Fortnite Proves Video Games No Longer a Child's Play Thing

A few weeks ago Davis McClellan spent four hours playing in a Fortnite tournament on his computer.

The popular video game pits 100 players against each other in a 'shoot 'em up' battle to the death.

Davis finished in 7th place and made $37,000.

"I'm pretty good at Fortnite," the 17-year-old said in a modest voice.

As a professional eSports player, Davis can make thousands of dollars just for being good at a video game. Like many kids, teens, and even adults, Fortnite is his new obsession.

"I don't think I've seen any other game get as big as this in the time it has," McClellan said.

Fortnite's entry onto he eSports landscape comes with the largest prize pool in history. During its first competitive season, the game's developer, Epic Games, will pay out more than $100 million in prize money.

"There's one tournament happening today, I think. First place is like $75,000. Someone is going to win that," he said.

McClellan's parents said they have no problem with how much Fortnite he plays because they see that his passion for gaming has turned into a successful career.

Not only does McClellan make money by playing professionally and streaming his Fortnite sessions on a Twitch, he's also a Fortnite tutor for kids and adults from around the world. The soon-to-be high school senior said he can make upwards of a $1,000 per month and never leave his bedroom.

"You can really learn a lot from other talented players," he said. "Fortnite has really brought a lot of attention to this and people can see that you should hire coaches for your kids. That's going to help them get better."

Fortnite and other games popular in the $900 million eSports industry are changing the conversation around video games.

What has historically been a child's play thing and something many parents warned their kids would rot their brains is not a pathway to a full-time career career, but not just for the players.

Fortnite's popularity is also inspiring the next generation of web developers.

"The game is fun, but let's try to make one," said Matthew Lewis, an instructor at the iD Tech Camp at SMU.

At iD Tech Camps around the country, kids got the chance to spend their summer peeling back the curtain on Fortnite - learning how the levels are built before designing their own.

NBC 5 sits down with Mark Nausha, the Deputy Director of the SMU Game Lab to talk about how he made playing video games a career.

For campers like Luca Swaney, it's a glimpse into the professional world of a video game developer.

"I just thought maybe we could play some Fortnite. We could create some new maps that may or may not be able to go into the game. But you can really just see how everything was made, how the water flows, how the indents of the ground look against different textures," he said. "You appreciate the game more because you know how much effort was put in the game."

Braden Trawick said he wants to turn his Fortnite addiction into a career in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

"I'm doing something that 30-year-olds don't know how to do," he said. "My parents understand, but teachers just think that is a waste of time. I think it's a career opportunity. I can make this a career for me."

The boy's instructor, Matthew Lewis, said he felt the same way at their age. Now he teaches video game development.

"They can put it on their resume, like, 'I've been doing this since I was a kid,'" Lewis said. "Finding something that's relevant in today's market and then saying, 'I can probably do that,' is a big deal."

Long time video game developers like Mark Nausha said the more parents realize that video games can be a gateway to success, the better.

"There was less of us back then and then the gaming community just exploded. It's bigger than music and movies combined. There's just that many more people playing games, building games, making games," he said.

Nausha is the deputy director of the SMU Game Lab in the school's graduate video game design program, SMU Guildhall.

Nausha grew up in California pumping quarters into coin-operated machines. That led to a career as a developer at SEGA and Sony before he entered academia.

"I didn't know it was my thing, actually, until I got out of college. I had been playing my whole life and didn't realize this is actually an industry.
This is actually a career, it's not just a hobby," he said.

At SMU Guildhall students study video game programming, design, art, and production. Students get the chance to turn their ideas into an actual product. Inside the lab banners hang from the wall showing off the titles created by SMU students.

Nausha said the industry's growing popularity will continue to attract gamers, presenting them with numerous ways of turning their passion for playing into a profession.

"This isn't just my kid in a basement or my kid on the couch wasting time. There's an actual career and I think the more and more parents understand that and embrace that the better," he said.

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