The esports community has been shaken these past few days by the events in Jacksonville, Florida on Sunday afternoon. During the Southeast Regional for the Madden NFL 19 Classic at GLHF Game Bar a participant at the event opened fire injuring 11 and killing three, including himself.
While details are still being brought to light, 11 others are confirmed injured including Drini “Drini” Gjoka of compLexity Gaming and NBA 2K League player for Bucks Gaming, Timothy “oLarry” Anselimo. Officials have yet to release a motive but multiple sources state the shooter was a competitor that was knocked out of the qualifier, went to his car, and then returned to the event with two handguns.
The two deceased victims were both successful participants in the Madden community. Elijah “Trueboy” Clayton was 22 years old from Woodland Hills, California and a former high school football player. Clayton’s cousin, Brandi Pettijohn told News4Jax he was saving money earned from competing in Madden to pay for college. Taylor “SpotMePlzz” Robertson was 26 years old from Ballard, West Virginia and held the title of Madden Classic champion from 2016. He was playing Madden in hopes of making money to support his wife and young child.
The outpouring from the Madden, esports and gaming community as a whole has been overwhelming, as a scene that is know for being a welcoming escape from the tribulation of reality has been struck by the shocking event in Jacksonville.
We are deeply saddened to hear about a shooting that occurred at a Madden 19 tournament in Jacksonville, Florida this afternoon and we wanted to extend our deepest condolences to the victims, their families, and all those affected by this tragedy. pic.twitter.com/GYWCjE3yzG
— lolesports (@lolesports) August 26, 2018
Some choose video games to escape violence. Yesterday’s tragic event in Jacksonville has shaken our organization as one of our own members of the NBA 2K League family was injured. Get well, @oLARRY2K. pic.twitter.com/6b4zkrbbp7
— HEAT Check Gaming (@HeatCheckGaming) August 27, 2018
The Square Enix family would like to extend our deepest condolences to those affected by the tragic events in Jacksonville. The video game community has always been a strong pillar of support and now, more than ever is the time for us to unify against such senseless violence.
— Square Enix (@SquareEnix) August 27, 2018
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims in the Jacksonville shooting, during the Madden NFL tournament. This is a sad moment for the entire gaming community. #PrayForJacksonville pic.twitter.com/5NQQY8qwey
— coldzera (@coldzera) August 27, 2018
While this tragedy has brought up a wider political debate surrounding gun laws in the United States, it has also brought to light the discussion of security at esports events small and large. Many in the community, from fans, to media, and talent, have voiced their own concerns attending previous events with the lack of security enforcement.
I don’t wanna throw Dreamhack under the bus, but literally zero security. Badge check only.
— summit1g (@summit1g) August 26, 2018
As someone who is not American i have little place to discuss weapon control and banning. However as someone who has worked events in this space i hope TO's take this seriously and not just as a PR piece and actually up their security. Events need this.
— Lauren Scott ? (@pansy) August 26, 2018
Today someone decided to shoot up a Madden event in Jacksonville.
It’s time esports events (large and small) double down on security for everyone in general and players specifically. https://t.co/PXHwhlDmME
— Jason Lake (@JasonBWLake) August 26, 2018
TO's absolutely have to reevaluate their security plans. Better security at ALL entrances, not just the spectator ones. Players walking through crowds as part of the show, meet and greets, practice areas, catering areas, talent and prod areas…all need to be properly secured.
— Scott Smith (@SirScoots) August 26, 2018
Many tournament organisers, large and small, have already begun to vocalise further efforts to be reviewed in light of the shooting.
DreamHack Masters: Stockholm starts this week and in light of inquires about security at the event, organisers released a statement that reads in part: “While we can not provide any details on how we work with security, we can say this is done in consultation with law enforcement and security experts. This work is always ongoing and involves all DreamHack events.”
Organisers of the Evolution Championship Series released a similar statement claiming all parties involved will be more proactive as the event looks to 2019 and beyond: “The amount of undercover law enforcement at EVO was unprecedented and we will be installing metal detectors for ALL days next year.”
Alex Jebailey, Founder of Community Effort Orlando, re-released a statement he posted following the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 which states in part: “I take the safety of everyone attending CEO very seriously every year. We will take necessary precautions to assure the safety of everyone in attendance to the best of our abilities. Your safety and enjoyment are our biggest concerns.”
Jebailey stated in an later tweet that he has been in discussions with the Wyndham hotel, which will be holding CEOtaku next month, about additional measures to be taken.
While the community demands higher security at events, the scale of the Madden qualifier was minor compared to that of events like DreamHack of EVO. Tournaments at small venues like GLHF are held every day at local gaming bars throughout the world. Brian Smawley, Community Manager of a Battle and Brew, a similar style gaming bar in Atlanta, Georgia stated security at venues like these is typically small: “We don’t have a metal detector. It’s a video game bar. I’m real upset that every ‘I could be a hero’ moron in the games community thinks having TWO security dudes would have stopped this guy from killing them then killing people inside. A couple of us carry. What are we gonna do? Shoot into the crowd to kill the one guy we might see?”
Developer of Madden, Electronic Arts has released a statement since the shooting in Jacksonville announcing the remaining three qualifiers will be canceled as the company reviews safety protocols for competitors and spectators at such events.
The statement from Andrew Wilson, Chief Executive Officer at Electronic Arts reads in part: “While these qualifying events are operated independently by partners, we work with them to ensure competitive integrity and to gather feedback from players. We have made a decision to cancel our three remaining Madden Classic qualifier events while we run comprehensive review of safety protocols for competitors and spectators. We will work with our partners and our internal teams to establish a consistent level of security at all of our competitive gaming events.”
It continues: “This is the first time we’ve had to confront something like this as an organization, and I believe the first time our gaming community has dealt with a tragedy of this nature. Please take time to support each other through this challenging time.”
Esports in and of itself is grassroots, grown from playing in venues like the GLHF Bar. This is a tragedy for gamers across the world in and out of esports. We as players use gaming as an escape from the trials and tribulations of day to day life, and now we are forced to deal with our own, more personal, horrific event. Changes may come into effect in the future, possibly to events or perhaps more widely on the political field. As gamers we should always remember why we play and why we dedicate time and effort to the games we love, as the community comes together during this trying time.