As esports industry booms, Jacksonville shooting raises security questions

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The booming esports industry faces questions about security at its events after a deadly shooting at a tournament for the Madden NFL 19 video game in Jacksonville, Florida.

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The gunman, identified by authorities as David Katz of Baltimore, Maryland, walked into GLHR Game Bar and opened fire, killing two people and injuring 11 others before turning the gun on himself. It’s unclear what kind of security, if any, was present at the venue for the event.

“I’ve been telling [tournament organizers] for a while that you need to make the players feel safe,” esports competitor Derek Jones, who was present for the attack, told the Associated Press.

Security at esports events remains lax even as the industry experiences rapid growth in terms of both participants and revenue. The industry is expected to amass $906 million in revenue in 2018, up 38% compared to 2017 and nearly double its total take from one year before.

Tournament prize pools have grown quickly, from just $3 million total in 2010 to $121 million in 2017. Monthly viewership of esports events exceeds 160 million.

Electronic Arts, the company that publishes Madden NFL 19, did not provide details on security at the Jacksonville tournament, which was meant to serve as one of four qualifying events. The top two contestants would have advanced to a main event in Las Vegas, where the nation’s top Madden players will compete for a total prize pool worth $165,000.

“The authorities have confirmed that we lost two respected members of our community yesterday, Elijah ‘TruBoy’ Clayton and Taylor ‘SpotMePlzz’ Robertson. Their deaths are an inconceivable tragedy, and we offer our deepest sympathies to their families, to those injured and everyone affected by this,” Electronics Arts said in a statement.

“Many of us at EA knew Elijah and Taylor well, and their positive, competitive spirit and respect for other players were evident to everyone. They earned the admiration of all who watched them compete, and we will miss them greatly.  We are committed to supporting their family members through this difficult time,” the statement continued.

The Jacksonville Madden tournament was live-streamed on Twitch, a popular streaming platform owned by Amazon. Several live feeds picked up audio of gunshots during the shooting.

“Heartbreaking to hear about the shooting at the Madden event,” Cristian Tamas, Twitch director of esports programs, wrote on Twitter. “Unfortunately, this was a matter of when, not if. Esport event security, in general, has been extremely poor over the years, we should’ve stepped it up long ago.”

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