Opinion: It Wasn't Just Mental Illness; There's Another Sickness Infecting Gamers
Let me preface this entire thing with two notes: First, I am an avid video game player. I’ve been playing video games since I was six, and I’ve easily played thousands of hours worth of video games. Second, I am a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment. Few things are more fundamentally American than the right to keep and bear arms. In short, I love my constitution and I love my video games.
Unfortunately, the two of them became intertwined in the worst possible way on Sunday in Jacksonville, Florida, when 24-year-old David Katz shot up a Madden football game tournament and killed two people before turning the gun on himself.
To the utter surprise of absolutely nobody, this tragic event somehow became a political issue instead of an indictment against the evil humans are capable of.
There were those who predictably jumped on the anti-Second Amendment train, calling for the logistically impossible task of banning guns. In turn, that triggered a defense mechanism from the other side who immediately wanted to blame violent games.
Both fringes of the spectrum are wrong on this matter.
As has been noted ad nauseam, you can’t regulate the evil that lurks in people’s hearts. Taking away freedoms has never been the answer to any question worth asking.
Equally as obnoxious are people who want to scapegoat violent video games. Madden is a football video game, which is a fairly far cry from the likes of “Grand Theft Auto,” and is rated “E” for “Everyone” by the ESRB.
Considering it’s impossible to regulate evil intent, let me posit something that’s actually worth regulating since the mainstream media is too preoccupied with wanting to ban guns or violent media.
As competitive video gaming, or “eSports,” continues to grow, alongside the proliferation of streaming platforms like Twitch, which creates unprecedented access, fame and money to gamers, perhaps it’s worth looking into whether or not that entire scene needs to be regulated and looked into.
Mental welfare checks, psyche evaluations, limits on practice time and meaningful punishments for toxicity are all things that professional or competitive video gamers need at this point.
Guns are already regulated through permits and licenses. Video games themselves are regulated by the ESRB and sometimes the government.
I have never been a “professional gamer,” but I know the scene well. I have close friends who would consider themselves pros or at least Twitch gamers. I’ve dabbled in competitive video game tournaments here and there.
I can say, unequivocally, that the competitive video game scene is insanely toxic. It’s one of the primary reasons I stick to single-player video games. I’d rather play “Zelda” and have some music playing in the background than play “Call of Duty” with a prepubescent punk yelling racial obscenities at me.
Video gamers as a whole are probably not the most well-adjusted people. Thrusting the most avid of players (in other words, people who likely have the worst work-life balance) into prominent public spotlights is unlikely to lead to anything good.
Going back to violent games, there have been no conclusive studies correlating violent games to aggressive actions. You know what types of video games do trigger aggressive actions? Competitive ones.
The American Psychological Association published a study that found gamers were more likely to have aggressive responses to a competitive video game than a violent one.
It makes sense. As history has proven, whether it’s steroids in baseball or any number of New England Patriots-related scandals, competition often brings out the very worst in people. Bringing the worst out of people who aren’t well-adjusted is a recipe for disaster.
Toxicity within gaming culture is hardly a novel problem. Companies like Blizzard and Riot Games have been trying to regulate the overwhelming toxicity in popular competitive games like “Overwatch” and “League of Legends,” respectively, for a while now. It’s mostly been lip service with a couple of band-aids thrown in. Perhaps more stringent and significant change can come from them now.
If there’s one positive thing to emerge from the horrible tragedy in Jacksonville, perhaps it’ll be an honest and introspective look from my fellow gamers. We can, should and, apparently, need to be better.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.