For Lisa Dallman, it was a mother’s “nightmare.”
Her 15-year-old son, Jaden “Wolfiez” Ashman, was seemingly addicted to video games. He would spend endless hours connected online playing “Fortnite,” apparently the most popular online shoot-‘em-up game around (at least that’s what my students tell me). Ashman admits he played about eight hours a day, beginning the first day the game was released. It got so bad at times that Dallman says she actually threw away an X-Box gaming console and snapped his headset in half to try to get him to focus on other things (like schoolwork).
She’s looking back on all this and smiling now, because her son won $1.125 million for finishing second in the duo team event at the Fortnite World Cup, held at the end of July in New York city.
That’s right! He won $1,125,000 for playing video games!
The real nightmare is that Jaden’s “told you so” moment will likely spur more teenagers to sit in their rooms ignoring household chores, schoolwork, and real-life friends while playing video games with dreams of becoming rich and famous.
But honestly, is this really any different than kids who spend comparable time pursuing sports dreams or playing musical instruments? The chances of those pursuits leading to lucrative careers is miniscule, but when was the last time you heard about a parent throwing away a tennis racquet or a piano?
Let’s put his in perspective. For coming in second in a duo (doubles) match, Ashman shared the $2.25 million runner-up prize. By comparison:
- The winners of the 2019 US Open Tennis doubles (both men’s and women’s) split $1.5 million.
- For coming in second at the 2019 PGA Championship, legendary golfer Tiger Woods won $1.188 million.
- Members of the New England Patriots professional football club each received a $118,000 bonus for winning the 2019 Super Bowl.
The singles Fortnite champion did even better. Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, 16, dominated the field of 40 million competitors to win $3 million the day after Ashman’s victory. Even for the most mathematically challenged, it’s easy to see the odds of being singles champion are, well, 40,000,000 to 1. Your odds of winning the PowerBall lottery are 292,201,338 to 1, but that doesn’t stop us from buying into group tickets at work (NOTE: some of us play not really expecting to win, we just don’t want to be embarrassed by being left out and sitting at work in case the group winds up on TV accepting their winner’s check).
A more common adolescent fantasy is becoming a professional athlete. Compared to becoming an online gaming champion the odds are pretty good:
- Professional Football: 4,233 to 1
- Professional Basketball (mens): 11,771 to 1
- Professional Baseball: 659 to 1
- Professional Soccer: 5,768 to 1
So if you’re worried about which hobby your child should pursue because of money, maybe online video games – now more commonly referred to as “eSports” – isn’t a bad idea.
A growing number of colleges recognize the popularity of eSports and have begun recruiting “Student-eAthletes” for inter-collegiate leagues similar to conventional sports. There are more than 115 colleges and university offering scholarships for student eSport athletes, including New York University which offers full tuition for a 4-year degree.
Global eSports revenues are expected to top $1 billion in 2019 and we adults must embrace our children’s involvement in this exploding hobby. There have been studies that show playing video games “enhance learning,” while other studies indicate there are addictive qualities to eSports that must be monitored. Parents must establish guidelines for their children to participate in eSports based on acceptable levels of personal behavior and performance in other areas (i.e., chores, school work, etc.).
Educators, too, must build eSports-related themes into their curriculum. Unlike sports like football and baseball, eSports has built-in STEM topics that can be integrated into class work. As teachers we are instructed to include student interests in lessons to make them more relatable to the students. eSports has math, physics, programming, graphics, networking, and countless other technology-related components. We are also requested to include more technology in delivering our lessons. This doesn’t mean playing video games during class time is acceptable (unless specifically part of the lesson), but I can see snippets of actual gameplay being used to visually demonstrate a theory or concept in my lesson. Administrators, please keep this mind when you’re popping in for observations and informal reviews.