Are parents over the top for hiring video game tutors?

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Personally, I prefer my kids being outside instead of sitting in front of a screen.

A WSJ article called “Ready, Aim, Hire a ‘Fortnite’ Coach: Parents Enlist Videogame Tutors for Their Children” by Sarah E. Needleman, caused a furor this week. I’ll admit I stopped paying attention to gaming after my kids left home. The extent of my own video game experience was Mario Brothers and tennis on the Wii. My son liked to play Zelda and he used his GameBoy Color to play Pokemon. I guess you could say we weren’t a big video game family.

When my dad emailed me an article about parents hiring coaches for “Fortnite,” I realized I had no idea what Fortnite was! Since then I’ve learned that it’s a hugely popular video game with millions playing worldwide. Parents are hiring online tutors so their kids get better at the game, much as we hired Coach Todd to help my kids with their stroke technique in swimming. Why would parents hire tutors to help their kids play a game? There are many reasons including huge monetary rewards and even college scholarships. Who knew? Even my daughter’s college the University of Utah introduced Varsity Esports as a thing.

“The U and its nationally ranked Entertainment Arts & Engineering video game development program announced today that it is forming the U’s first college-sponsored varsity esports program. Utah esports will compete in multiple games and has confirmed the industry leading League of Legends as its first game with additional games to be announced shortly. The esports program is the first of its kind from a school out of the Power Five athletics conferences (Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast and Southeastern).

“Esports has had a dramatic rise in popularity in the U.S. over the last few years – especially on college campuses,” said A.J. Dimick, director of operations for the U’s new esports program. “We think college esports is a great opportunity and we want our students to be part of it.”

The U’s esports program will be sponsored by the EAE video game development program, which has been ranked the No. 1 video game design program in the nation for three of the past five years by The Princeton Review.”

Here are some excerpts from the WSJ:

“It’s not the violence or the addiction of the hit game that bothers mom and dad—it’s the losing.”

Ally Hicks fretted over her 10-year-old son playing the hugely popular shoot-em-up videogame “Fortnite.”

This is for your own good

It wasn’t the violence or the amount of time she was worried about. It was the result. He wasn’t winning.

So she hired him a coach. For about $50, Ms. Hicks purchased four hours of online lessons from a player she found through a freelance labor website.

For many children, “Fortnite” has become a social proving ground. More than 125 million people play it world-wide, according to its maker, mostly in a free mode pitting 100 combatants against each other until one person or team is left standing.

Winning bestows the kind of bragging rights that used to be reserved for the local Little League baseball champ. Just like eager dugout dads opening their wallets for pitching lessons, videogame parents are more than willing to pay for their offspring to gain an edge.

Nick Mennen was happy to pay $20 an hour for his 12-year-old son, Noble, to take “Fortnite” lessons. The dad is already dreaming of a scholarship—or at least some tournament money. (“Fortnite” creator Epic Games Inc. recently pledged $100 million in tournament prizes. Some colleges court gamers with financial incentives to join their varsity teams.)

Noble used to win “Fortnite” infrequently before he began taking about six hours of lessons a month. “Now he’ll throw down 10 to 20 wins,” said Mr. Mennen, a software developer in Cedar Park, Texas.

The success has made Noble competitive with his dad. “I should be the one charging him,” Noble said. “He’s not as good as me.”

Coaches can be found on social media or through contracting sites such as Gamer Sensei and Bidvine, which said it has hired out more than 1,400 “Fortnite” coaches since early March. Some coaches can’t believe parents want to sign up their children for lessons.

“It’s really surreal to me,” said Logan Werner, an 18-year-old “Fortnite” coach in Roy, Utah, who plays the combat game on a professional team called Gankstars. “My dad would have never paid for me to take videogame lessons.”

Hiring a “Fortnite” coach for a child is no different than enlisting an expert to help a child excel at basketball or chess, parents say. Some sit in on lessons to make sure coaches are professional and that their children, well, level up.

“I want them to excel at what they enjoy,” Euan Robertson said of his sons Alexander, 10, and Andrew, 12. He hired them a “Fortnite” coach in June, who can stay as long as the children keep up their grades.

Here’s a video from Good Morning America about the phenomenon of hiring tutors to help kids improve at Fortnite. According to their story, tournament play has up to $100 million in prizes. 

In USA Today, “Fortnite tutors are a thing. And yes, parents are paying them,” written by Caroline Blackmon, writes that the craze over Fortnite is like Beatlemania. Really?

It’s turned kids into couch potatoes.

It’s caused professional athletes to crash and burn at their jobs.

It’s even infiltrated daily conversations with its own vocabulary.

Fortnite arrived on the scene last July as a free-to-play shooter by Epic Games. But it started off as less than a success when first released.

Then, in September 2017, Epic added a free-to-play “battle royale” mode, in which 100 players on a large island fight for survival.

That’s when things went crazy.

It captured the Minecraft generation with its free play, bright graphics and ridiculous costumes. It even overtook Minecraft in March as the most-watched video game in YouTube history.

“In terms of fervor, compulsive behavior and parental noncomprehension, the Fortnite craze has elements of Beatlemania, the opioid crisis and the ingestion of Tide Pods,” according to the New Yorker.

Now instead of pushing back against the addictive nature of the game, some parents are doubling down on Fortnite by hiring tutors for their kids.

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I prefer this view to a video game.

What are your thoughts about hiring tutors for video games? Do you think it’s a reasonable thing for parents to do or not? Are parents going way over the top, or is it fine to give our kids all the reasonable advantages to help their self-esteem and perhaps earn a college scholarship?

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