By Jacklyn Leo
Every Friday night, the Microsoft store at Lakeside mall hosts an event geared towards the youth of New Orleans. A group of kids ranging from 6-13 gather to participate in a relatively new trend called E-gaming tournaments. More specifically, a Fortnite tournament. Right outside the store, there are twelve computers set up but almost three times as many people. Some are experiencing this event for the first time, while others have played before. Even though the kids come from different backgrounds they all meet at the same time in the same place every Friday to compete against others like them who share a passion for competitive gaming.
For the parents who don’t know, Fortnite is a online multiplayer game released in 2017. It rose to popularity in just one year with 128 million players worldwide in June of 2018 according to Epic Games, the developer. The point of the game is to be the last one standing, which you do by building forts and getting rid of other players. Fortnite is also well known for being played and streamed by popular YouTubers and Twitch streamers like Ninja or TFue.
The tournaments can sometimes last for 4 hours, from 5:30 to 9 at night. Registration is free to anyone who wants to play. There are two games, and the gamers play in intervals. Some parents use the time their child spends playing to nap or wander around the mall, some are very engaged and even bring supplies like t-shirts or other merchandise to share with the kids. The players can get prizes for bringing more players to the event, winning trivia games and small dance competitions, and of course winning the actual tournament.
Once everyone is registered in ready to go, before they get to the gaming, the kids have some fun. The employees who host the event at Microsoft do their best to make the event as enjoyable as possible. There are quite a few things the gamers do to hype themselves up for actual matches. First, everyone gathered together to establish the rules and explain the basics of how the tournament works. Then everyone crammed in to take a group photo. After that, a few kids participated in a dance battle while the rest cheered them on. When that was over they moved on to a trivia game and, thanks to the contribution of one of the parents, the winners got to take home some Fortnite t-shirts. Once everyone was ready to go, the kids started to play.
Some kids at the tournament were excited to be able to improve and they thought it was a great way to do so. Many children also consider gaming along the same level as traditional sports and treat them like that. Others participate because they enjoy playing and want to compete with others like them. One player who goes by the username Unicorns Love Meh, (he made sure we knew that it was his sisters account), told us it was his first time at a tournament and he was excited to play people in person. He also told us he was anticipating being able to see his opponents face to face. Another user called Spearmint said he likes to play online at home, but for tournaments he prefers seeing his opponent face to face.
According to many parents at the event, they prefer face to face too. One mother told us “I monitor who they’re playing with and you can kind of control them.” One of her biggest concerns is that when her son is playing online she doesn’t know who he is talking to. She said she’s worried that her child will fall victim to someone who could harm him. This mother also told us that every once in a while she’ll check up on her son and see who he’s playing with. However, she much prefers when she’s at a tournament and she can see exactly who her son is playing with at all times.
Microsoft recognizes these concerns from the parents and sees it as an opportunity to engage the interests of a younger audience in a safe environment. They also use this opportunity to showcase their products and reach a wider audience, but the main reason this is possible is because of the employees. Microsoft’s employees organize and host the events for all these kids because they have a passion for the game and want to open up opportunities to younger audience. When you go to a tournament, it’s quite obvious that they love what they’re doing. Every time a kid raises their hand with a concern, the staff answer their questions and elaborate, with an excitement and jargon that only players can appreciate. Pre-game they’re almost more excited than the kids.
In the end of last week’s tournament, there were two winners. Alex, (pictured left), walked away with the first place prize of a $25 dollar gift card, and Jack, (pictured right), the runner up ended up with a $10 gift card. And that is only part of a two week series where finalists will compete for a chance to win a brand new X Box One X Fortnite bundle. New players can join easily by visiting the website to register or by showing up at Lakeside Mall Fridays at 5:30 pm. Walk ups are always welcome, but arrive early to make sure you get registered! Just look for an employee and they’ll help you register. Additionally, if you prefer to join the gamers club for regular updates, you can also do so here. There are currently 500 members and are growing every day.
So what does this all mean and why is it important? Well, there isn’t much for kids and teens to do in New Orleans, especially if you can’t drive or get bored of going to the movies. E-gaming is an activity that people can do online or in person and in this case it’s free of charge, which is a relief to many parents. The bottom line is that events like these are positive forms of entertainment for kids who have nothing else to do. These tournaments can turn the bored mind away from bad habits and toward brilliance and connections. Who knows? One day one of these kids could go on to become an expert programmer, top computer engineer in the city, or popular professional gamer and streamer. And it’s all thanks to a passion they had as a teen, and a community eager to help cultivate it.