ESC

Pro Athletes Would Rather Play ‘Fortnite’ Than Sports

Have you played Fortnite yet? I haven’t because it looks fucking dumb to me. I mean, you make stairs appear in the middle of nowhere, run up them and shoot at other people. Big whoop, I’ve got Persona 5 and half a dozen Kingdom Hearts games I can spend my video game time playing. But every so often a video game comes along that becomes an entire genre in and of itself, and Fortnite is one of those games. It’s like League of Legends, Hearthstone and World of Warcraft, where there are dozens of similar games with different iterations, but most of them will flop and this one will tower over all of them.

Fortnite is especially popular with teens and young adults, streamers who accidentally blurt out the n-word and the wheelchair kid from Degrassi. One of the people playing with Drake and Ninja on that record-breaking stream was Juju Smith-Schuster, a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the best team in the NFL. It turns out that most professional athletes, aside from over-the-hill quarterbacks who have made a career of cheating, are in their early 20s, just the right age to be super into Fortnite right now.

And Fortnite may be causing problems for athletes, some of whom are playing it so much that it’s affecting their performance. Take David Price, pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Fortune is reporting that he missed a start this week against the Yankees because of carpal tunnel syndrome, something that may be caused by how much time he spends playing Fortnite.

While Red Sox manager Alex Cora said he didn’t believe that video gaming caused Price’s injury, the medical world is torn on the issue, with researchers at the Mayo Clinic saying repetitive motions (like button-mashing) can contribute to carpal tunnel. However, notes the National Institute for Health, “often no single cause can be identified.”

The game is so popular that some players for the Milwaukee Brewers played it on the Jumbotron at the stadium, which I would absolutely do if I had access to a Jumbotron.

The game is pretty playful. After someone posted a story on Twitter about being in a Gamestop and overhearing a woman asking an employee for Fork Knife, the alternate title became a meme and it even ended up getting added into the game. Seems like the sort of thing that would be super funny if you had a CTE.

Hockey players are also loving the Fork Knife, and Deadspin recounted a story from Jeff Marek about an NHL first round pick who was basically ruining his shot at being an NHL star by playing too many video games.

“On video games – and I’m not going to say the player’s name. I really doubt he’s going to make it to the NHL, and it’s because of a video game addiction, to the point where his junior general manager told me that they’ve had him go to counseling over it, because he’ll play until all hours of the night and into the morning and then he’ll have no energy the next day. Like, he’ll be a write-off. And it is that bad. He has this compulsion for playing video games until all hours. I swore that I wouldn’t say the player’s name, but it’s unfortunate. He’s a recent first-round draft pick for a very, very prominent NHL team, will probably never play in the NHL because of a video game addiction.”

To be honest, I can’t entirely blame him. Boston University’s CTE Center released a study that said 110 out of 111 former NFL players’ brains that were studied had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease caused by repeated blows to the head. Hockey players are probably not immune from head injuries, but eSports stars definitely aren’t. And Ninja makes $6 million a year, that’s pretty comparable to a pro athlete.

What does this mean? Are eSports going to replace real sports as our national pastimes? I doubt it. Even with a 100% chance of developing CTE, there are plenty of people willing to play it anyway. And video games are kind of boring to watch. There are a few popular streamers like Ninja, who combine an entertaining persona with a high level of skill, but most eSports tournaments get relatively few viewers, especially compared to something like the Super Bowl. But we’re entering an age where the Super Bowl MVP might only have become a football player because no one was watching his League of Legends stream.

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It’s like a builder and a shooter made an awful baby. If you have keybinds set to build walls and stairs at a click it becomes pretty good because you’re essentially building shields for yourself while fighting. Without good keybinds (eg the default pc settings) it’s a frustrating mess.

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