Flood Watch: ‘Fortnite’ shows gaming as legitimate as sports

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“Where we dropping, boys?” is a common question these days. If you’re self-aware, I’m sure you’ve managed to get a whiff of “Fortnite,” the newest craze in both the internet and video game communities. Don’t know what “Fortnite” is? Take “Call of Duty” and “Minecraft” and smash them together. But, then again, if you’ve never heard of “Fortnite,” there’s a fair chance you don’t know what “Call of Duty” or “Minecraft” are either.

Why’s it so big? Because it’s fun. Really fun. The premise of the game is 100 people skydive onto a large island where they find weapons, medical supplies and building materials and fight it out, Hunger Games-style, until only one remains, making them the victor. But, then again, there’s a little bit more to it. A storm comes over the island, and the only safe place for players is inside the eye of that storm. With the eye of the storm shrinking every few minutes, the battlefield becomes smaller and smaller, forcing players to face one another.

I also mentioned building materials. Armed with your pickaxe, you can “harvest” trees, bushes, fences, houses, etc. to collect wood. The same goes for stone (brick) and metal. You can then use these materials to build structures such as walls, stairs and floors. The building dynamic to the game can allow players to explore high-up places, build forts and gain the high ground during battles.

Kids and adults, men and women, console gamers and PC gamers all around the world are downloading “Fortnite.” Part of the reason is that the game is free to play. “Fortnite” includes in-game purchases, such as new cosmetic skins (character appearances), pickaxes, gliders/parachutes for skydiving, and best of all, dances. These in-game purchases are purely cosmetic, meaning those who have money to spend on the game aren’t given an unfair competitive advantage compared to those that don’t.

But, Flood Watch, isn’t this supposed to be a sports column? Absolutely. eSports – electronic sports – are becoming a massive industry. In 2017, eSports attracted 256 million viewers throughout the year to watch professional video game players showcase their talents. That’s over 50 million more people than those that spectated NFL games throughout the season to do the same thing – showcase their talents. The bottom line is that video games are just that – games. Competitions. With competition comes separation, and those who separate themselves at the top, whether it’s in “Fortnite” or the NFL, are considered professionals.

“Fortnite,” per se, does not have its own professional league as you see in other games such as “League of Legends” or “Overwatch,” but there are alternative ways for “Fortnite” players to show off their skills and make money doing it.

Tyler “Ninja” Blevins is a perfect example. He’s the LeBron James, Tom Brady, Clayton Kershaw, Sidney Crosby, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, etc. of “Fortnite.” Live-streaming his “Fortnite” play on the popular streaming site “Twitch,” Ninja attracts millions to watch him play “Fortnite.” Think it’s irresponsible for a young adult to want to play video games for a living? Interesting. Ninja makes over $600,000 every single month to do just that. For those keeping track at home, that’s over $7 million a year. Nobody is giving Anze Kopitar any grief, and he was the highest paid player in the NHL in the 16-17 season, making approximately two times what Ninja makes.

A fair question to ask would be why so many people like watching other people play video games. Why don’t they play them themselves, or why don’t they do something else? Well, before you ask that, let me ask you some questions, generic sports reader. Why do so many people like watching other people play professional sports? Why don’t they play them themselves, or why don’t they do something else? If you think about it, watching eSports is no different than sports.

And by the way, it’s not like people solely watch Ninja and other streamers play video games like “Fortnite” just to watch them actually play the game. Most people follow sports for multiple reasons that include things other than just watching games. People follow sports because they have favorite athletes – athletes can be role models. “Fortnite” is no different. While Ninja plays “Fortnite,” he’s constantly trying to promote a positive environment in which anyone and everyone is welcomes.

He ensures that people are treated with respect, and he is continuously humbling himself. With many kids watching his live streams, I personally think it’s great to know they’re watching someone they look up to, who they see as “cool,” personifying the idea that being kind to others is the right thing to do. If you compare Ninja’s behavior with the behavior of many other professional athletes, who would you want your kids to watch?

It’s looking like there’s a possibility for “Fortnite” to have a future, as well. As the eSports industry grows even bigger and bigger each year, Epic Games, the producing company of “Fortnite,” is hoping to get “Fortnite” included in mainstream eSports competitions. However, the game hasn’t yet been perfected, as it’s still in the Beta stage. But assuming Epic Games can roll out a temporary edition of “Fortnite” for competition, the game could hit the world’s biggest stages for eSports competitions.

The bottom line is that “Fortnite” is one of the most popular forms of entertainment and competition in America today. It’s a free game that brings in boatloads of cash for Epic Games. But more than that, it’s giving kids and young adults an opportunity to be part of a very socially developed community that promotes respect and healthy competition. So if you’re flipping through the news and hear parents’ worries over their kids playing “Fortnite,” give it another thought. Just because something is on a screen, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a step up from much of what we consume today.

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