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Counter-Strike eSports broadcast pulled following Munich shooting

A German television network has cancelled its coverage of a prominent Counter-Strike league following a shooting in Munich last week that left nine people dead.

ProSieben MAXX was due to broadcast coverage of the semifinals and finals of ELeague, a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competition operated by Turner and WME|IMG. The event had particular national relevance due to the presence of the German team mousesports, which will compete against teams from Poland, Sweden and Ukraine.

However, ProSieben MAXX has withdrawn the broadcast in the wake of recent events in Munich, in which nine people were shot dead by 18 year-old Ali David Sonboly. Matthias Remmert, CEO of the marketing agency Freaks 4U, which was involved in the promotion of German ELeague broadcasts, issued a statement to the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive website 99Damage explaining the decision to cancel the last episode in the series.

"I think it's sad that such an event takes away the chance to show every non-eSports fan how awesome this sport can be," Remmert said, as translated by ESPN. "It was a beautiful journey to represent the German esports scene in TV and am thankful to every single viewer, especially those who worked closely with us to give feedback."

A survey of the comments on ProSieben MAXX's Facebook page shows that the feedback has been rolling in, the majority of it critical of the decision to pull the coverage.

The reason for that disappointment will be familiar to anyone who has followed the games industry over the last two decades. The fact that Sonboly, the Munich shooter, played Counter-Strike: Source on a regular basis was a common detail in coverage of the tragic event, from both German and international news outlets. Reuters reported that Robert Heimberger, president of the state crime office, described Counter-Strike: Source as, "a game played by nearly every known rampage killer."

Thomas de Maizière, the German interior minister, went further still. According to The New York Times, Maizière drew a clear link between violence in video games and acts of violence in the real world. "We cannot ignore - and I don't know the solution, but without a doubt, and this was the case in this instance - that the glorifying of violence in internet games has a damaging effect on the development of young people," he said.

It is an extraordinary statement with no hard factual basis, though this isn't the first time such a claim has been made in the wake of inexplicable violence. The international games industry has been drawn into these incidents on more occasions than it's necessary to list, but in recent years there has been reason to believe that those days are over.

While ProSieben MAXX may have withdrawn its coverage as a display of respect or sensitivity, the backlash against the decision is fuelled by fears that, in doing so, it has lent credence to the accusations levelled at Counter-Strike by German government officials.

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