Tragedy hits eSports with NFL video game tournament shooting

The rapidly expanding eSports world of competitive videogaming was struck by tragedy Sunday with a mass shooting at a Madden NFL 19 Classic tournament in Jacksonville, Florida.

Events streamed online allow hundreds of millions of fans around the world to watch video game teams and players just as they would go to a stadium or arena and view a beloved local sports club.

Madden NFL 19 is the latest edition of the video game series named after retired NFL Super Bowl champion coach and long-time television commentator John Madden.

The game, considered one of the most realistic digital NFL games, was released by manufacturer EA Sports earlier this month ahead of the 2018-19 NFL campaign that begins September 6.

Tournaments of various styles of video games have grown in popularity in recent years, with shooting, strategy, and fighting for multi-player teams evolving into some major arena events.

The Florida event was a regional qualifier for a Madden NFL 19 Classic tournament that would deliver a $25,000 top prize to the eventual champion at the main event in Las Vegas later this year.

Games feature soundtracks and realistic player motion for rushers, blockers and quarterbacks and receivers.

“This is a horrible situation and our deepest sympathies go out to all involved,” EA Sports tweeted.

The NFL said in a statement, “We are shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy today in Jacksonville. Our hearts go out to all those affected.”

The boom in eSports has caught the attention of such sports groups as FIFA and the NBA, who boast popular video games and leagues, and eSports is a demonstration sport in the Asian Games currently ongoing in Jakarta, expected to move to full medal status in 2022.

The International Olympic Committee has studied the possible future inclusion of eSports medals in its offerings.

There was minor controversy over the Madden 19 release having the name of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick censored, a move EA Sports said was required because with him no longer in the NFL and not a member of the NFL Players Association, they did not have the rights to use him in the game.

Kaepernick began the kneeling protest before US anthems at NFL games while a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, a move that has continued despite harsh criticism from US President Donald Trump. (AFP)