As I write this, it’s a little after 4am locally here. Blame the humidity or my own rumbling head for the poor timing on this post, then, but I had to get a few things off of my chest regarding the events at Jacksonville, Florida.
I love esports. I’m not one of the diehard sorts who roots for a specific org and there are some game genres that hold my interest more than others, but the overall field of esports from a spectator’s point of view is one of my favorite new things that has come out of the modern age of gaming. So to see something so horrible as a shooting come out of this new pastime has struck me more deeply than I thought it would.
As of right now, the tally of dead is three, with another 11 injured but in stable condition according to current reports. And while that perhaps doesn’t qualify as “mass shooting” to the minds of some assholes, the fact that there’s even a consideration of that metric illustrates how deeply wrong a mindset is regarding firearms in my country.
I’ll not dwell on that topic for too long because, frankly, it feels like wasted effort. When one of the folks among those who could change things can be shot point blank without anything sweeping happening in terms of policy, then the outrage and disgust and shame I feel for the other major shootings that happened after just feels toothless at this point.
That said, I genuinely hope that this does motivate some level of change on a number of fronts.
In addition to America’s staunch defense of the right to hold any number of killing implements the way you could hoard a baseball card collection, there’s a cultural problem with esports. It ties directly into the same chest-thumping machismo that soaks any competition, to be fair, but somehow esports seems to be a petri dish for some truly vile and rancid mindsets, at least speaking from someone “in the bleachers”. The fact that the first thing I do when I view any esporting event is shut chat off is a testament to that, and the initial reporting that the shooter at Jacksonville was one who was eliminated from the competition is probably one of the most illuminating examples of how competition can be taken too far.
So with that in mind, I especially hope that the events of Jacksonville motivate people to do better. I’m not advocating for no trash-talking – I’m not the kind who hopes for that level of thought policing. But I do hope that the close proximity of the events this past Sunday will motivate those who participate in esports events in any capacity to better consider their behavior.
I recognize that I’m asking a lot. On the surface, it sounds like I want people to not be proud of their favorite players or orgs winning events, or esports participants to be awkwardly silent. All I’m hoping for is a lot more decorum. Truly winning attitudes like those from “normal” sporting greats could honestly make a greater impact than one realizes, and especially recognizing when enough is enough in terms of shitposting among fans could clear a lot of misconceptions about esports held by those “on the outside”.
As an esports fan, I’m the first to admit that the culture has a problem. But I also would be remiss to ignore the familial aspects of esports as well. The sense of community that comes from competition can be a wonderful thing, and we as fans need to make sure that’s the stuff that hits the forefront of people’s minds. There’s already enough Angry Gamer Nerd tropes out there and we as esports lovers shouldn’t fuel that fire. Besides, taking this stuff that seriously is just exhausting, don’t you agree?
A lot has to change on a lot of fronts. But I think – I hope – that this past Sunday will facilitate some of that. But if nothing else, I hope that these words motivate you to be a little kinder. We can all revel in esport without stamping on others.