In light of the Jacksonville shooting, Madden needs to address its toxic community

By Naly_D

Over the past week, I’ve been reviewing Madden 19. On Sunday night I summed up my final thoughts, and got ready to submit it.

On Monday morning I woke up to horrific news—a shooting at a Madden tournament in the United States. The review will be delayed out of respect for the families and friends of those killed, injured, and otherwise affected by this shooting.

Two growing figures in the Madden esports community lost their lives – ‘Trueboy’ and ‘Spotmeplzzz’. The third fatality is unknown at this stage.

The alleged shooter was also a known figure. I’m not going to name him.

You will have seen media coverage referring to the shooter as being upset for having lost the tournament. There has been comment on media about him being a sore loser. There’s been a prevailing sentiment I’ve picked up outside the Madden community that the shooter was a nobody.

He wasn’t.

The shooter went to the highest levels of Madden last year. While Madden esports has long been dominated by two players ‘Skimbo’ and ‘Problem’, the next tier is a lot more fluid with a lot of people vying for spots. True and Spot were in that tier. The shooter was, at times, on the cusp of it.

This violent event was carried out by someone who knew, and was friends with, some of the competitors. MiseryAP even talked openly in a now-deleted tweet about how members of the community joked about the shooter doing something like this.

In no way am I suggesting anyone was to blame for today’s event other than the shooter. But in light of this event, the community does need take a look at itself.

Madden is an esport where the prevailing mentality is to piss off the person you’re playing against while justifying and playing down your own mistakes, and there needs to be acknowledgement of how this can impact on others.

You don’t have to look far for examples. Misery’s own Twitter feed. You can see it on his stream as he grows increasingly frustrated about a few RNG moments going against him in one game. There was a fight at the same tournament the day before. A self-aware acknowledgement of it in this Reddit thread.

While most esports have expanded and grown to become incredibly slick and professional, Madden has a mentality stuck in 90s arcades. Madden and many other sports games have long embraced a professional wrestling type mentality—playing up the drama between players, and playing up the trash talk.

The community encourages the machismo mentality—talking trash to your opponent, getting in their face and getting in their head. The goal is highlight every mistake your opponent makes and play up your own successes, to tilt them. The idea and defense players use is ‘when you play your buddies on the couch you trash talk them’.

When me and my mate play Madden, we rib each other. He knows I can’t run and will dare me to run it. But my mate has never screamed in my face with all kinds of racial and homophobic slurs, or threatening to do things to my mother/sister/girlfriend.

Online though, this happens in the majority of games. And muting the TV doesn’t save you from the messages. Blocking the person from messaging you doesn’t save you from them abusing pauses after every time you’ve made a big play.

I barely play online these days because of this toxicity. It’s not that it affects me; it’s that it undermines the enjoyment of the game. When you know your opponent won’t accept your good plays as anything other than “proof the game’s broken” while their plays are “God-tier, why are you wasting my time scrub”, it doesn’t make it an enjoyable experience. And there are a lot of young people who play the game who may not have the mental fortitude to withstand the barrages of abuse.

The Madden community has an underlying toxicity, and it’s tied into the machismo which is behind the whole thing. It is far more toxic than any other gaming community I’ve been involved with. There is no celebration of a player’s skill.

The community thrives on a mentality that if you’re losing, you have to yell at your opponent that they are cheating, that they aren’t as good as you it’s only because they’re abusing ‘cheese’ plays. If you’re winning, you have to yell at your opponent about how trash they are, how they should quit playing.

This is not all Madden players, but it’s certainly a majority of them. And it happens and is encouraged at the professional level.

I believe this shooting will serve as a wake-up call for esports, and the sporting game community. The fact a competitor was allegedly able to leave, get a firearm, return and have access to the stage without any security stopping them is unacceptable. The idea that a competitor was so angry they left the event and came back and committed murder highlights a lack of oversight from organisers.

Esports competitions have often been bare-bonesed (outside the big ones run by companies themselves); it’s obvious in the broadcast production, it’s obvious in the rife problems with scheduling and rules, it’s obvious in the timings. And now it’s obvious in the security.

Esports and the gaming community have long cried out for legitimacy—to be treated with the same respect that professional sports receive.

There needs to be some inward reflection on the two problems this event highlights—the lack of security, and how the community’s toxic attitude encourages hostility between players.

I have no doubt the first issue will be addressed. The second, not so much.

Naly_D

Due to his tendency to have angry outbursts when he loses a game of Hearthstone, we usually keep Naly_D locked up in a cage. It’s better for everyone that way.