It was not that long ago when, on August 25th, during a Madden 19 football game tournament at the busy Jacksonville Landing complex, a gunman claimed three lives, including his own, and injured ten others.
The gunman, a former champion who’d lost at that qualifier tournament, used two legally purchased pistols with laser sights to target fellow competitive gamers and others at the same event. The tragedy was recorded on a Twitch channel broadcasting the event, which disconnected from the game but still streamed the sound of the gunshots and screaming and shouting victims and onlookers. The first lawsuit against Madden ’19 publisher Electronic Arts and the venue has been filed by a victim over the safety and security consideration.
While some details about this tragedy are coming into focus — and will continue to do so as legal system processes the evidence — the shooting has also left behind questions in addition to the grief and anger. The recurring discussion about games and violence are likely to continue to turn up, as well as the discussions about access to guns and treatment of mental illness in the United States.
But, as noted earlier, one of the front-and-center questions is about games-focused events and security, especially in the United States. Electronic Arts, at the heart of this incident, has chosen to cancel the remaining Madden Classic qualifiers to review the safety protocols for their competitive gaming events. So the spotlight on security has shifted to larger fan-driven events, like Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) West 2018, TwitchCon 2018, BlizzCon 2018 and others.
Since PAX West 2018 has come and gone, what steps did their organizing team take? The Seattle Times reports that uniformed and plainclothes police were installed at the Washington State Convention Center. The event’s most current security guidelines, which include pre-checked cosplay non-functional “weapons,” were posted online.
However, some attendees were hoping for and were expecting more rigorous security measures at PAX West, even at the cost to their comfort or convenience. Some attendees felt a high level of protection was not present at the PAX West 2018 show.
More ppl need to point out the lack of security at gaming events/cons. Just walked into @Official_PAX yesterday without being screened, wanded, or patted down.
I understand this would slow down an already slow process, but safety cannot be sacrificed for convenience. #PAXWest
— Riggjaeden (@riggnaros) September 1, 2018
Entrance security at #PAXWest is so bad. Nobody checked my backpack on multiple entries, didn’t see any metal detectors, any bags checked at all. :/
Fortnite pop-up has so much better entry security.
— GS Pwnt (Alex Novosad) @ PAX West (@GSPwnt) September 1, 2018
As noted by Alex Novosad (@GSPint) and Billy Kandris (@Karrott316) on Twitter, the competitive gaming-focused Fortnite pop-up at PAX West 2018 apparently had more consistent and comprehensive security.
The fortnite event portion on pax west has back checks metal detectors and security on sight 100% of the time
— Billy Kandris (@Karrott316) September 2, 2018
Other events and parties at PAX West 2018 also took up the mantle of increasing security, such as by requesting cosplay weapons, regardless of compositions or functionality, not be brought to their event. The “DMC5 SSStylish Pizza Party,” for example, made a request of attendees to make security screening easier and enhance the feeling of safety at the event.
TwitchCon and IEM Chicago 2018 are larger events next on deck this autumn and will almost certainly face similar scrutiny. Unlike the PAX West, team, who only had a week to respond and adjust, these particular events have more than a month to level up security, if necessary, We emailed the organizers of these shows to get a sense where they stand on the topic. TwitchCon, BlizzCon 2018 and IEM organizers did not send a reply to the query. However, TwitchCon organizers have recently stated that they are looking into updating security protocols for the upcoming show for San Jose, California.
It’s an uncertain how much of theevents-related security changes, however many are implemented, will remain in place over the long run. For now, it appears many attendees at game conventions and competitions would feel safer with more safety precautions, not less.