August 26th was circled on several Madden players’ calendars as it was the date of a Madden Classic qualifying event in Jacksonville, Florida. Competitors ran through a gauntlet of scores of peers in EA’s classic football simulation game. As the weekend unfolded, those who were truly masters of their craft separated themselves from the pack and advanced to the second day of competition. GLHF Game Bar was packed with those who wanted to use this chance to qualify for an EA Major event, which ultimately determines who will get to have a shot at Madden Bowl and ultimate recognition as the best Madden H2H (Head to Head) player on the planet. But August 26th didn’t finish the way that those who walked into GLHF imagined it would. Instead, the horror of gun violence brought itself to the world of gaming.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 236 reported mass shootings in the United States this year (methodology defines 4 or more shot as a mass shooting). These incidents have happened in businesses, homes, and schools. They happen in the city, the suburbs, and rural environments. Gun violence does not discriminate with regards to race, age, background, culture, or religion. Violence found its way into this gaming tournament, and three lives were lost in the aftermath.
The second amendment has been used for a long time as American justification to own firearms. Guns are obviously here to stay in the United States. So how can we help prevent gun violence while our nation continues to hold on to the gun as a fundamental backbone of being American? A lot of people a lot smarter than me have tried to tackle this question, but the three things I continue to come back to our awareness, education, and policy. These are broad terms, but mental health awareness, gun violence education, and control policies are essential to moving forward the narrative.
NAMI Help Line: 800-950-NAMI
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-TALK
Three individuals were killed in the Jacksonville shooting incident. Two of these young men, “Trueboy” Elijah Clayton and “SpotMePlzz” Taylor Robertson have been extensively covered by the news media. The third person who lost his life, David Katz, was the shooter in this incident. According to reports, David Katz lost a match that prevented him from being a part of Sunday’s matches. He then returned to the venue on Sunday and opened fire on several of the players before turning the gun on himself. As more reports came to light, it was discovered that David had a history of mental illness. A loss in an important video game tournament coupled with mental instability and the media had their motive. The case was closed. Time and time again, society brands folks as crazy and puts them in a box, separating “them” from “us normal people”. This is a part of the problem. This is the narrative that needs to be expanded. Mental health is an important part to all human beings. Social awareness of our peers, our friends, and our family members’ mental health is important to recognize. If someone you know seems to be struggling, talk to them. Isolationism is the downfall of all man. Embrace those who need it, and if someone close to you needs professional help, encourage them to seek it. Would any of this prevent this tragedy? Maybe not. But the more people that speak about mental health awareness can make us all beacons that shine against the taboo of holding emotions and expressions inside.
Not everyone who commits acts of violence is dealing with mental health concerns. Some people just want to see the world burn. Do you have a plan if something happens to you or the ones you love? How often do you speak to your kids about what they should do if they see a gun at a friend’s house, or at a party, or at school? This may sound like paranoia, but I assure you it is past time to start having these conversations with our loved ones. Education on what to do in case of emergency is already happening in the public school system with “active shooter” drills. But our schools should not be taking the lead on violence education. These values should be taught and discussed at home. Let’s not wait until it’s too late to start having conversations about what to do when potentially dangerous situations arise.
The gaming community more than any other community is active, vibrant, and moves very quickly. Gaming has evolved over the years into the tech sphere, research capability, and competitive sport as the case was here at this event in Jacksonville. For too long, movements such as gamergate and harassment towards minority groups have dominated the gaming mobilization narrative. It is time to change that loud voice of the few and make it a resounding call of the many to put a stop to this in the best ways we can. Gun control debates can quickly devolve into stumbling blocks, but there are common ground areas that have been proven time and time again that folks agree on such as clear, distinct, and consistent laws to be able to obtain a firearm across all states. Politicians need to stop paying lip service to what they believe their constituents want to hear and instead the voters need to make it known that we want policy change on this issue right now.
Gun violence will happen again. A mass shooting will occur again. The numbers continue to grow every year. It is time for people to rise and say that enough is enough. Stop hate. Stop violence. Bring awareness. Educate. Reduce access. We have the means, we have the ability. All that is missing is the desire to say as a society that we can overcome.
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Ryan Files is an avid comic book and video game consumer, reviewer, and critic hailing from the boondocks of Illinois. He has taken his ethnographic cultural studies background and applied it to his love of geekdom. He is a huge Star Wars nerd, Castlevania