MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The man who police say was responsible for multiple deaths in a Florida shooting spree over the weekend was a participant in a video game tournament, and was well-known on the gaming circuit.
Police say 24-year-old David Katz opened fire and killed two people, wounded nine others, and then turned the gun on himself.
Family members of victim Elijah Clayton spoke out Monday afternoon.
“Our family has been forever changed. Nothing will replace the love that we have for Elijah. There is a hole that will never be filled,” his cousin Brandi Pettijohn said.
She added Clayton loved football and was saving the money he earned gaming to go to college.
This year the World Health Organization classified “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition, noting there are people who prioritize gaming over everything else in their lives. WCCO’s Angela Davis talked with a psychiatrist about the impact video gaming can have on mental health.
“It’s not only an escape and it is actually a chemical change in the brain which for brief periods feels like it’s helping them,” Dr. Roger Laroche said, comparing the experience to a drug high. “And they start having withdrawal symptoms when they are prevented from using their games.”
Laroche is a psychiatrist and addiction specialist at Allina Health’s Mercy-Unity campus. He says it’s important not to jump to conclusions about the Jacksonville shooting.
“We really can not conflate gun violence with gaming anymore than we can gun violence with a concert,” he said. “It happened, but it does not mean it is related to gaming, per se.”
People who have a gaming addiction often withdraw from social and family activities and ignore their responsibilities.
“There is inattention to sleep, personal hygiene, diet, their health goes downhill, cardiovascular conditioning goes downhill, people become withdrawn,” Laroche said. “As a matter of fact, more than 50 percent of those who suffer from gaming addiction have underlying psychiatric problems, say depression, post traumatic stress disorder, autistic spectrum disorder.”
Laroche said playing video games is not bad habit, but it becomes a problem when you are spending more time in an alternate identity than in real life. He says it’s important for parents to talk to their kids about the risks of spending too much time playing video games.