A Cudahy man who ran for his life at a video game competition in Florida over the weekend and was injured is on his way home.
Alex Madunic was hit in the leg and foot as he dove to the ground. Two competitors were killed and 11 others were injured before the gunman killed himself.
Gaming is an escape from reality for players. The pops heard at the Jacksonville Madden Tournament cut through that fantasy Sunday.
"Next thing you know, pop, pop, pop, pop," said Madunic. "It was the scariest thing of my life. I didn't think I would make it out of there after I got hit that one time. Like, I'm just saying please, please don't shoot me anymore."
Video games are not what they used to be. Games like Fortnite attract some 40 million players each month and even more viewers on websites like Twitch that stream the game. Competitions also garner large cash prizes.
So events like the Madden Tournament in Jacksonville are growing in popularity. For people at Tier 1 Gaming Lounge in Milwaukee, it hit a little too close to home.
"You definitely feel for them," Will Brietzke of Appleton said. "They're there with their friends or whatever. For something like that to happen is just crazy."
"This is a safe area for me to come and hang out," Joe Scheiber of Oconomowoc said.
Scheiber has been on both sides of the screen as a fan and player. He plays a game called Smite in which he ranks in the top one percent of players worldwide. He's competed in tournaments like this and can't imagine what it must have been like in Jacksonville.
"At those events, they put on these noise-canceling headphones," Scheiber said. "It would be pretty scary not to know something happening."
For most gamers, they have found a respite in video games. It was a way to connect with people who had similar interests and a place to let go.
"Games for me have become an outlet," Scheiber said. "My emotions, my stress, my anxiety. Gaming just helps me remove myself like a vacation but mini. It helps me cope with a lot of those things. I met a couple friends that are really close to me today. One is standing up in my wedding so that's pretty cool."
For this to happen at an event where most find sanctuary has made it difficult.
"Actually, I am [afraid]," Jordan Tian, co-owner of Tier 1 Gaming Lounge said. "When I opened this, I kind of made it for a place for kids to feel safe and go to have fun. This is exactly opposite of what we're going for."
Tian has competed in tournaments before and is a big fan of gaming. He says, while this event was tragic, it won't stop him from enjoying what he loves.
"Even though this happened, I think it's one isolated event," Tian said. "There has been gaming tournaments for a long, long time. They're just getting more popular nowadays."
Madunic says he'll participate in a tournament in the future as long as proper security is in place.