Over the weekend, Epic's gargantuan $43 million Fortnite World Cup came and went. It was a huge occasion for the free-to-play game that sprouted out of nowhere to completely dominate the mainstream conversation about video games. And even though the headline figures were enough to make mainstream Australian media pay attention, they still couldn't help doing so without completely disparaging the contestants involved.
Channel Seven's Weekend Sunrise touched on the World Cup on Saturday, going through the usual motions you'd expect from a breakfast TV cross — an introduction of the format, the money on offer, how many Australians were involved. The show then crossed to Byteside editor and Kotaku alumni Seamus Byrne in New York, where one of the presenters questioned the social skills and behaviour of gamers.
"I have to ask the question, when you hear about what a lot of these gamers' lives are like, where they don't leave the house, they're not interested in anything else except for playing, almost 24/7, what is the money worth to you if you're not leaving the house, if you don't know how to relate to people," presenter Monique Wright asked in the video below.
Byrne admirably noted that many of the competitors were part of professional teams and were supported with nutritionists, psychologists and other coaching systems akin to normal sporting teams. "They have to work at so many different aspects of how to be the best — a lot of them are really well media trained, too," Byrne said.
Despite Byrne's attempt at providing some balance, the presenters couldn't help but take a final swipe at the idea of games after the cross ended. "I've got a real problem with these shoot-em-up video games," Wright said, while co-host Basil Zempilas said he never liked the idea of people being inside for too long.
Neither presenter seems to have been made aware of the fact that the average age of the Australian gamer has been over 30 for the majority of this decade. Or that most parents play video games with their kids, and that more older Australians are turning to video games as a way to stay connected to friends and family, the same way kids use video games as a social space.
The latest bi-annual report on the average Australian gamer is out, and we've already gone through some of the main takeaways. The average Aussie gamer is still 34 years old, and both women and men are playing slightly less per day on average.
Perhaps the best line was from Byrne, who wrote in the Byteside tech newsletter that you couldn't really succeed in esports and video games these days without the support of others — an anathema to the anti-social, shut-in stereotype perpetuated on Sunrise.
"I never want to see kids chasing video game dreams if they don’t have the gift to be great," Byrne wrote. "But it takes supportive families around them to find out if the talent is there to be nurtured into becoming one of the best."