Around two weeks ago, the Fortnite World Cup paid out $30 million in prize money. That included $3 million to the 16-year-old winner, along with $1.5 million for the twin-team champions. This unsurprisingly sparked a resurrection of the time old debate as to whether video games are bad for our youth. And in the days following the final, most traditional media outlets have ran with at least one related story – usually undermining their achievement.
We’ve all heard them. ‘Video games are addictive’, ‘children spend way too long playing them’, ‘they’re making society violent’. But the reality is that these are all consequences of the modern age, and could easily be referring to another hobby. After all, there are many addictive pastimes in life whilst violence is equally as prevalent in movies or online videos.
These issues also only affect a small percentage of what is a huge community, and should instead be used constructively to help those who are in need rather than being wheeled out whenever the topic arises, be used as a cheap generalisation and then filed away until the need arises again.
This tactic does nothing to assist those who need support. It does nothing to promote the industry in the light it deserves. And it breeds a negative backlash that is communally chanted, yet universally misaligned. However, it is the argument of ‘people spending too much time playing games’ that has prompted this piece. In response to a group of adults in the media who, in what was marketed as a fair discussion, consisted of no gaming advocates.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with debates. A differing of opinions is a fact of life. But you have to ensure all sides of the argument have their proponents, otherwise you do nothing but promote the bias of the panel without them having to defend their viewpoints against respondents who have an equally valid counterclaim. Thereby, your audience is unable to make an informed decision, they tend to mimic those streamlined views, and your channel begins to lose its credibility.
It starts to assert a bias that doesn’t go unnoticed. At least, not by all.
The media took particular interest, or should I say emphasis, on the fact that one Fortnite World Cup competitor said he spends between 12 to 16 hours playing the game in his room. Something his Mother was particularly worried about, as were the journalists covering the story. However, that effort has now been rewarded – handsomely, I may add. And that success is undoubtedly due to the long hours of practice he put in. That they all put in.
Does that justify him squirreling himself away for the best part of the day? Not necessarily. But does it distance him from the label of “addict” that so many are throwing around? I believe so, yes. Because if he really is an addict for passionately practicing his chosen sport, then so are the countless and equally committed football players, athletes and violin players.
Now, you may be wondering where that last one came from. After all, violins are instruments – at least when I last looked. But the professional musician moves out of the hobbyist realm and into the competitive arena. Practicing all hours of the day to better themselves against others. To reach their “grand final”. It is this, in my opinion, that transforms the talent into a sport, as many will play but not many will score – just as 40 million players tried to reach the final 200 in the Fortnite World Cup.
This instrumental practice can easily become obsessive as every note must linger no longer than the staff states. The piece must be committed to memory so that it plays uninterrupted. And the performer must know every trick in the book. Backwards.
But where does all this rehearsal take place? In the well ventilated and solar lit “great outdoors”? No. It happens indoors, in rooms no larger than a bedroom and, at times, missing a window to the outside world. So why don’t we worry about 16 hour days full of fiddling? It all goes down to culture.
Violin playing, and musical instruments in general, have long proven admirable pursuits. Something to get your parents sobbing over. But despite the commitment required to simply repeat the masterpieces, yet alone create one of your own, these budding virtuosos are often commended. And are certainly not discouraged from their pursuit of perfection. This is despite them being cooped up in a room for the best part of the day – standing – uncertain as to whether they’ll eventually make the grade.
To me, what we’re really saying is that video games are worse for our children than violins because
a) They’re played on the screen, not off the page.
b) Are of non-traditional construction.
c) Don’t have a long, rich, traditional heritage from which we can boast to our friends.
The first argument for which is greatly undermined by the fact that most adults are glued to a screen of sorts for many hours of the day (do as you say, springs to mind), the second suggests we’re unable to consider more modern creations as equally valid hobbies (stamp collecting and trophy collecting are not that dissimilar), whilst the third is something that only time will change (remember, being a professional musician was unheard of at one time).
But I think telling your friends that your child won $3 million playing Fortnite comes with quite a lot of kudos – three million pieces of kudos, to be precise.
The only other thing that riled me by this outdated and one-sided coverage were the comparisons drawn with other sport stars regarding prize money. And subsequent dismissal of Fortnite, and its competitors under the same heading – let alone mentioned in the same sentence. Correspondents were dumbstruck that the Battle Royale champion walked away with more moolah than the Wimbledon winner. This is despite there being considerably more investment, sponsorship and interest in eSports at the moment than real grass(root) games.
How about we make a pact to not forget that they are the Djokovic of Fortnite, just as Gareth Bale is the Djokovic of football and Joshua Bell is the Djokovic of violin playing. That way, everyone gets the credit they deserve, without the snobbery and scaremongering we’ve seen to date.
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Living life one Batmobile chase at a time. When she’s not writing about video games, she’s writing terrible jokes that even a Christmas cracker would be embarrassed to share.