The Kids Were All Right

Disastrous news for parents! A British teenager has won $1 million just for playing Fortnite – and proved that we’re too middle aged to know what’s best for our children 

A teenager plays video games in a darkened room

EVER HAD a row with your kids about computer games?

Ever thrown an X-Box out of the window or taken a hammer to a screen?

Ever put a games console in Time Out until they’ve done their homework?

If you have, it now seems that you were right Out Of Order…

This weekend’s news that a teenaged boy who played Fortnite for eight hours a day has become an overnight millionaire at an esports tournament has dealt a death blow to Parent Power across the nation.

Jaden Ashman, 15, not only took home $1.1 million from the Fortnite Word Cup in New York, but he managed to shut his mother up, too.

Jaden’s mum, Lisa Dallman, admitted that she had often clashed with him for neglecting his school work in favour of esports, but has now been forced to accept that he might have been right.

“If I’m honest with you, I’ve been quite against him gaming. I’ve been more pushing him to do his schoolwork,” she told the BBC

“I’ve actually thrown an Xbox out, snapped a headset – we’ve had a nightmare.”

“She didn’t understand how it worked,” Jaden explained, in words that will send a chill through the heart of every parent who previously considered themselves right-thinking.

“She thought that I was spending eight hours a day in my room just wasting my time.

“So now that I’ve proved to her I can do stuff, I’m really happy.”

Of course, Clever Dick parents amongst you will be marshalling counter-arguments already, such as the fact that not everyone can be an esports pro.

There may have been $30 million – the largest-ever prize pool in history – up for grabs at The Fortnite World Cup, but Jaden and other prize winners had to battle past an estimated 40 million competition entrants and 100 finalists before they could claim a share.

With the odds on matching their success so small, it may still be possible to convince our children that professional esports – just like professional football – is an impossible dream.

But if it’s not time to rip up the school books just yet, it would also be unwise to write off our kids having a future somewhere within the £1 billion esports industry.

The Fortnite World Cup was a massive success – watched live by thousands at the traditional home of the US Open Tennis Finals, with many more following online.

And yet, it is set to be overtaken just next month – at least in prize money terms –  by another event called The International.

Esports is clearly a movement whose time has come – a somewhat bewildering phenomenon that has burst seemingly unstoppably from the Internet ether despite the ambivalence, or outright hostility, of much of the (older) adult population.

And yet, its rapid growth can be seen as similar to that of the football industry, which itself rose from almost nothing at the end of the late 19th Century – and only after a change in employment law in Britain gave factory workers Saturday afternoons off.

That led to more teams, a first organised Football League, paying supporters, and then professional footballers – a job that, like an esports professional nowadays – had never previously existed.

After that came professional coaches, groundsmen, scouts, trainers and physiotherapists, ticket administrators, stewards; then marketing and PR departments and commercial directors, TV crews, fanzines and football bloggers – all helping fuel a worldwide industry that is still growing exponentially in size and value, more than 150 years on.

So, while your son or daughter might not make it as a pro footballer, millions now make a living in the football industry. Who’s to say the same won’t happen with esports?

I worked in education until last year, where one of the oft-repeated mantras was that the jobs that primary school kids would be doing in 15 years’ time had probably not been invented yet, such was the pace of technological change.

But now we are starting to get an inkling of these future jobs.

As well as the people being paid to organise and publicise and play at previously un-thought of events like the Fortnite World Cup, we have websites such as Twitch, where subscribers pay people just to play games online.

It says on Google that “Successful (Twitch) streamers can make $3,000 to $5,000 per month from their subscribers, with the top broadcasters earning substantially more.”

​As my Granny used to say, that’s better than a slap on the belly with a wet fish.

So the next time your kids ask if they can play Fortnite for just a bit longer, perhaps you should think on…

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