Climate activists land devastating blow against big oil by disrupting minor Tekken tournament

Climate protestors disrupt the stage at EGX 2023.
(Image credit: Just Stop Oil)

The UK-based climate change group Just Stop Oil is often in the headlines for its large-scale marches and disruptive protests, most notably closing sections of the UK's busiest motorway, but this weekend its sights moved from civil disobedience to the fighting game community. A Tekken 7 event being held at EGX 2023 was targeted, during which three activists from the group invaded the stage during the tournament winner's final, before spraying orange paint on the big screen behind the competitors and on parts of the stage.

The protestors subsequently addressed the audience, to a chorus of boos, before being escorted from the venue by security and then being arrested on suspicion of Criminal Damage by the Metropolitan Police.

The choice of target may seem odd. Just Stop Oil's rationale is that EGX itself, a major event in the UK gaming calendar, is sponsored by Barclays Bank. The group claims Barclays is responsible for financing "around $167 billion in fossil fuels" and then takes a detour into blaming Shell's sponsorship deal with Fortnite and various influencers (which raises the question of why it didn't target a Fortnite event).

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It is hard to imagine that executives at either Barclays or Shell are especially bothered that a fighting game tournament with a £5,000 prize pool was temporarily disrupted. After the event the tournament continued, with J0Ka beating Ayorichie in the final. Third place went to one of the players who was on-stage during the protest, KaneandTrench, who later commented:

"So activists stopped the winners final match between me and [Joka] at EGX2023, what a mad occurrence to happen, I just wanna play man lol, some of the paint they shot at the stream screen went over us a little. Don't think their message was sent though, sucks for them eh?"

Tekken caster, commentator and tournament organiser Spag posted an image showing the considerable damage done to the screen, adding that "Kaneandtrench kept playing when they were doing this LOOOOOOOOOOL."

Spag later noted that "They tried to stop oil but only managed to briefly stop an event which was won by a Saudi-sponsored player, ggs." He also praised the tournament staff for quickly getting the event back on track.

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Nonsensical or no, the disruption is the point: central to Just Stop Oil's tactics is to annoy the public and get their faces in front of cameras. The group's protests have closed roads, including the M25 motorway, and targeted various cultural and sporting events including a production of Les Miserables, a BBC Proms concert, Wimbledon, an Ashes test match, the World Snooker Championship. Its members are also responsible for throwing soup at the National Gallery's painting of Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh.

Clearly competitive videogames have now joined the list of potential targets, though it remains curious that the group picked this event in particular. Tekken is obviously a big game, but this wasn't exactly the esports equivalent of the Ashes. Then again perhaps the relative lack of security was the point.

There have been swings in public opinion about the group and its tactics, with Just Stop Oil's initial forays being met with some cautious support: the UK population tends to both believe in climate change caused by human activity, and also that the government isn't doing enough to tackle it. However as the group's protests have continued to disrupt and inconvenience the public, the pushback has become more vociferous, and it is hard to find any support for its actions here outside the group itself.

It's also the case that, as the group's profile has grown, so has notice of things like its funding sources, with a major donor being the US-based Climate Emergency Fund, co-founded by Getty family heir Aileen Getty (the Getty fortune being built on oil). You can imagine the conspiracy theories that come from that. But while Just Stop Oil's main goals are obvious, targeting a Tekken tournament seems unlikely to make any difference to anything.

"Attack an event where the majority of people in attendance are young, likely more Liberal and more conscientious about the climate and the need to make change," observes Jeff Simpkins, COO of Resolve esports. "Complete waste of paint and time. Morons."

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."