A string of incidents has put event security in the spotlight over the past year – but the world of e-sports has some catching up to do.
Security is an issue that has been in the headlines for events a great deal over the last year, particularly since the tragic terrorist attack on Manchester Arena in May 2017.
But there is one sector of the outdoor events world – a rather enormous but oft-overlooked sector – that seems to be behind the times when it comes to security. That sector is e-sports: the playing of videogames at a level of competitive sport.
E-sports events range from small, grassroots gatherings of gamers to enormous, stadium-filling behemoths with over $25m in prize money being offered. That last figure comes from The International 2018, a Dota 2 tournament which concluded on 25 August, and was livestreamed by over 15 million people online.
But it was a considerably smaller e-sports event that hit headlines just one day later, and not for a good reason. On 26 August, 24 year old David Katz shot and killed two people and then himself at a Madden NFL 19 event in Jacksonville, Florida.
The shooting occurred at Good Luck Have Fun Game Bar, a small venue which featured no security whatsoever – be it metal detectors, searches on the door, or members of staff.
In the wake of the incident, a player at the event who was shot and injured has filed a lawsuit against both the venue and Electronic Arts, which publishes Madden NFL 19. Jacob Mitich claims that EA and GLHF Game Bar ‘failed to provide a safe and secure environment’, and is seeking damages.
In response, EA’s CEO Andrew Wilson said the company would “run a comprehensive review of safety protocols for competitors and spectators,” in search of a “consistent level of security” for all of the company’s competitive gaming events.
The incident has brought about wider scrutiny of security measures in e-sports events, with many high-profile players, managers and event organisers addressing the issue on Twitter and in the press.
EVO 2018 is one such high-profile e-sports event. It brings to Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay the best competitors from around the world, in fighting games such as Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros. Before the tournament, organisers alerted the FBI to a threat which was made by a user on Twitch, who claimed: ‘Mass shooting @ EVO 2018 see you there’.
The threat seems to have been a particularly misguided prank, but the involvement of the FBI shows that there is absolutely no margin for risk when it comes to the serious issue of event security.
Even despite the threat, however, attendees to EVO found that it was only on the tournament’s final day that metal detectors and bag checks were put in place. For the first two days of the event, no such security measures were in place.
Professional Counter Strike: Global Offensive player @daps commented: “Esports is behind traditional sports in many aspects, a lot of events I’ve been to have had gaps in security where something like this could occur.” Jason Lake, CEO of e-sports team Complexity Gaming, echoed the sentiment: “It’s time esports events (large and small) double down on security for everyone in general and players specifically.”
Following the outcry for greater security, EVO’s organisers promised that future events would meet the standards players and spectators were expecting. They said: “While Evo does not comment on security procedures (for obvious reasons), it’s very clear that we need to be more proactive for 2019 and beyond. The amount of undercover law enforcement at Evo was unprecedented, and we will be installing metal detectors for ALL days next year.”
A wake-up call for the industry
An event like the Jacksonville shooting serves as a reminder that security needs to be at the top of the priority list for an event of any kind, whether it is taking place in a small gaming café or a stadium seating a hundred thousand fans.
This is a sentiment which was echoed by ShowSec security’s Alan Wallace, who Access spoke to recently. He said: “The threat of terrorism and violence to live events has been brought into sharp focus in recent years, following the 2015 Paris attacks and more recent incidents such as the Manchester bombing.
“Organisers are recognising the importance of security now more than ever, and doing whatever it takes to reduce risk. Cutting corners is not something anyone in the industry wants in the current climate.”
Festivals, concerts, and other outdoor events have all followed Wallace’s advice, putting tighter regulations in place, with an increased emphasis on making sure guests feel safe at all times.
But for the world of e-sports, there is still lots of catching up to do. Here’s hoping the tragic events in Florida will serve as a wake-up call to event organisers and attendees alike.