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JANET-STREET PORTER on the Fortnite World Cup finals

I’m not that interested in debating whether Fortnite should be classified as a potential Olympic sport. I am not very curious why no women competed for prizes of $30 million at the first World Cup finals in New York last weekend. 

I can’t even get worked up about claims that playing Fortnite is like dabbling with class A drugs – once hooked, you’re in the grip of something which could take over your life.

Blah Blah Blah.

The highest-scoring British player at the World Fortnite championships, 15 year old Jaden Ashman from Essex, says he is going to buy his mum a house with some of the $2.25 million he picked up coming second in the duos competition

Fortnite addicts are the modern equivalent of monks or those little boys who have been selected to spend their lives in a Buddhist temple in remote Nepal

Fortnite addicts are the modern equivalent of monks or those little boys who have been selected to spend their lives in a Buddhist temple in remote Nepal

What REALLY bothers me are those horrendous Fortnite mums, standing proudly behind their pale teenage sons, pretending they’re not in it for the money, that allowing their child to spend every waking hour in a darkened room and then having the gall to pretend is not about the shameless pursuit of money and fame, but a way of allowing them to express themselves. 

These are mums who admit they tried, and failed to chuck out gaming equipment. The mums who tried and failed to encourage their sons to do their homework. The mums who admit they rarely see their sons except at mealtimes – if they’re lucky.

Their offspring could be training to become scientists, people who might change the world. They could be the next generation of leaders, inventors, brain surgeons.  

They are obviously highly intelligent, motivated, driven young men. But they have been allowed (albeit reluctantly by some parents) to focus on gaming to the exclusion of every other activity – opportunities to enjoy the open air, team sports, and group activities. 

To go to the cinema, try swimming or surfing. Many of the top young gamers are home schooled, which means they have limited opportunities to mingle with other kids outside their family group. 

These Fortnite addicts are the modern equivalent of monks or those little boys who have been selected to spend their lives in a Buddhist temple in remote Nepal, away from the outside world with all it’s attractions and seductions.

Jaden has been playing Fortnite from the day the game was launched, two years ago, for 14 hours a day on weekends and eight hours a day during the week

Jaden has been playing Fortnite from the day the game was launched, two years ago, for 14 hours a day on weekends and eight hours a day during the week

Fortnite players (from left) Kreo, MrSavage, and Benjyfishy in action during the final of the solo competition at the 2019 Fortnite World Cup at Flushing Meadows in New York on Sunday

Fortnite players (from left) Kreo, MrSavage, and Benjyfishy in action during the final of the solo competition at the 2019 Fortnite World Cup at Flushing Meadows in New York on Sunday

The highest-scoring British player at the World Fortnite championships, 15 year old Jaden Ashman from Essex, says he is going to buy his mum a house with some of the $2.25million he picked up coming second in the duos competition. 

Jaden has been playing Fortnite from the day the game was launched, two years ago, for 14 hours a day on weekends and eight hours a day during the week. Don’t ask me how Jaden fits that in with schooling, even his mum admits his grades have suffered. Now, she says, she accepts his choice of ‘career’ – of course she does, Jaden has won a terrific title, gained prestige and been handed a lot of money. 

What is going to happen over the coming years as more and more kids get seduced by the promise of big bucks and social media fame, payments for online postings and offers of free merchandise? Forty million people competed to enter these inaugural championships – and you can bet the number will double very quickly.

Playing Fortnite (which is nominally free) to any level beyond basic requires investment and constant upgrading. It has moved from being a fun game into a highly competitive activitiy – but is it on a par with tennis or golf? Sitting in front of a computer for 14 hours a day can’t be good for your health or your social skills. 

Obsessive behaviour can affect family relationships and the ability to make friends or navigate the real world. Already, parents are concerned their small children play for up to three hours on a school night and six hours at the weekends. 

‘Gaming disorder’ has been recognised as an illness by the World Health Organisation and half of all parents in a recent survey said they were worried their kids were addicted. The game has been criticised by the Duke of Sussex, not that Jaden’s mum seemed bothered that her son wouldn’t be getting a welcome from the Royals any time soon.

The solo competition final at the Flushing Meadows Arthur Ashe stadium in Queens on Sunday

The solo competition final at the Flushing Meadows Arthur Ashe stadium in Queens on Sunday

Fortnite fans say it teaches you hand to eye skills and co-ordination, how to respond in a crisis (one that is online and not real) and it encourages inventiveness and creativity, albeit within a limited arena. 

Gamers aren’t taking drugs or boozing. But they are losing their childhoods to a manipulative piece of technology which is about violence and destruction, not peace and love.

On last week’s episode of Poldark, Ross refused to allow small boys to work underground in his mine, even though the parents were starving and needed the tiny wage a child labourer would receive. 

Poldark argued that children need to be educated to get a better start in life. Poverty meant both my parents were forced to leave school at 14, abandon their education and go to work, my mother as a maid in a posh house, and my dad as an electrician’s apprentice. They brought me up to be curious and hungry for knowledge, because that’s the only way to get on in the world if you’re working class.

Kyle Giersdorf celebrates winning the Fortnite World Cup solo finals in New York on Sunday

Kyle Giersdorf celebrates winning the Fortnite World Cup solo finals in New York on Sunday

Programmes like The Only Way is Essex and Love Island focus on appearance and ‘likes’ on social media. So many young people dream of becoming an ‘influencer’ and getting cash for postings on Instagram. It’s a world apart from my teenage years spent making my version of dresses I saw in Vogue on my mum’s sewing machine. 

Of the fabulous nights I spent sneaking into blues clubs and dancing to the Rolling Stones, of the hours making albums of drawings and photographs and visiting art galleries. All of which introduced me to a world outside the claustrophobic life in mum and dad’s flat in a terraced house in West London.

I grew up with big ambitions and a passion for travel. Today’s kids have chosen to stay at home with the lights off and the curtains drawn. Gaming, like participating in a reality television show, is now considered a desirable career option – and the shocking truth is that some mothers are utterly complicit. We don’t seem to have made much progress since Ross Poldark’s day.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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