That’s a question that is scary regardless of where or why it’s asked but today it is even more terrifying because I am asking it with gaming communities in mind. Take that in for a second. Gaming.
In the wake of Jacksonville Madden NFL 19 tournament mass shooting that saw the murder of 22-year-old Elijah “TrueBoy” Clayton and 28-year-old Taylor “SpotMePlzzz” Robertson, we have since learned about the long mental instability of the murderer responsible for this tragedy. That same week another violent murder in San Diego occurred when a CSGO Youtuber committed suicide driving 100 mph the wrong way into 43-year-old Aileen Pizarro and her 12-year-old daughter Aryana ending all three peoples lives while injuring many others.
Not even a month later we have the incident with Twitch gaming entrepreneur Guy “Drdisrespect” Breahm having his home shot at two days in a row where his wife and daughter also reside.
Three isolated incidents in America that don’t include swatting targets like 12-year-old Peter “Jolly Rancher” Varady or the police shooting of an armed gunman who invaded the home of Gavin Free and Megan Turner in Texas. Both of these horrific crimes occurring in February of this year, 2018.
2018. The year World Health Organization is pushing to have gaming listed as a disorder and the year content creators have been killed or threatened for playing games. Take this information in for a second then ask the real question that no one is willing to step forward and ask. Who is responsible?
Is it the government and gun laws? Is it parents or lack of security at venues? Is it the games? In all honesty it’s all of these things and more.
Accessibility is something we now take for granted. Gone are the days when having a computer or a console is a luxury. Ancient history are the stigma’s when gaming was for basement-dwelling, drop out teen’s. Games have become more sophisticated, realistic and time consuming with the most acute understanding that they are being developed to keep players in them for as long as they possibly can. Playing just for a few minutes here and there has gone the way of the Dodo bird.
On top of the amount of genres, titles available and ways we can now play games — what hasn’t changed is that games are a form of escapism like all entertainment including books, television and music just to name a few. You climb into your chair to take the day off, hang it up outside your login screen and just immerse leaving all your worries behind. The difference with games compared to many forms of entertainment is you have multiple chances to change your journey, the added layer of enjoying it with who you want and numerous opportunities to customize/change content whether it be by design, beta testing or planned contribution between players and developers. This creates attachment, ownership. Now add competitive play to it.
While we’re here contemplating the state of online gaming go ahead and consider children are growing up online with games as their main source of socializing. Computers are the modern day babysitter. At the other end of the scale adults are being laid off, diagnosed, deployed, confronted and exposed to extreme political and financial uncertainty. Both ends of that online scale are being put in the same virtual rooms along with many other variables. Online communities are congested with worry, where we go to escape is becoming overwhelmed with stress. So much so, that there are no boundaries on conversation or expression. As long as a few choice words are not said, it’s fine.
Online we are being exposed to this state of dis-ease daily, minute by minute. So who steps up and says ‘we need to take care of this epidemic?” Who is sincere enough to accept their role in how our society is evolving or for lack of a better word, declining. Weekly reports are being made of violent interaction online, not toxic-violent. Let me remind us all what violent means:
Using or involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone-something (especially of an emotion or unpleasant or destructive natural force) very strong or powerful.
In all my years being involved in sports at competitive levels, community-focused events via tourism and international cultural gatherings – all hobby started activities – next to a career in security I can say with confidence that the gaming industry is built on very unstable foundations that does not support its customers or workers.
What is it going to take before leaders of the gaming industry and community stand up and fight for EACH OTHER’S well being?
When do we come together and create the structure games need desperately so parents, friends, loved ones know they and those they care for are safe?
I remember when the hospitality industry went into overhaul and health regulations were put in place in n New Zealand, where I am from. We do not have “states” so our Food Code was across the board for the entire country. Restaurants, takeaway outlets etc were all graded based on how clean and sanitary it is. Businesses shut down if they did not meet lawful regulation. How would the gaming industry fare if something similar was placed on each game which includes its official channels – extending to social media, steam, discord, facebook etc?
Gamers are forecast to spend $138 Billion on games this year. Is this industry not big enough yet to take itself seriously?
Imagine a working system where we could quickly see how professionals from many different fields/companies decide on a games mental health regulation? From an employment angle, this would also help those in the industry decide if they wish to work there. Are companies investing the staff and money into ensuring their platforms? These same regulations also applying to social media platforms that force everyone to ask questions like How is Reddit ranked for the mental well being of ages 8–12? 12–18? 18–25?
With social media playing such a big role in gaming communities, we know violence is not just a gaming problem.
Another step further. If legal procedures are put in place this could open up an opportunity to teach Online Health Care in schools. How timely would that be right now with 10-year old’s now flocking to play Fortnite?
Fine-tooth-combing every game’s systems including in-game capabilities to block and report (etc) could finally bring awareness to the fact that we have a crisis on our hands and past educating the gamers/potential gamers, applying an “Online Code” could also open after school curriculum’s for parents, churches, scouts – anywhere families gather cultivating awareness from child to adulthood. In partnership with Cyber-security companies, psychologists, gaming CEO’s and leaders in technology – forming a “United Nations” approach to online health introduces awareness, assisance, and support that may help identify or remedy violent situations before they happen.
Leaders coming together to say “I care about your future, your well being” encourages everyone in it’s community to follow suit.
This is my hope for the very near future of the online community and especially gaming where I live and love daily. In the meantime I might not have the qualifications to bring government or legal consideration to these topics but like you I have every tool and reason to start asking the much needed questions so maybe someone more capable can accept this noble challenge creating constructive action before another life who started playing games just to have fun, is threatened or taken.
Rest In Peace Eli and Taylor.