On Aug. 26, at approximately 1:30 p.m., 24-year-old David Katz opened fire on a video game tournament in Jacksonville Landing, killing two and injuring 11 before turning the gun on himself. Katz was a participant of the “Madden NFL 19” tournament that took place inside the GLHF (Good Luck Have Fun) Game Bar.
After losing a game, the Florida gunman left the bar and returned with a handgun that he had brought to the event. He fired off 12 shots, killing 22-year-old Elijah Clayton and 27-year-old Taylor Robertson, both professional gamers. Katz was a professional gamer himself; he had previously won a “Madden” Tournament in 2017, winning $10,000.
On Aug. 28, two days after the tragedy occurred in Jacksonville, the BBC published an article online titled, “Florida video game gunman’s dark obsession with hobby,” which I believe does a few things wrong when approaching the subject of the correlation between mental health and committing heinous crimes.
The first thing that appears off-putting is the title of the piece. As soon as I read “dark obsession,” I became a bit skeptical of how the writer of this article might view video gaming — which, as an avid video game fan myself, caused my bias against the credibility of the article as a whole, I’ll admit. Putting my personal fondness for video games aside, I still think that parts of this article from BBC, a world renowned media agency, focus on bringing to light the wrong details about David Katz.
The main reason I immediately squinted in skepticism at the title was the fact that I already knew that Katz was a professional gamer. I don’t consider myself an expert in the field of professional gaming, but I know for a fact that today’s most well-known gamers, Ninja and Shroud just to name a couple, put in what many people might consider an absurd amount of time into video games. The thing is, though, they are professionals. These gamers are getting paid for what they do.
I’m not saying that Katz was on the same level as someone like Ninja, who reportedly makes around $500,000 a month from his Twitch streams, but Katz was still considered a professional gamer. As I mentioned before, he earned 10 grand last year from winning a “Madden” tournament, which I’m sure required a lot of practice at home to pull off.
The BBC article never acknowledges that Katz’s profession, though, which I find troublesome. It seems as if the writer of the article wanted to dramatize the sheer amount game time that Katz engaged in without giving the reader proper context.
A bolded subheader under the title image of the article reads, “[Katz] was so obsessed with his pastime he would refuse to bathe or go to school, say court records.” This quote seems rather strange to me. I find it odd that the writer needs to exploit the Florida gunman’s personal hygiene in order to get the point across that he had issues concerning his mental health — issues for which he had been admitted to psychiatric facilities for treatment.
Hygiene seems like a unnecessary topic to comment on when talking about mental health. It would be one thing if the writer subtly mentioned Katz’s refusal to bathe, but the article also includes a quote from the mother, which reads, “ ‘His hair would very often go unwashed for days,’ his mother told a court during her 2007 divorce proceedings.”
So, in this article that is just a few hundred words long, the writer chooses to make a point about Katz’s lack of personal hygiene twice. I’m sure that playing video games for so long that you refuse to bathe is not healthy, but I don’t think that is something that needs to be exploited in an article such as this. What makes this a little more off-putting for me is the fact that the article was published just two days after the tragedy occurred.
If I wrote this article for BBC, I would personally omit details concerning how Katz bathed because I would think it’s borderline inappropriate to use that kind of topic as a main point about mental health so recently after that person committed a terrible crime and subsequently committed suicide.
The article does bring to light one point that I find important, however. Apparently, Katz’s parents disagreed on how to care for their son’s mental health, mainly over whether or not he should take his prescribed anti-psychotic medication. I understand not wanting to put blame on the parents in an article like this. In fact, that would be more inappropriate than talking about Katz’s hygiene. I do think, though, that this could have been a major issue in how his mental health was handled and deserved a few more words in the article.
If someone is dealing with mental illness, it’s serious. Coping and handling mental illness is a significant endeavor, and so is writing about such a topic. To me, it seems as if BBC used Katz’s video game playing and apparent lack of cleanliness as a means to create an engaging headline and hook, rather than a serious talking point.
If you or anyone you know is in emotional distress, is feeling suicidal or needs someone to talk to, reach out to one of the following phone numbers:
U.S. Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255;
Crisis Test Line: Text “HOME” to 741741;
Young people in Canada, call: Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868;
U.K.: Call Samaritans on 116123.