Over the weekend, a Madden 19 player opened fire at fellow professional gamers during a Madden Championship Series qualifying event in Jacksonville, Florida. Two players—Eli “Trueboy” Clayton and Taylor “spotmeplzzz” Robertson—were killed and 11 others were injured before the shooter, Daniel “Bread” Katz, killed himself at the GLHF Game Bar in Jackonsville Landing.
It’s the 234th mass shooting event in the United States in 2018. In August alone, the United States has had 31 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive. It’s a problem unique to the U.S., where gun laws are notoriously weak. Because of the history of mass shootings in the United States, one Super Smash Bros. Melee player is considering a boycott on American competitions.
Posting on Twitter following the shooting in Jacksonville, TSM Melee player William “Leffen” Hjelte, a Swedish player, expressed frustration regarding gun violence in the U.S. “Legit considering quitting competition in America,” Leffen said on Aug. 26. “I am just so sad and frustrated that people refuse to see the truth time and time again while the body count keeps increasing. Truly sad times.”
“It’s selfish but at this point, I can’t help but just be sad my game is based in [the] U.S.,” he wrote. “No other developed country has this problem. I shouldn’t have to risk my life every time I want to do my job, to play f-cking video games.”
Many have called for increased security at esports events. Major fighting game tournament EVO will make a change in security at its events, according to EVO CEO Joey Cuellar. He tweeted on Aug. 26 that the tournament’s security measures will need to be “more proactive” for the 2019 event.
Increased security doesn’t address gun violence as an ongoing and serious problem in the U.S., however. A mass shooting is defined by the Gun Violence Archive as an incident where four or more people were shot or killed, but the government defines a mass shooting as an incident where a gunman kills four or more people. Using either definition, the rate at which the U.S. experiences these events is too high.
A 2015 study published by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center reported that mass public shootings are increasing in the U.S. Researcher David Hemenway said that the U.S. is consistent with “other high-income countries” with regard to “non-gun violence and non-gun crime,” but has “many more” mass shootings per capita.
Elsewhere in the world, countries have increased gun laws to address mass shooting events. Hemenway cited the Australian government’s response to the 1996 Port Authur massacre, where 35 people were killed and 23 were injured in Tasmania. “The government’s response to that tragedy was a massive mandatory buyback program of semi-automatic long-guns and a tightening of their gun laws,” Hemenway said. As of 2015, Australia hasn’t reported a mass shooting event, he added.
Gun laws in the U.S. have seen little change, especially in areas with weaker laws. This is likely due to the National Rifle Association’s influence on the U.S. The group was founded in 1871 to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis,” according to BBC. The NRA has a powerful government lobbying arm that spends 250 million per year. Three million of that goes to gun policy lobbying and recorded contributions to lawmakers, BBC reported in January 2016.
By protecting “the right to bear arms,” the NRA is ensuring increased gun sales. Some have accused the association of prioritizing profit over lives, even as mass shootings spread to all aspects of U.S. life. Movie theaters, elementary schools, malls, and universities have long been targeted by gunmen—and, unfortunately, Madden 19 is just the latest in the horrific trend.
Should this trend continue, it’s likely that more international players, like Leffen, will consider ruling out U.S.-based esports tournaments.