What should have been a day of fun and excitement for competitors in the first of four Madden ’19 qualifier tournaments turned into a nightmare. Around 1:30 pm, competition participant David Katz (24), of Baltimore walked into the GLHF game bar in Jacksonville Landing and opened fire on competitors. The bar was consumed with panic as people ran for their lives in the midst of the chaos, and shortly after it was announced 3 were fatally wounded (including Katz) and 9 others were injured. Among the deceased were Taylor Robertson and Elijah Clayton, who were competing in the tournament. Both individuals had blossoming careers in the world of esports, specifically playing Madden. Robertson is survived by his wife and son, who were not in attendance at the event.
According to the Jacksonville Police Department, his motive is still unclear. Baltimore authorities have also raided Katz house in order to try and gather additional clues. EA has come out and commented on the tragedy, condemning it as “A senseless act of violence”.
It absolutely breaks my heart reading about this story, and it is still surreal to hear that these things happen, let alone at a gaming competition. Let’s be clear, I could never understand the fear and emotions that these individuals experienced at the time of the incident. But part of me is in tears, and now haunted by the fact that gaming, our holy grail, may no longer be a safe place. I was considering going to MTG Grand Prix in October, but now I have this fear dwelling inside of me after this incident. This isn’t something anyone should have to worry about.
Sure, call your opponent names. Partake in the generalized toxicity of online gaming by saying something about someone’s mom and what you may or may not have done to her last night. But taking someone’s life all because you’re a poor sport? Absolutely pathetic.
What makes matters worse is that the gaming community has been struggling to establish the fact that “Video games DO NOT lead to violence” for nearly 20 years now. That’s 20 years mainstream media has been developing a narrative that video games are to blame for violent actions by children and young adults. They even went as far as to include Marilyn Manson as part of that narrative, shortly after the horrific events from Columbine in 1999.
I do understand the general assumption, as many see video games that are violent and graphic in nature, but a majority of them are fantasy violence and it hasn’t translated to real-world violence.
I remember as a kid, my mother sat me down and told me, “Look, this is the real world. What happens in your little Nintendo is not the real world… It’s fantasy. You cannot do the stuff you do in those games in the real world. If you hurt someone in the real world, there are consequences.”
Her words stuck with me for years, because win or lose, she was right. At the end of the day, it was just a game. It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t, have such a major impact on your life to make you want to go off the deep end. Sometimes, things get heated… Especially during a comp match. It’s okay to get upset about losing because no one likes losing. And losing is a part of sports outside of video games. What’s not okay is turning that anger against your fellow gamers, and the community.
This isn’t to say that video gaming isn’t a big part of my life or those impacted by this tragedy. At the end of the day though, we all have the power to “Turn off the game” or “Try again” if we don’t win. There are no continue options in the game of life. You don’t get a rematch.
I want to have faith in the community, and I do believe that in almost all cases, cooler heads will prevail when something upsets a gamer. I want to believe that at your worst, you may deal with someone that just tells you to “Fuck off” when you stomp them in a game.
I want people to remember that there’s a person on the other side of the screen. Whether it’s gaming, something you’re reading online, or Social Media, there’s a real person with real feelings behind the other side of that post, tweet, article, or character.
Let me be clear, I don’t believe that video games make people violent. Violence has existed well before video games were even thought up, and it continues to exist well into the modern age outside of our digital lives. Our community has worked so hard to show that we are a beacon of positivity for those who need it most, that we don’t want to let this tragic event set back the progress we’ve made to prove that myth otherwise.
I also want to keep this article short, to avoid making it a political piece. None of this is fair to the two victims who lost their lives in this senseless tragedy, and the others who were injured in the crossfire. We shouldn’t be politicizing their deaths while their friends, family and the community grieve their loss and help the surviving cope with this trauma.
If you wish to gain some more perspectives on video games, violence, and other thoughts on the tragedy, I am including some links below.
University of York. (2018, January 16). No evidence to support link between violent video games and behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180116131317.htm
The Conversation. (2018, February 16). It’s time to end the debate about video games and violence. Retrieved August 30, 2018 from http://theconversation.com/its-time-to-end-the-debate-about-video-games-and-violence-91607
If you wish to help the victims of this tragedy, consider donating blood to the Red Cross. You can also donate to a GoFundMe created by Justin Saline (Swizzy in the Madden Community) which will split the total donations between the two families of those who were lost from this tragedy. You can also donate to the GoFundMe created by GLHF gaming bar, which will raise funds for funeral arrangements, medical costs and counseling for those affected.