. Look, this individual has come to me, and made me aware that she feels very uncomfortable with your presence, due to unwanted repeated e-mail communications/stalking and she fears her safety. You are fine to stay and participate, but on the condition you do not go near her or talk to her. Otherwise, you will be banned from the venue and all related events."

    He knows where he stands now, and the consequences of his actions.

    Maybe she did do this too in the past. But she has not mentioned so. Once again, she isn't obligated to. But it sure would make it easier for us to help her if she did.

    "Hey, mate. Look, this individual has made a complaint against you for harassment and shown me many emails to support her claim. As such, you will be banned from this venue immediately and permanently and not welcome to attend any related venues/events. Please leave immediately."

    And he may respond with objection: "It was love, blah blah." Or, "Outside of venue/unrelated, blah blah".
    "I'm sorry, I've seen the emails where she clearly asked you to cease - and you did not do so. For her safety, you will be removed now."
    Or, "We take our participants safety very seriously, and that includes all actions taken outside the venue. If you were to murder someone outside, you would still be banned for it inside here, even if such behavior was not done in the confines of the venue/event."

    From the mind of a Pit Boss/Manager in a Casino.

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