It was the sort of mind-numbingly tragic scene that can seemingly only happen in America. Reportedly upset over a loss, a competitor in a Madden tournament grabbed a gun and started shooting. It's not the first horrific mass shooting to strike Florida this year, nor is it likely to be the last.
The events in Jacksonville have hit close to home for the gaming community, which will be converging upon Seattle for PAX West later this week. But it's proven especially devastating for the small but tight knit competitive Madden community, who lost some of their own on Sunday.
Shortly after reports of the shooting began circulating on social media, community members confirmed that Elijah "Trueboy" Clayton and Taylor "Spotmeplzzz" Robertson had been killed. The word broke through a tweet from Eric Wright, better known as Problem, who is one of the most popular players on the Madden circuit.
Crying and in so much pain. Prayers to the families of Trueboy and Spotme. All over a videogame. Two of our brothers are gone man and its so disturbing. One of the most tragic days ive experienced. This community is like family. Broken.— PROBLEM (@ProblemWright) August 26, 2018
Clayton was just a kid, really—a 19-year-old just out of school who was known for his amazing running game. He told EA in an interview earlier this year, "I'm really easy to get along with, I’m not a trouble maker. I'm always laughing and joking around. I'm just me, a cool dude. There’s really nowhere to go but up, honestly."
Taylor "Spotmeplzz" Robertson, meanwhile, was a Titans fan and a previous Madden Classic winner. In his late 20s, Robertson was a father; a now heartbreaking picture shows him smiling broadly as he toted his child in one arm and a Madden 17 Classic t-shirt in the other.
Their passing has left the normally boisterous, trash talking Madden community at a loss for words. Emotional social media posts have been pouring in from developers, players, and streamers alike.
2 of the people killed in Jacksonville today. One was a Husband, Father, and a Man trying to get extra income for his family. The other guy was around my age doing what he loved and making damn good money doing it. RIP guys Gone but will never be forgotten pic.twitter.com/oYzMpD5yS4— RIP True and Spotme (@BigGuy1014) August 26, 2018
I am in shock & mourning with the rest of the Madden Community. If there’s anything I can do to help anybody out, especially the families of those impacted, please let me know. My DM’s are open. Let’s all come together and get through this together, Madden Family.— Clint Oldenburg (@ClintOldenburg) August 27, 2018
I'd be lying if I said that the news didn't hit me hard as well. I've been actively covering Madden for many years now, and I have quite a few friends in the community. I've come to know the Madden competitive scene as a colorful collection of guys (it's pretty much all guys) who mix jock culture with the nerdiness of gaming. The bro culture can be almost comical in its intensity at times, but I've also found a surprising amount of kindness and acceptance there.
Fans in the Madden competitive scene are the ones who are still playing long after football season has ended and casual fans have dropped away. They're the ones tweeting at the developers and watching the matches on Twitch. What's heartbreaking is that the Madden Challenge has always been one of the most positive aspects of the community. Watching them play, it's easy to forget about the constant negativity and complaints against the game itself. Competitors like True seem to legitimately love Madden, and the community has in turn embraced them as their ambassadors. I've scoffed at Madden's esports prospects in the past, but I can't deny that people like Problem are the glue that holds the small but energetic core of diehards together.
That it was one of their own who reportedly pulled the trigger makes Sunday's events all the harder to bear. We've become accustomed to the story of the premeditated mass shooting, but if reports from the LA Times and other sources are true, it was an actual competitor who grabbed a gun and opened fire after losing. It lends a dark dimension to the classic story of the angry gamer smashing their controller after a loss, and casts a pall over other competitions in the esports world. How many players will celebrate victory in the coming weeks, only to think to themselves, "What if my opponent comes back with a gun?" Unfortunately, that's the reality of living in a country like the U.S., where actual, meaningful gun regulation seems consistently out of reach.
For gaming as a whole, it's a shocking moment, made more raw by the fact that it all played out on Twitch. Like many other people their age, Robertson and Taylor were simply playing Madden on a sunny Sunday on August. Now they're gone, and a community is reeling. It is truly one of the saddest days not just for Madden fans, but for gaming as a whole.
Looking Ahead for the Rest of the Week
Okay, there are a lot of games coming out this week. Plus PAX West is right around the corner. We'll all be there, and we even have a couple of panels too! Anyways, here's the games you can look forward to this week.
- Donut County (PS4, iOS, PC, Mac) [August 28]: Donut County started its life as a game jam project, based off a Peter Molyneux parody account's tweet. The full game from developer Ben Esposito is far more fully featured than its original incarnation. Perhaps best described as the inverse of Katamari, Donut County is a game about controlling a hole and swallowing the world. It's like nothing else you'll play this year.
- Yakuza Kiwami 2 (PS4) [August 28]: We've gotten like a billion Yakuza games in the past year, and Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the latest. Much like Yakuza Kiwami was to the first game in the series, Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a modern remake of Yakuza 2. Yakuza 2 has a reputation for being the sort of first true Yakuza game, paving the way for the series and its formula going forward. Will Yakuza Kiwami 2 feel as sparse as Kiwami did though? Is Majima's new side story campaign worthwhile? Guess you can find out for yourself when it's out tomorrow.
- Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (Switch) [August 28]: Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is the first Monster Hunter game for the Switch, but it's also still just a port: a port of a 3DS game, at that. Monster Hunter: World set North America aflame for arguably the first time in the series' history, and this week will be a solid judge if its old sensibilities can too.
- Fear the Wolves (PC) [August 28]: Fear the Wolves was originally planned for Steam Early Access release last month. It was delayed for a few more weeks, and is hitting Early Access this week. It's a 100-player battle royale game set in Stalker's Chernobyl (stylized as S.T.A.L.K.E.R., to the chagrin of our style guide), created with the series' DNA in mind. It's definitely one to watch in the doomed to be crowded genre.
- Strange Brigade (PS4, Xbox One, PC) [August 28]: 2018 has surprisingly been a good year for Left 4 Dead-like co-op games. Strange Brigade's building on the trend, where you team up to fight against mummies.
- Blade Strangers (Switch) [August 30]: If you thought Avengers: Infinity War was the biggest crossover event in history, then you're in for a rude awakening with the independent fighting game Blade Strangers. Blade Strangers is basically a who's who of Japanese independent developers with characters from Umihara Kawase, Cave Story, Code of Princess, and more joining the ring. There's even non-Japanese properties like Binding of Isaac and Shovel Knight too. Blade Strangers takes on a similar 2D-but-not-2D art style that Arc System Works excels at.
- Two Point Hospital (PC, Mac, Linux) [August 30]: Two Point Hospital is a spiritual successor to the cult hit Theme Hospital. In it, you play as a manager who is managing and building a hospital that only caters to silly illnesses. Our friends in the U.K. are very hyped for this.
- The Messenger (PC, Switch) [August 30]: The Messenger is an action-platformer with an interesting twist: It bounces between a classic-style 8-bit action-platformer and a 16-bit metroidvania game. It also just might be the latest indie platformer this year in a string of many to hit it big.
Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: Kraken of the Sea
Happy 24th anniversary to Earthbound! I've already gone on and on about how this very special SNES RPG was overlooked when it came to North America. Heck, I can still go on, if you want me to. Maybe you're just better off reading the Earthbound review I wrote for the game's resurrection on the SNES Classic.
I spent a not-small portion of that review talking about Earthbound's top-tier soundtrack. Friends—it's so good. It supplies some iconic themes, yes, but it also leans into very atmospheric pieces that make chaotic use of whistles and drums for a truly eerie effect.
Another thing Earthbound's soundtrack does so, so right is give us several battle themes. Very few RPGs did this in the '90s. Few RPGs do it now. Kraken of the Sea is one of my favorites. It initially pops up in Ness' boss fight against the Kraken (of course), but it also shows up later as a regular battle theme against some of the tougher encounters in the game—particularly some robotic foes. It definitely carries an appropriate electronic sound, along with an eerie, drawn-out "whine" that just travels through you. What a great, weird song for a great, weird game.
Caty's AltGame Corner
The Game Boy Jam 6 has wrapped up, with voting currently underway. The entries are all developed for an itty bitty resolution, 160px by 144px, along with color palettes of only four colors. It's always a fun experiment to see developers make retro-inspired games with retro-limitations, and this year's submissions are no exception. From visual novels to games about gambling, the boundaries of Game Boy-inspired creations were limitless.
One of my favorites though from perusing the submissions was a simple game: Lumi, a platformer with a clever twist. In Lumi, you have an orb around you that shows your surroundings. You can also move around a cursor to reveal more platforms, like the orb that encircles you. The twist is that you have to be wary of dangers around you, such as spikes, and reveal your path to the door to exit the level and move onwards to the next one. You can play Lumi from your browser on itch.io.
This Week's News and Notes
- Yesterday, a Madden 19 tournament was struck with tragedy, as we wrote about in detail above. It's an upsetting event, but one unfortunately not out of the norm for our country. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the mass shooting.
- Surprise, surprise! CD Projekt Red dropped the gameplay demo shown off at Gamescom and E3 of Cyberpunk 2077. (Both are largely the same, but just featured different choices.) You can watch it here, but just be aware that it's NSFW due to some nudity, violence, and (*gasp*) swearing.
- Mike wrote a giant history of World of Warcraft, and it finally went up last week. So grab a cup o' joe and sit down to hear the story of World of Warcraft, from its dual development alongside Warcraft 3 up to its latest expansion Battle for Azeroth, featuring interviews with key creators that have been along for the ride.
- Our regular contributor John Learned reviewed the Shenmue 1 and 2 remasters, and found they unfortunately don't hold up that well.
- Streets of Rage 4 was surprised announced this morning, featuring work from the folks behind the excellent Wonder Boy remaster.
- The reports about Xbox All Access are true, but there's a big catch: You have to establish a new credit line with Dell Preferred Account to get the bundle of the console, Game Pass, and Live Gold.
- Mobile hit Reigns is getting a unique spinoff this year with the Game of Thrones name. Judging from past adaptations of the series, this could possibly be the first truly good game to take on Westeros.
- Axe of the Blood God: On this week's episode, Mike joins us to talk about World of Warcraft, from Battle for Azeroth to his expansive history on the game. Subscribe here!