Content Warning: I’m going to talk about the tragic Jacksonville Madden Tournament shooting that just happened. If talk of violence troubles you, you may want to skip this post. This is also done with as much sensitivity as I can muster, I’m devastated just like so many in our community. I invite careful and thoughtful discussion on this sensitive topic.
I’ve been going to conventions for a very long time, longer than I like admitting. Conventions and tournaments have always been a place that felt more at home than my home. My family wasn’t supportive of the whole…selling my soul to anime thing and I sought refuge in the large crowds of conventions. I met people who were like me. I made friends that I have kept now for nearly a decade. I’ve become a better cosplayer, panelist, and person all because of the rush and crowds of conventions.
Now, conventions aren’t always safe. There’s a reason that weapons policies can be so strict. And there’s always the threat of randoms acts of violence any time literally thousands of people crowd a few city blocks. There was the famous few Dallas conventions where cosplayers have been hit by cars due to bad traffic and the one year the convention’s water was spiked with LSD. Conventions have always been a risk. That doesn’t even account for the rampant sexual harassment and assault. But, we had a community that no matter what happened, we felt safe. I never felt unsafe on a mass scale in all of my years of going to conventions. Sure, I faced harassment, luckily never assault and I have not been physically hurt out of malice. I am fortunate.
But that’s been changing for a while now. More and more large conventions have been threatened with gun violence and we are lucky that many cons take these claims seriously. When someone threatened a con in Arizona, staff was upped and police were present. After the Dallas LSD-water thing, guess what? No more communal water. Each time conventions made steps to help the fears of their guests and to keep the con-goers safe. This went for every tournament I ever went to as well from Super Smash Bros. to Yu-Gi-Oh and even to now where I see my best friend play Street Fighter V in a massive e-sports arena.
That changed over the weekend. I’m still somewhat processing what happened in Jacksonville. I suppose that’s why I’m writing this. I’m still trying to work through what this means for us as a community. People died at an e-sports tournament; a safe space for so many people. I’m truly heart-broken.
I’m not just heartbroken at the loss of life, I’m heartbroken over the loss of innocence. I didn’t come from a picture perfect family. You may have noticed that from my prior posts where I call my family a hot dumpster fire more than once. My con family became my family. I have a squad that I roll with. These are people I’ve known for most of my life. The memories I’ve made at conventions and tournaments have colored dark days, motivated me from depression and helped me work through the pain of grief. When I call convention and tournament spaces a “safe space” I mean it. I could be myself in all my cross-dressing and ranting glory without fear of being judged and most of all, no fear in sight of being physically harmed or killed.
The person who decided that losing a video game was worth killing other humans is not worth wasting typed characters on. I am of the mindset to not glorify these individuals: it’s exactly what they’d want. And no conversation about this horrific tragedy is complete without a serious sidebar into gun control. We have too many guns in this country and thus it is no longer implausible that some random person could decide to shoot up a convention or tournament space. At this stage, I am not here to argue about guns and gun control: it’s a thing we’ve needed for a long time and anyone who believes to the contrary needs to take a good hard look at themselves.
It’s tragic that I am now concerned about my safety at upcoming conventions despite having done this for years. It’s tragic that our community of gamers has lost two of our own. It’s tragic that we got to this point. Hold conventions and tournaments accountable for safety: if you hear whispers of a plot, tell people. If you are uncomfortable or scared by someone’s behavior, alert con staff: they are there to help you. Stay alert and vigilant, it may just be lifesaving. The fact that I now have to teach people how to potentially save their own lives and the lives of others make the space where my heart would be ache.
And frankly, I won’t stand for it.
The Inner Sanctum Has Been Breached. We must stand together and do more to protect what we hold most dear: ourselves, our friends and our community.