JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Esports organizers say don't blame the games.
Executives at the Asian Games have expressed sympathy for the victims of the deadly shooting at a video game tournament in a Florida shopping mall. But Kenneth Fok, president of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation, said the shooting was more a reflection of U.S. gun laws than the gaming community.
U.S. authorities say 24-year-old David Katz, of Baltimore, killed two people and wounded nine others before fatally shooting himself Sunday at a Madden tournament being held at a riverfront mall in Jacksonville.
"Of course tragedies like this should never happen. One is already too many," Fok told a news conference Wednesday about the introduction of esports at the Asian Games. "But I think this is a bigger issue of gun control and access to guns.
"This very unfortunate incident happened in a video game arena, but does this mean that it's esports or video games to blame? I don't believe so. It's not esports that caused this. We're really saddened to see this take place."
While several U.S.-based esports organizers have called for better security at events since Sunday's shooting, Indian Gaming League founder and AESF vice-president Lokesh Suji said problems such as the shooting in Florida hadn't occurred in Asia, where the vast bulk of esports and gaming is focused.
"Tell me about one incident where this has happened in Asia," said Suji, adding that drawing comparisons between gaming and violence "is the wrong perspective."
"We've never had this in this part of the world. Why are things happening in the U.S.?" Suji said. "It's very sad. Every time something like this happens in the U.S., people start blaming the video games. The bigger picture, the bigger problem is gun control."
Esports made its competitive debut this week as a demonstration sport at the Asian Games, which has attracted more than 11,000 athletes in 40 sports. The arena was packed for the esports debut and the reception was good, leading organizers to be positive about being considered as a medal sport for the next Asian Games in China in 2022 and ultimately at the Olympics.
Fok said the gaming community and the burgeoning industry was paying attention to concerns such as addiction, and believes those can be addressed by education and regulation as competitive gaming edges further into the mainstream.
"It is a high-stress environment. We have to protect athletes as well," Fok said. "As we grow, we have to look at the overall well-being of all our athletes."
Mike Morhaime, the CEO of Blizzard Entertainment, an American video games developer, told a recent International Olympic Committee forum that esports has 2 billion people worldwide playing electronic games, with 380 million watching esports.