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Fighting game tournament expands, then changes, security in light of Jacksonville shooting

SoCal Regionals were to require all fight sticks to be opened

The crowd at the SoCal Regionals
Level Up Series on Twitter
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

The SoCal Regionals fighting game tournament has introduced, and now altered, new security measures for event next weekend, in response to the mass shooting at a Madden NFL tournament in Florida on Aug. 26.

At first, tournament organizer Level Up announced that “all fight sticks will be thoroughly inspected,” meaning that competitors would have to open their sticks, even if that meant unscrewing their case. Metal detectors, both handheld and walk-through, would also be in use, enough that managers suggested everyone arrive one to two hours before their events began to allow for long security lines.

Though some in the fighting game community supported the enhanced security measures, others on social media criticized them as onerous, time-consuming and an overreaction. Some worried that opening a fight stick for inspection could violate its warranty.

Kotaku first reported on the SoCal Regionals’ security response in a story published Friday. Later that day, Level Up announced a revision: Only fight sticks that could be opened easily with a switch or a button (the Razer Panthera is an example) would be opened for inspection. Other equipment will be visually inspected. Anything that raises suspicion will have to be opened by its owner before they can enter.

The new steps and the pullback illustrate the anxiety within the esports community following an unprecedented act of violence at a highly visible event, and the pessimism that such a shooting would have taken place sooner or later. The SoCal Regionals are a major fighting game tournament, and an official event for several games’ professional tours, including the Capcom Pro Tour, Tekken World Tour, and Injustice 2 ProSeries. It will be held Sept. 14-16 at the Ontario Convention Center in Ontario, Calif.

Kotaku noted that the Capcom Pro Tour’s official Twitter account noted the new security policy on Aug. 31, suggesting that the publisher had some hand in suggesting or adopting enhanced security measures. After the Aug. 26 shooting in Jacksonville, one survivor filed a civil lawsuit against Electronic Arts, the waterfront mall where the shooting occurred, and a pizza chain tenant, which was hosting the tournament.

The SoCal Regionals’ revised policy still includes the metal detectors, and says searches will be conducted of all bags and loose items of clothing. “It is still encouraged to only bring the necessities to the event,” Level Up said. “The more you have, the longer it will take to be screened.”

Level Up also provided cost estimates for the increased security, showing expenses of around $10,000 for two police officers to work security and an X-ray machine’s rental. Level Up proposed a number of ways to defray these extra costs, including using money from prize pools in higher-level sponsored tournaments, increased registration and attendance costs for competitors and spectators, or even crowdfunding.

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