Gaming events will forever have to rethink security after Jacksonville

Gaming events will forever have to rethink security after Jacksonville
Credit: Maxime FORT / Flickr

Multiple video game event organizers are being forced to rethink their security measures in the aftermath of the tragedy in Jacksonville, Florida. Formerly the realm of friendly, relaxed gatherings in social settings like bars and stores, competitive gaming may soon have to take a more proactive approach to protecting its players.

Last Sunday, a man opened fire at a Madden tournament in the GLHF Gaming Bar in Jacksonville Landing. At the moment, police won’t speculate on the motive of the shooter. All we know is he was a tournament competitor who killed two fellow gamers and then himself.

The event was one of the qualifiers for the Madden Classic event, hosted by game publisher Electronic Arts. CEO Andrew Wilson today announced the company would be putting its other Madden qualifiers on hold “while we run a comprehensive review of safety protocols for competitors and spectators.” He also assured players they would strive for security at all events going forward.

Meanwhile, the organizers of the PAX West event, which takes place in Seattle this coming weekend, were questioned on Twitter about the efficacy of their own safety measures. As reported by PC Gamer, they responded that, while they wouldn’t reveal the extent of their security measures, they were working with local police to ensure attendees could move about without fear.

The shooting in Jacksonville is especially shocking for how it strips the innocence and sense of safety from such an event. It was a Madden tournament, held inside a pizza joint. How many times have all of us attended similar events in perfect serenity, content in the knowledge that, even if the people weren’t familiar, our common interests were?

But the pro gamers who attend these events are now saying that sense of community is no longer sufficient. Soon after the event, gamers and streamers began speaking out about the need for better security.

Ronald Casey, one of the tournament players who shielded younger gamers with his body, told Fox 45 the Madden tourney had no security, and he was only thankful the killer hadn’t brought a bigger gun:

The fact we had no security is horrible. We were in a room but it wasn’t big… Thankfully it wasn’t an automatic weapon. If it was an automatic weapon like some of these other school’s shootings and stuff, we all would have been done. We were trapped.

Other esports teams are encouraging organizers to invest in security. Jason Lake, founder of the compLexity Gaming team, said in a series of tweets that the event was a “wake up call.” CompLexity gamer Drini Gjoka was at the event and among the wounded.

And perhaps it was. Ben Spoont, owner of the Misfits Gaming organization, told the Wall Street Journal this has prompted the adoption of bag checks and metal detectors at any future tourneys he has a hand in. But he also added, “To actually feel a need to make sure someone doesn’t have a weapon, that’s not been a primary concern in the past.”

Unfortunately, we can’t go back to that time of naivety — not if we want to keep our fellow gamers safe.

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