Kawano is one of Japan’s top Street Fighter V players. He recently took first place in Evo 2021 Online East Asia and won the Topanga Championship 3. But his actions online earlier this summer have recently come under greater scrutiny.
He and fellow SFV pro Jyobin of Yoshimoto Gaming seemingly coerced a streamer named Kappy Games to go troll and harass other streamers.
According to the Japanese website Chigesoku, somehow Kappy Games got wrapped up in a batsu game with the two pros. In Japanese, “batsu” refers to punishment as well as something being incorrect, so the idea is that if you lose, you usually have to do something unpleasant — like, for example, eating a lot of wasabi. It’s common on Japanese TV, with comedians being forced to do things after losing, for laughs. But batsu games aren’t always funny, and people can get hurt, physically or even mentally.
Here, it seems, Kappy Games was told he had to troll and harass other streamers for the amusement of both Kawano and Jyobin. There is an obvious power dynamic at play: Kawano is one of Japan’s top Street Fighter V players, and Jyobin, while ranked much lower, is a pro gamer. Kappy Games is neither. It could be construed that he was bullied into the ruse. In the past few years, many Japanese news programs have talked about power harassment in the workplace, with bosses forcing underlings to do certain things at work or generally making them feel uncomfortable. That’s what appears to have happened here.
But it’s more than that. In Japanese esports a licence is required to become a pro gamer. You can’t just win some rando tournament and call yourself a pro. And because of this, pro gaming is supposed to have a degree of professionalism. Pestering streamers might seem juvenile, but when it’s pro gamers inciting that, it makes esports look bad. While Japan might be the home of Nintendo and PlayStation, not all people have a good impression of video games, let alone professional ones. This might be why people in Japan are extra sensitive to what happened next.
While a female streamer named Memeu was playing Yakuza Kiwami 2 in mid-July on Mildom, Japan’s version of Twitch, Kappy Games entered the chat and started asking personal questions about whether she had a boyfriend. “If you’re gonna play Street Fighter V, let me know,” Kappy Games wrote. Further down in the chat, he asked, “Do you like guys who play fighting games?”
“Oh shit haha,” Kawano chimed in.
Obviously, this puts Memeu in an awkward situation with another streamer harassing her and a top Street Fighter V player chiming in. This not only makes everyone feel uncomfortable, Memeu and viewers alike, but it also creates drama.
Soon after, Kappy Games apologised to Memeu (who forgave him), and issued a public apology on Twitter. Besides Memeu, Kappy Games had trolled two other streamers.
“Because of a batsu game, I had to bother others,” wrote Kappy Games. “It’s my fault for not declining. I’m truly sorry.” Kappy Games added that he had wondered what to do and even thought of giving up streaming. He does not have another job, and this situation had put his income at risk. “To be honest, the money I get from Mildom is important.” So, instead, he came clean.
The two culprits responsible for the harassment were at first publically silent. Then, also made the situation worse. Kawano tried apologizing via DM, writing that he was sorry for causing trouble during her stream.
Likewise, Jyobin tried doing the same, but with an even shorter private apology, writing, “Regarding what Kappy Games wrote, I’m sorry.” Memeu asked him if he truly thought it was wrong and if he knew the proper way to apologise.
In Japan, when people screw up, they make formal public apologies, not an off-the-cuff, “Uh, sorry.” Since both Kawano and Jyobin are public figures, sliding into someone’s DMs for a quick apology is certainly not how things are supposed to be done. It all seems like something grade school kids would do, and not adults. Remember, these guys are pro gamers. They’re professionals! They were not acting like them.
The following day, Kawano issued a formal apology on Twitter to all the streamers, as well as the viewers. He said he had reflected deeply on his actions and was going to be more responsible for his behaviour.
Jyobin, however, didn’t formally apologise until several days later, eventually saying that he saw the error of his ways and would never do this again.
This all seemed to blow over until today when Yoshimoto Gaming announced it had fired Jyobin. According to the team, beside this latest incident, there had been repeated issues of impropriety which led Yoshimoto to part ways with the player. Yoshimoto is also one of Japan’s largest celebrity talent agencies, so its entering into esports helps validate them in the country, which might be why the team took such a drastic step as a way to save face. “Once again, we would like to apologise for any unpleasantness,” wrote Yoshimoto Gaming. “We are truly sorry.”
So far there appear to be no further consequences for Kawano.