‘Fortnite’ tourney tests local skills in global phenomenon

December 29, 2018
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Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch Tri-State Gamers are hosted the Holiday Fortnite Tournament on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, at KYOVA Mall in Ashland.

ASHLAND - What “Pac-Man” was in 1981 and “Pokemon” was in 1998, “Fortnite” is in 2018.

It’s hard to find a red-blooded American kid who hasn’t jumped from the Battle Bus looking for the sweet taste of Victory Royale, or at the very least broken out into one of the now-ubiquitous dance moves inspired by the free online game.

In a bustling corner of an otherwise quiet KYOVA Mall, more than 200 players - roughly 50 four-player squads - tested their hand at the worldwide phenomenon during The Big Idea Camp’s inaugural e-gaming tournament Friday in Ashland.

Aside from bragging rights and styling on a room (and live-stream) of spectators, winning teams from ages kindergarten to adult could win up to $150 per player and take home the tournament’s championship belts. Players competed against random competitors online and were scored for kills per match and victories.

A third-person shooter with a premise not so unlike its contemporaries, “Fortnite” capitalizes on the popular new “battle royale” game style: pitting individual players against up to 100 opponents in a large but ever-shrinking arena, forcing them to scrounge the world for the best gear to dispatch their competition until only one is left standing.

“Basically you ready up, you jump out of a (floating) bus, you land wherever you want, and there’s a circle (known as ‘the storm’ in-game) that if you don’t get into in time, you die,” explained 10-year-old Michael Engle, player of Team Ace - a four-man team of middle-schoolers who traveled from Logan County, West Virginia, to compete.

And the trip wasn’t in vain either: Team Ace walked away from the PlayStation 4s and wide-screen TVs with a victory in their first competitive match.

Winning against 100 opponents is sweet anytime, but it’s something much more to do it for a crowd, agreed teammates Engle, Mason Spence, 11, of Man, West Virginia; Alton Ellis, 11, of Logan; and Reece Mauk, 11, of Logan.

“We all get on it at home, and it’s so addicting that we don’t get off it until it’s bedtime,” Engle said.

Though the tournament wasn’t openly marketed much, the popularity of the game sells itself.

The one-day event raised an estimated $5,000 for The Big Idea Camp, an Ashland-based program teaching core values to elementary students in Boyd, Cabell and Wayne counties, mostly through the digital content kids are already accustomed to on social media.

“This is something for us to raise money so that we can get into schools and talk about core values in ways they can comprehend,” said Joanna King, Big Idea Camp board chairwoman. “When you talk about things like compassion and integrity, you can use adult terms but they won’t necessarily get it. We talk to them on their level.”

The organization is planning to host another e-gaming tournament in March.

For more information on The Big Idea Camp, visit thebigideacamp.com.

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