As an avid video game addict, it’s insane watching Fortnite sweep across the nation the way it is. The game has roughly 45 million players (3.4 concurrent at any given time), I remember a time when it was just a zombie defense game and there were only about 10 of us playing it. The best part is those deeply involved in the major sports leagues aren’t immune to its draw. The way it’s bleeding into pop culture in the U.S. is nothing short of amazing, because before this, my sports world and my video game world didn’t really every crossover this way. Now thanks to Fortnite, it seems like every athlete I write about is playing the game.
What is Fortnite? Well, Fortnite is a Battle Royale style game, made by Epic Games, that thrusts 100 players onto an island where they have to scavenge for weapons, items, and building materials and then try to use those things to help them be the last person alive. Needless to say, it can be a little tough sometimes. It’s competitive nature and intense gameplay (especially towards the final few players) naturally lend itself to athletes as a way to blow off steam and feed that competitive fire. On top of that, it gives us a window into the world of people we normally only see as jerseys on our favorite teams. Let’s see just how the Fortnite craze is sweeping through the sports world.
One of the most prominent figures living between the worlds of sports and Fortnite is Steelers WR Juju Smith-Schuster. Moving from Call of Duty over to Fortnite has been an easy transition for him and if he isn’t playing Fortnite, you’d better believe he’s talking about it all over social media. I’m not sure if he posts more pictures of him training for football during the off-season or of him playing Fortnite, but the number probably skews much closer to the latter. His biggest moment came when he actually played with Drake, Travis Scott, and popular Twitch streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, in which the four of them broke the Twitch record for concurrent viewers of a non-video game tournament stream with 600,000 views.
— Harris Rubenstein (@Sportstein) March 15, 2018
Lance McCullers & The Houston Astros
Another prominent group in the sports world being consumed by the Fortnite addiction is the Houston Astros. Astros’ pitcher Lance McCullers was on MaD Radio on SportsRadio 610 in Houston talking about how he and other players from the team play Fortnite in their spare time. He even went to social media to talk about the different strategies that he uses in the game.
— Lance McCullers Jr. (@lmccullers43) April 5, 2018
It’s not just McCullers that has been taken over by this game either. To blow off steam, George Springer brought a PS4 into the locker room for everyone to take turns playing Fortnite. I know to a non-video game person that it would seem like more of a distraction than anything, but it’s always great to keep working those competitive muscles when you can be on the baseball field playing games. Now if we find out that Jose Altuve is staying up until the sun comes up playing Fortnite after some major overuse of the age old gamer mantra “one more then bed”, then maybe it would be time to reevaluate Fortnite in the clubhouse. But for now it’s helping the Astros stay competitive and up their celebration game that much more.
— Houston Astros (@EarnHistory) March 30, 2018
Lance Stephenson’s Shoes and The NBA
Don’t think it’s only the NFL and MLB that’s being consumed by this pop culture, video game phenomenon, the NBA is absolutely a part of this too. The best example of this are the special edition Fortnite shoes Lance Stephenson actually wore during a real NBA game.
Lance Stephenson's got Fortnite on his mind and on his shoes
— SB Nation (@SBNation) April 4, 2018
If my wife doesn’t buy me a pair of those shoes at the next present-worthy occasion then I’ll be incredibly disappointed. The game is seeping into the daily lives of everyone in the sports world. Stephenson isn’t the only NBA player on the Fortnite kick either. Reggie Jackson and the Detroit Pistons are so far deep into the game they play it while they’re on the bus travelling to games:
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) March 30, 2018
And other players are out there arguing about who the best Fortnite player in the NBA is:
I’m the best Fortnite player in the NBA #SaidItFirst
— Frank Kaminsky III 🦛 (@FSKPart3) March 23, 2018
I hope we continue to see this melding of worlds with video games and sports. It’s fun being able to watch how excited these athletes get over playing a video game. Getting to watch Karl-Anthony Towns and Ben Simmons joke around with each other while playing another Battle Royale game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is amazing.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Ben Simmons are back on PUBG, and Simmons asked Towns if he has a game tomorrow again!
Last time this happened, Towns dropped 56 the next night! pic.twitter.com/17xYOe3QBT
— NBA Buzz (@OfficialNBABuzz) April 3, 2018
Watching these guys just hanging out, streaming PUBG, and casually talking about Towns’ 56 point game and his upcoming schedule is so surreal.
Seeing all of these athletes in this setting is the beginning of a cool new age for sports. It’s even more than just the additional access from social media. We get to see them in their homes, outside of the world of competitive sports, and it helps give us more perspective on who they are as people. It helps us remember that they’re more than the jerseys that we see on our TV screens. They’re more than fantasy points or wins. They’re just regular dudes who like to sit back and blow some stuff up on video games like the rest of us millennials. Now, I’m going to go grab another Solo Victory Royale in honor of my sports brethren.