E-asy money: Fortnite teen twiddles his way to $3mn… but is he ‘an athlete’?
Teenage bedrooms around the world are now the elite training grounds for the ‘athletes’ of the future as the billion-dollar e-sports industry continues to boom.
At the weekend, US teen Kyle Giersdorf twiddled his way to a cool $3 million in prize money when he won the Fortnite World Cup in New York.
Giersdorf, 16, from Pennsylvania, saw off fellow competitors in the 100-strong field to pick up the record first prize for his mastery of the online game beloved by millions.
An estimated 40 million people from among the 200 million registered Fortnite users had attempted to qualify for the inaugural tournament, as competitors pitted their wits in a virtual island shootout.
Giersdorf’s win has made the headlines for the staggering amount of money the teen has pocketed, but has also reignited broader debates over e-sports.
The weekend’s Fortnite extravaganza was held at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, home to the US Open tennis – and one stat widely shared is that Giersdorf’s innings were higher than those earned by men’s tennis star Novak Djokovic by winning Wimbledon this year.
That appears to have frazzled the minds of some online, with confusion over how a teen could slay his way to earnings comparable to some of sport’s biggest names without shifting from his armchair.
Since its inception in the 1970s, e-sports has been surrounded by the growing debate as to whether keyboard-bashing and control pad-twiddling actually constitutes anything approaching a sport, and whether its top competitors should be considered in the same bracket as those such as Djokovic.
Giersdorf, playing under the name ‘Bugha’, says he trained for up to eight hours a day ahead of the competition, and somewhat modestly said he plans to buy a new desk with his winnings.
The Fortnite World Cup also saw 13-year-old Thiago Lapp of Argentina take away $900,000 – earnings most youngsters can only dream of while undertaking their morning paper rounds.
Many Twitter users have put the bemused reaction down to the generation gap, while others claim reaching the pinnacle of the e-sports game takes just as much dedication as non-digital sports.Also on rt.com Saudi gamer pockets $250K after winning FIFA eWorld Cup
It looks like those who don’t approve will simply have to get used to it, with the e-sports boom set to get even bigger in coming years.
Several big-name sporting organizations including the English Premier League, UEFA and F1 have their own official leagues, while it will also be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games.
The International Olympic Committee appears to remain cautious about any notion of including e-sports in future Games, but may find it hard to resist the growing popularity of online gaming.
Ironically, Fortnite is beloved by professional athletes the world over, with footballers including England’s Harry Kane and Dele Alli keen proponents, while French World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann has taken moves from the game as part of his goal celebrations.
Griezmann, Kane, Alli and Co. may even be upstaged in years to come by ‘athletes’ trained in dingy teenage bedrooms, rather than on football pitches.
For many, that is an uneasy prospect.