Does Waffle House promote violence more than video games?

With memes connecting Tekken to the restaurant chain, the community and competition in gaming seems healthier than the breakout brawls at Waffle House.

Last month, Katsuhiro Harada, creator of the internationally successful fighting game, Tekken, was asked on X to make a Waffle House stage. Even though he has set a precedent to the community to not ask him for anything, in his fashion he trolled them by asking for the background and original story. 

Soon after his response, the comments flooded in, and people were posting videos that have gone viral due to the violent fights that occur at Waffle House chains. 

This made me think about the years people have argued about the impact of simulated violence in video games on society. But people fail to realize that there is more violence at a Waffle House chain than at Tekken tournaments. 

The questions of whether people will be influenced by the games they play and emulate it into reality have been answered by gamers through the years and they have even built a strong community. 

“With video games, I’ve made a lot of friends,” said Cameron Salter, a member of the gaming club at UWT. “I’d say it definitely has its own culture.” 

When people think of games, they more than likely think of Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Mortal Kombat, Gears of War, or Resident Evil. All of these have simulated violence to one degree or the other but no matter what, a gamer has in mind that all of these are based on fantastical concepts. 

However, when people think of Waffle House, they think of the food, the history, and more infamously, the viral videos of the after dark violence. 

“People oftentimes visit Waffle House with the expectation that they may witness these types of occurrences firsthand,” said Ty Matejowsky, author of “Smothered and Covered: Waffle House and the Southern Imaginary,” when speaking to the More Perfect Union YouTube channel.  

Waffle House chains are open 24 hours a day and are known as the place to go to for a late-night meal and after a night of drinking. Nevertheless, this is not the only reason for the acts of violence drawn there, as they do not hire security or any kind of safety deterrent for their employees or patrons. 

Employees have been shot, robbed and assaulted, having things thrown at them or taking a fist to the face for as little as getting an order wrong. 

Matejowsky added that patrons feel the freedom to “let their freak flag fly during graveyard shift.” 

Various fighting game tournaments and Waffle House chains have codes of conduct and each state that violent acts will not be tolerated. To be fair, gaming has also had its share of inappropriate behavior. But to compare them and say they are equal would be a mistake. Only one of them takes a real approach to being responsible. 

“I like fighting games because I take all the blame for all losses,” said Bill Lactaoem, another member of the gaming club at UWT. He added that it is a stigma in tournament play to become violent over a loss because “if you lose it’s your fault.” 

Waffle House’s silence speaks volumes as they have not commented about nor condemned the vulgar behavior at their establishments. This is surprising because under the “Our story” section on their website, they state that the founding principles of the chain were providing friendly service, rewarding careers and care for associates and customers alike. 

It is time for Waffle House to be held accountable and stand on those principles that started it all. Posting signs of rules and not enforcing them in any way alludes to them banking off the situation and led Matejowsky to say that “even bad press is good press. It puts the company name out there.” 

The long running television show SNL, that is known for making comical skits about anything and everything, has one about Waffle House and in their own way depicts the violence that is known to happen there. 

Employees at the chain are tired of these working conditions and have begun to unionize and so far, their efforts have been ignored. 

If Waffle House is part of American culture, then we must ask ourselves if this is what we want as a society. Do we want the places we frequent to stay silent while the masses hurt one another? Or do we want these businesses to uphold wholesome values of doing what is right in the face of what is wrong? 

The gaming community has shown they are willing to do their part and embrace competition rather than violence. There is respect held between gamers and their skills, and the fighting games are inspired by various cultures and disciplines of martial arts. 

“We try to keep it in the game,” says UWT student and gaming club member Miguel Gaspar, when asked about fighting games versus real violence. “It’s more helping each other get better, with competitive trash talk, like you would have in a normal sport.” 

A society that can erupt in violence and in the blink of an eye return to life as if nothing happened, is not one I’d call civilized. And If Harada made the Waffle House stage, then a place thriving on violence would be representing American society in Tekken. 

A Waffle House restaurant in Jasper, Georgia. Photo by Harrison Keely under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Featured Image, Waffles fighting each other in a Waffle House stage. Art by Cameron Berrens and Cole Martin.