Fortnite World Cup Is the Most Wholesome Competitive Gaming Event on the Scene
As some parents panic about their kids playing too much Fortnite, the Fortnite World Cup in New York City was wonderfully packed with parents, kids, esports enthusiasts, and media. And it was amazing.
Fortnite has dominated the headlines for the last couple of years. We've seen the beginnings of the Fortnite moral panic, as parents struggle to help their children find balance between gameplay and the rest of their lives. But what we don't talk enough about is how utterly wholesome the Fortnite competitive scene looks like at events like the Fortnite World Cup.
We received an invitation to attend the Fortnite World Cup in New York City over the weekend and it was probably one of the most wholesome events that I've ever attended.
What is the Fortnite World Cup all about?
Competitive Fortnite has been picking up speed since April, beginning with the open online qualifiers for solo competitive Fortnite players. There is also a separate category for pro-Creative players and pro-duo teams in Fortnite. Throughout the weekend, the top teams in Creative, Duo, and Solo -- the best Fortnite players in the world -- gathered in NYC (Queens) to compete for millions of dollars in the tournament pot.
On Friday, Team Fish Fam (comprised of four competitive Fortnite Creative mode players) took home $1.3 million to split. On Saturday, Nyhrox and aqua won $3 million in the Duos final to split. And, finally, on Sunday evening, 16-year-old Sentinels player Bugha (Kyle Giersdorf) skillfully won $3 million in his incredible performance.
Also at the Fortnite World Cup was the Fortnite Fan Festival that was held around the competitions. We took a ton of pictures on our Instagram over the weekend at Fan Festival so you can see the zip line (with gliders), the Nerf stand, and all of the various characters that fans could meet.
Before the Solo finals on Sunday, Fortnite's favorite musician, Marshmello, made an appearance to get the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium good and excited for the exceptional competition that would follow over the next four hours.
What makes Fortnite's competitive scene so special?
If you pay attention to the esports world at all, you'll have noticed that there are quite a few "bad actors" that are scattered across streaming and pro gaming. Being a streamer doesn't necessarily mean that you're a pro gamer, but most pro gamers are streamers in some capacity. It isn't to say that younger players don't have the capacity for exhibiting toxic behavior, but there are many more toxic players that are older and, well, playing other games.
We had a chance to sit in on a conversation that media had with a handful of Fortnite pro players, including Benjy "Benjyfishy" David Fish and Martin “MrSavageM” Foss Andersen. Both of these young men, one from the U.K and the other from Norway, were among the youngest in the competition: only 14. Foss Andersen and Fish presented themselves as many teenagers do -- a little cheeky -- but both young men were humble, talking about their families and how they'd use their winnings if they took the whole tournament pot.
The younger the player, the more focused on family they were. The youngest ones on the panel were excited to save as much of their earnings as they can, but to also buy their parents a home, if possible.
The average age of the players in the Fortnite World Cup was 16 years old, with a few outliers on the younger and older end (the oldest players in this year's tournament were 24 years old). The minimum age for Fortnite competitive play is 13 years old. By contrast, the minimum age for Overwatch League, where many of the worst offenders for toxic behavior in professional play are, is 18 years old. On average, players in the Overwatch League are 20 years old.
So, while the Overwatch League Commissioner, formerly Nate Nanzer (who is now at Epic Games, which is the studio behind Fortnite), will need to hold these older players accountable for racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks, the worst that Fortnite's competitive scene has had to deal with is a screen-watching issue and a high profile contract dispute.
How is the Fortnite World Cup "wholesome"?
Marshmello is pretty wholesome all by himself. But even if the electronic dance DJ hadn't shown up to kick off the Fortnite World Cup Solo finals, the tournament was positioned in such a way that everyone from the shoutcasters (those commentating on the matches) to the players were charming, grinning, and totally excited about the entire competition. Even when eliminated, no one threw a fit or did more than look disappointed.
The winners of each of the competitive tracks celebrated with sincere joy. Yes, there was confidence in those celebratory walks to receive the cup, but there was also unbridled excitement. Even those that didn't win the cup, especially those in the Solo track, walked away with significant amounts of money, so each of them has (at least on the surface) appeared to be humble and happy to just have been a part of the event.
And, of course, there was the crowd.
Oh, that crowd.
It was full to the brim with parents and their kids, dancing those Fortnite dances and enjoying the spectacle of the stage show. (We captured the vast majority of the Solo final competitive rounds on our Instagram.) It was honestly the crowd, which went wild with delight whenever there was a particularly amazing play on the big screens. Arthur Ashe Stadium, which is where the U.S. Open (yes, of the tennis variety) is held, would erupt with excitement towards the end of each match (there were six in total), where the storm would close in and leave the barest room for players to duke it out on their player-built sky high structures.
Those shouts were always celebratory. There weren't any jeers or boos. It was pure joy.
Would you bring your kids to the next Fortnite World Cup?
If it made its way back to NYC, absolutely. My youngest kids would love the spectacle and I'm sure that we would marvel at the game play together. They're not quite old enough to play the game (yet), but they're certainly old enough to enjoy the energy of the arena, the players, and the extraordinary skill involved throughout the tournament.
And hey, nothing like a zipline to really top off kiddo excitement.