How can you tell if your game has really “made it”? Is it when you hit a million downloads? Ten million? Is it when your revenues exceed a certain amount? Is it measured by Twitch viewers or YouTube videos?
No, the truest sign that a video game has “gone viral” is when mainstream media pick up on it, usually with a tenuous grasp on what the game is about and why it’s popular. Maybe that’s a little judgmental, since we talk about games we’re not intimately familiar with all the time, but that’s part of the typical news cycle. It’s rare that we’ll talk about a hugely successful game we know next to nothing about simply because it’s hugely successful.
That’s the feeling I get from a few articles I saw last week, that some editor said, “Hey, this Fork Knife thing is really popular with teens and will get us hits, do a piece on it!” And out ventured some mid-40s reporter (like me) who hasn’t really played a video game since Pac-Man ruled the arcades (not like me … well, I did play a lot of Pac-Man, but I’ve played other things since) to try and grok what all the kids are playing on the schoolyard, with mostly factual – but also subtly hilarious to those of us in the know – results.
Here are some of my favorites:
Business Insider‘s Ben Gilbert starts by calling Fortnite “a straight-up phenomenon,” which I suppose is greater than just a regular phenomenon. Gilbert spends most of the article being absolutely gobsmacked that a “free” game actually feels free.
There are no timers stopping you from doing certain things accessible only by paying to speed them up or waiting for hours in real time.
Wait, you mean people can play video games on devices other than their phones? I’m shocked!
It’s not all bad, though. Gilbert does hit on the primary reason Fortnite is a serious challenge to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds: its “cartoony, visually pleasing” nature, as opposed to PUBG’s “dreary and serious” visuals. He also calls Ninja the “man at the top of the Fortnite wave,” as he’s bringing in $500,000 a month playing the game.
Despite Ninja’s success, did you know that someone making 0.2% of what he brings in makes you “one of the top Fortnite streamers”? That’s what this Reuters piece asserts about 20-year-old Swedish streamer BogdanAnh. To be fair, I’d love to make $1,000/month streaming games, but $12,000/year isn’t “make a living money.” I think the authors of this piece are as mystified by the fact that someone can make even that much money playing video games as Gilbert was that there are decent free games on the PC.
The rest of the article isn’t too bad, citing sources such as SuperData’s Joost van Dreunen and video game analyst Michael Pachter. The primary player it interviews is 13-year-old Jett Sacher, who says he
“spent $20 on both skins so $40 … and the dance was another $10 so $50, 60 bucks, something like that.”
Not to get all “old man,” but when when I was 13, $50 or $60 wasn’t “something like that” that I didn’t even think was important enough to know the exact amount. That was a major purchase, months’ worth of saving allowance money. Surely, kids these days aren’t spending that kind of money capriciously, are they?
Oh wait …
Yep, just like Dungeons & Dragons and Pokémon and Grand Theft Auto before it, Fortnite is turning young people into monsters, and Eurogamer compiled some of the “best” panic pieces from around Europe. Apparently, the U.K. has a “Culture Secretary,” who says that “too much screen time could have a damaging impact on our children’s lives.” Better ban television and Netflix, then!
That’s less of an issue if your kids destroy the television, though, which is clearly an issue in the spread above, reported by Very Respected News Source And Soft-Core Porn Tabloid The Sun. The headlines alone are awesome enough, including the grammatically questionable “They broke TV over it.” The picture of a mom and her son fighting over a controller is totally real and not even remotely staged, I’m sure.
Then there’s the meat of the story, which Eurogamer provides later. One mom says she’s “forked over L400 (about $542) over the last three months” for her 12-year-old son and another whose 11-year-old son racked up L254 (about $344) on her credit card. The second case I could maybe understand if the card is registered to her or her son’s Xbox account – which won’t be the case any more in that household, I’d think. The first one, though? Have you ever tried telling your son, “no”? Just once?
And hey, parents, there are worse things on the internet for your kids to be looking at. Just be glad they’re not flat-earthers. Or writers for websites.