Parents are reportedly paying in the range of $10 to $20 per hour to talented video game players to help their kids improve on Fortnite: Battle Royale, a popular online shooter game that has gripped scores of young people.
“There’s pressure not to just play it but to be really good at it,” Ally Hicks, who bought four hours’ worth of lessons for her son for $50, told The Wall Street Journal for a recent report. “You can imagine what that was like for him at school.”
In all, WSJ reported that parents and others have hired 1,400 Fortnite “coaches” through sites like Gamer Sensei and Bidvine since the beginning of March.
It’s no secret there is plenty of money in youth sports — $15 billion, in fact — according to Time magazine. That said, one has to wonder if so-called esports will soon see big money poured into them as well because of the scholarship and earning opportunities in playing competitive video games.
Big Ten Conference schools currently offer scholarships to competitive video game players. Why? Because the NCAA Division 1 Conference has its own channel, called Big Ten Network, on which it plans to livestream competitions. If that goes well, it would not be out of the realm of possibility for other NCAA athletic conferences with television networks — such as the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 Conference, Southeastern Conference, and Pacific-12 Conference — to do the same.
If the viewers and revenue are there, this could expand even beyond those conferences.
Plus, the total esports “economy” was about $500 million in 2016; that’s projected to grow to $1.5 billion by 2020, based on heavy investments, advertising and sponsorship in the industry, according to Newzoo. There may also be 427 million esports viewers by 2019.
Much of that could be dedicated to Fortnite. Its creator, Epic Games Inc., told The Journal that soon there will be $100 million worth of tournament prizes related to the video game.
Like anything else, however, not every kid is going to grow up to be a video game-playing star. And the long hours young people spend looking at the screen could result in other problems, as LifeZette has long reported.
The journal Computers in Human Behavior found in 2014 that sixth-graders who played video games on a daily basis had worse social skills, especially among nonverbal social cues, than those who did not. And many studies have shown that there is a clear link between playing violent games and increased aggression in young men.
Since there are plenty of documented cases of parents and coaches pushing kids too hard in youth sports, one has to wonder if the same will occur in the video game industry. What is clear right now is that some parents are taking it more seriously than ever.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.