JAKARTA—ESports organizers say don’t blame the games.
Executives at the Asian Games have expressed sympathy for the victims of the deadly shooting at a video game tournament in a Florida shopping mall. But Kenneth Fok, president of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation, said the shooting was more a reflection of US gun laws than the gaming community.
US authorities say 24-year-old David Katz of Baltimore killed two people and wounded nine others before fatally shooting himself last Sunday at a Madden tournament being held at a riverfront mall in Jacksonville.
“Of course, tragedies like this should never happen. One is already too many,” Fok told a news conference on Wednesday about the introduction of esports at the Asian Games. “But I think this is a bigger issue of gun control and access to guns.
“This very unfortunate incident happened in a video game arena, but does this mean that it’s esports or video games to blame? I don’t believe so. It’s not esports that caused this. We’re really saddened to see this take place.”
While several US-based esports organizers have called for better security at events since Sunday’s shooting, Indian Gaming League founder and AESF Vice President Lokesh Suji said problems such as the shooting in Florida hadn’t occurred in Asia, where the vast bulk of esports and gaming is focused.
“Tell me about one incident where this has happened in Asia,” said Suji, adding that drawing comparisons between gaming and violence “is the wrong perspective.”
“We’ve never had this in this part of the world. Why are things happening in the US?” Suji said. “It’s very sad. Every time something like this happens in the US, people start blaming the video games. The bigger picture, the bigger problem is gun control.”
Esports made its competitive debut this week as a demonstration sport at the Asian Games, which has attracted more than 11,000 athletes in 40 sports. The arena was packed for the esports debut and the reception was good, leading organizers to be positive about being considered as a medal sport for the next Asian Games in China in 2022 and ultimately at the Olympics.
Fok said the gaming community and the burgeoning industry was paying attention to concerns such as addiction, and believes those can be addressed by education and regulation as competitive gaming edges further into the mainstream.
“It is a high-stress environment. We have to protect athletes, as well,” Fok said. “As we grow, we have to look at the overall well-being of all our athletes.”
Mike Morhaime, the CEO of Blizzard Entertainment, an American video games developer, told a recent International Olympic Committee forum that esports has 2 billion people worldwide playing electronic games, with 380 million watching esports.
The deadly shooting at a video game tournament in Florida has drawn attention to the competitive world of esports, where gamers playing Madden NFL 19 chase $1.25 million in prizes through a series of events all over the country.
Madden is one of the most popular sports titles in gaming, with championships televised on ESPN and fans also following along on streaming services like Twitch.
Here are some questions and answers about the competitions and the larger world of esports:
Video gamers have been competing for digital supremacy dating to Pong and Pac-Man and the pastime of esports has been especially popular outside the United States, in countries like South Korea.
Market analyst Newzoo projects the industry will do $1.7 billion in revenue by 2021.
Most competitive esports are played on PCs, though many gamers play on Xbox One or Playstation 4. Some of the most popular esports titles include League of Legends, DOTA 2, Counter Strike and Overwatch, while other events are being developed for the massively popular Fortnite. The International, a tournament for DOTA 2, set an esports record for largest prize pool earlier this month at over $25 million.
Madden is a football game that closely mirrors the chess match of the sport: Players try to outsmart one another with play selections on offense and defense and then compete to execute those plays on the field. Tournaments match competitors against one another often in single-elimination games, putting pressure on participants to win immediately or be eliminated.
The Florida tournament was one of four feeder tournaments awarding $5,000 in prizes and, more important, two spots in the Madden Classic final scheduled to be held in Las Vegas in mid-October. That title awards $25,000 to its winner, and is but one of four “EA majors” hosted by the game’s developer, Electronic Arts.
The Madden competition last Sunday was streamed live on Twitch.
Twitch is an online network, owned by retail giant Amazon, that attracts millions of users to watch live and recorded footage of others playing video games. Twitch.tv is one of the world’s biggest sources of Internet traffic and its top streamers are able to support themselves simply by playing and streaming for users, earning ad revenue and small subscription fees for certain perks.
Opinions vary widely and it may not truly matter. Video games do require physical skill. For every game there’s a spectrum of natural abilities, with some players boasting better reactions and coordination. Games like Madden are heavy on strategy, while others rely on teamwork. People in the industry like to compare esports to darts, billiards or chess.
Professional gamers get there based on talent and hard work. Most game titles have multiple levels of competition, including lower-level leagues, tournaments and invitationals. It’s a grind, with most players practicing at least six days a week, six hours a day during their seasons.
For the industry, the argument only matters insofar as it affects visibility.