MONROE, Ga. — The shouting rumbles from up the stairs and down the hall, behind a door with a tangle of blue wires running underneath. “Finish that! … One-v-one! … That’s 80! 90! … Let’s f—ing go!” Moments later, two blond teenagers emerge from their rooms with reddened faces, glistening foreheads and knowing smiles. On this otherwise-serene Sunday evening in a rented house thousands of miles from their homes, this duo has qualified for a shot at a life-altering $30 million purse. With leftover bags of Chick-fil-A strewn about, the teammates come together, their dream within their grasp. “I’m gonna give you a motherf—ing hug, man!”
The teens — Hayden “Elevate” Krueger, 17, and Davis “Ceice” McClellan, 18 — are elite “Fortnite” players, supremely skilled at building fast and killing faster. Signed and sponsored by esports franchise 100 Thieves, they are suddenly on a wild ricochet from their parents’ homes to this training ground near Atlanta to the inaugural Fortnite World Cup finals July 27 at 23,000-plus seat Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. On top of the main court of the U.S. Open, they will chase a share of the largest prize pool in esports history, one that dwarfs those of famed sporting tournaments like the Masters or the Cricket World Cup.
Such is the rapid and stunning success of one of the world’s most popular video games, one that has transcended mere home entertainment to ascend to the uppermost planes of pop culture, those populated by superstar athletes and celebrity singers. But for as big as the game has gotten, its name rolling off the tongues of everyone from Netflix execs to embittered educators, its fledgling competitive scene has been as volatile, unpredictable and maddening as its signature storm. And with the advent of the Fortnite World Cup, the game’s publisher, Epic Games, has created a kind of mammoth lightning rod — one that has attracted a world’s worth of players, media attention and controversy. See more at Washington Post.