The gaming community in Baltimore is a tight knit one, and they are mourning the innocent lives forever changed when David Katz went on a deadly shooting rampage in Jacksonville, Florida.
Court documents showed Katz was depressed and that his parents started taking him to counseling as early as 2005.
Katz, a Baltimore native, is well known in the gaming circuit and was competing in a “Madden 2019” tournament before bringing in a hand gun and fatally shooting two people, injuring nine others, and killing himself.
For the past year people have been meeting at GAME Sports Bar every Wednesday for HiScore Gamer Happy Hour.
For many the free weekly tournament is a welcome escape from the rigors of everyday life.
At the beginning of the night competitors might not know much about each other, but often times friendships are formed behind the sticks.
“You look forward to it,” said Mars Magma a bartender at GAME. “When you get off and had a long day at work and you have the kids or loss of family member, it’s a way to vent.”
Magma teamed up with Alex Rabat, the mastermind behind the operation, nearly a year ago.
Every week gamers get a chance to show their stuff in free competitions that have cash prizes on the line.
“Alex is slowly growing this big family that are all loving and supportive of each other to the point most people volunteer to do this just to be a part of the team and the family,” said Amber Affeldt, a HiScore Promoter. “HiScore is Alex’s baby and everyone that comes and supports him he’s thankful and supportive of them as well.”
When Katz took those lives in Jacksonville he used a venue that is a safe haven for so many to target others.
“A video game no matter what game it is should be something you’re just safe doing,” said Magma. “Playing video games, you make a lot of friends, people have made families playing video games.”
Affeldt said she actively seeks out the people who are sitting alone at tournaments or who may look like they are going through a tough time.
“A lot of my friends who are gamers especially who have been gaming a long time they do suffer from social anxiety. They may have some form of depression and gaming is their escape. What we try to do is bring awareness that there are other people that feel the same way you do so why not come feel this way together and be happy instead.”
Rabat said they will hold a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting this week, and gamers will be given the opportunity to talk about the shooting together.