Hidden Ancients by Daren Bader
Recently, there was a mass shooting at a Madden 19 tournament in Jacksonville, Florida. I assume most of you reading this are aware of what happened but for those that are not: David Katz lost in the tournament, came back with a gun, then killed two people and wounded ten before taking his own life. This tragedy has heavy implications for the entire eSports community, and Magic is no exception.
eSports tournaments are not taken seriously.
Save a few outliers, anytime a human being is driven to commit an atrocity against other people it is a result of a breaking point being reached by the perpetrator. The breaking point for each person varies, but the conditions that lead to the breaking point often follow a pattern. At a fundamental level, the pattern amounts to a person being under stress and presented with an opportunity. Again, the amount of stress and the quality/quantity of opportunities for each person to break vary greatly.
High stakes competition provides a high stress environment, but other competitive events provide support for their players and higher security to prevent misconduct. The respect for and acceptance of eSports professionals also varies, and as a result some eSports events have higher security standards and player support. The less popular and socially acceptable the eSport, the less the competitors are respected and the greater the risk an event lacks appropriate security. The security and support surrounding an eSport tournament, or lack thereof, demonstrates the importance of that tournament; the majority of events are not considered important by those measures.
If eSports tournaments were treated like a major sporting event, there would be less opportunity for crime and misconduct due to preventative measures, and outbreaks would be contained much faster. The problem isn’t new. Just about any time there is an especially large Grand Prix, or simply an event where players are bringing decks that are worth especially large sums of money, reports of stolen decks, binders, and backpacks flood social media as players try and find any leads to getting their stuff back. This is unacceptable, and the fact people regularly get away with this kind of theft at events with thousands of people sets a dangerous precedent for even more damaging crimes.
Magic is a high emotion game, just like other eSports, and it easily could have been a Magic tournament that a tragedy took place at instead of a Madden tournament. If the perception of eSports doesn’t change and the status of eSports as major sporting events that require appropriate security and precautions isn’t promoted, then the petty crimes already being committed will persist and the opportunity for a tragedy to occur in Magic will remain. That’s a really scary thought.
What Went Wrong
Having your career goals and passion be considered immature, a waste of time, and/or worthless on top of pressures to do well in games with intrinsic variance and high skill caps does not lead to a healthy mental state. Lack of support, therefore, deals a devastating blow to the eSports community.
The problem starts at the parenting level. I really hate generational conflict and the endless arguments about how each generation is better/worse than the one that came before it, but parental support is a very powerful motivator. Many working individuals out there today chose their profession solely because they knew it would please their parents and their extended family. For the average person, your parents are who taught you how the world works. They taught you what is right, what is wrong, what to do, and what not to do. It is only natural you take that advice and succeed in the ways they taught you. Unfortunately, my parents, like most parents out there today, grew up without eSports being a career option at all, much less one that is acceptable. It’s ironically much more acceptable to go to college, put yourself hopelessly in debt, try to figure out what you want to do with your life all while accruing even more debt, and end up with a largely unusable degree in a field you are not passionate about than it is to pursue being a professional gamer.
The problem extends into peer groups and social cliques that we interact with. I work a desk job during the day and have to request off quite a bit for the tournaments I attend. This has inevitably created many awkward conversations about what I am doing every other weekend or so, and the quick, judgmental looks when explaining competitive Magic to people does not go unnoticed. Even my wife, who interacts with competitve Magic as little as possible, deals with this very same issue when explaining to her family and friends why her husband is away all the time. Most people try to be understanding, which is appreciated, but the fact they have to try to begin with is really a testament to the pervasiveness of the issue. Society generally understands the passion behind pursuing your dreams, but due to the perceived low chances of success and little financial gain, assumes the pursuit to be futile.
The assumed futility of the pursuit of a career in eSports is the backbone of society’s disrespect for the profession. Not only does it create more pressure on the players to do well to prove themselves, but it also infects others and creates a society-wide connotation that all eSports tournaments amount to is a bunch of nerds living in their parents basements trying to prove they are better than the other basement dwellers that need to grow up and get a “real” job. When that is the perception, why would you need adequate security? Why check bags? Why care about the mental status of adult nerds? If they want to be immature, then let them be. Security and support aren’t needed for childish endeavors.
eSports is still evolving in every aspect, and I doubt it will be an acceptable career path anytime soon, potentially never. But at the bare minimum, the take away from all of this is twofold:
1. Security issues need to be addressed.
2. Mental health of the competitors needs to be discussed.
Even if everything else I have written about societal expectations is unsolvable outside of time, the security of venues and mental health of players are two areas that need help and need it now. Disregarding any external factors that lead to specifically a mass shooting, other issues like player suicide, drug abuse, harassment, assault, and theft are going to become bigger problems for Magic as it grows as a competitive outlet and as an eSport.
With all of that said, I do not know the exact implementation details for these solutions to completely fix the problem, but more can be done. Major eSports like League of Legends already “utilizes multiple security measures including bag checks, item restrictions, metal detector screenings, and on-site security to ensure the safety of all those in attendance.” But even they are taking another look at security for their events.
It is our responsibility as a community to discuss the issue for what it is and work together for solutions. It is our responsibility to speak out about the fact we feel unsafe and push the tournament organizers and venues to do better. It is our responsibility as an individual to recognize when our mental state becomes unhealthy and toxic. Ideally, we can also recognize it in others and push them to get help for those that struggle with maintaining their mental health. If everyone was conscious of their own mental health, knew the warning signs, and had outlets to seek help within our community without fear of judgment, it would be a big step in the right direction.
I hate that I must use an event as heavy as a mass shooting to bring up flaws in our society, but if we act like events like this are only just a tragedy and there is nothing we can do to prevent things like this from happening again, it can have deadly consequences. Perception matters. Allowing ourselves to be perceived as less important or less worthy of respect is not acceptable, and we as a gaming community should take this opportunity to improve.
Magic is a great game that we should all be able to enjoy safely and securely at every level. While the emotion behind the game is part of what makes the game so intoxicating for those of us that grind tournaments, the emotional pendulum swings both ways. There needs to be support for players dealing with failure just as much as there should be excitement for players who are finding success. Most of all, everyone should feel safe when pursuing happiness through any eSport.
Thank you all for reading! If you have anything to add to the discussion, feel free to drop it in the comments section below. I plan to have another article out shortly; I put my other article on hold however because I felt this material needed to be discussed before the community moved on. Until next time!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the views of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the owners and staff of LegitMTG.com.
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