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Home / Technology / Ninja's Fortnite Tournament was an exciting and unprecedented e-sports experiment

Ninja's Fortnite Tournament was an exciting and unprecedented e-sports experiment

When I was on a gaming PC on the floor of Luxor Hotel's extra-large Esports Arena, preparing to play Fortnite among the best players in the world, I could say that my self-confidence not very high was high. I've never played video games competitively before, but not for lack of attempts. I consider myself an above-average player of most shooters, since the early days of Halo and Call of Duty until now Destiny and Overwatch. But the feeling of playing under this kind of pressure and against players of this caliber was alien to me.

But I went to Las Vegas last weekend to see what the first big Fortnite e-sports tournament would look like and specifically what it would feel like to take part in it. Unlike most e-sports competitions, he was part of the public and focused on the chance to play against Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, the most popular streamer on Twitch and one of the world's most talented Fortnite Player. Just minutes after my first Saturday night game, one of nine consecutive games Ninja would attend, I was under fire. Seconds later, an opponent approached me and executed me with a shotgun. I never had a chance.

I looked at the big screen behind me and to the left, a huge monitor with the perspective of Ninja spanning the entire back wall of the arena. Below, Ninja played on his own custom machine in the middle of the stage. I wanted to see if it was the Twitch star who brought me out. Luckily it was not; My poor performance was not transmitted to hundreds of thousands of people watching online. But in a way it would have been an honor to say that I personally had to compete against one of the best, even though I had inevitably lost. That's what made the event, officially called Ninja Vegas 1

8, an unprecedented e-sport experiment.

Photo by Nick Statt / The Verge

Battle royale games like Fortnite and Playerunknowns Battlegrounds are popular in part because they have a large number of people – up to 100 – compete on a random and unsafe playing field. You never know exactly under what circumstances you have to fight. This makes it endlessly fun and variable, but it also makes it especially difficult to organize, send and comment in an e-sports setting because action takes place all over the place at the same time.

Normal e-sports games, such as shooters and so-called MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas), typically pit four- to six-person teams against each other, while other classic e-sports competitions for games such as Starcraft focus on one-to-one contests similar to chess. Battle Royale, on the other hand, is a completely new genre with its own formality. A PUBG tournament, held last year at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, was a kind of trial run in a team-based Battle Royale tournament with 80 professional players participating in the same game as part of four-member squads. I saw it live, and although it was a clear job and a lot of fun, it was admittedly difficult to figure out what happened when 20 teams fought at the same time. It was even harder for the organizers to try to capture and process everything for online viewers in real time.

But Ninjas Fortnite event was different. It was not focused on teams, nor was it exclusively for pro players. It was developed to play the strengths of the Battle Royale genre. In particular, the innate randomness of the genre and the idea that every player you can compete with would be an average Joe or one of the best on the planet. To regain this energy, the player pool was opened to anyone paying the $ 75 entry fee, and was made up of a mix of ninja fans, casual gamers, semi-pros, and world-famous streamers. Ninja even had a bounty on his head; Killing him in the game earned you $ 2,500, while winning a game also brought you a separate $ 2,500. Each played live on dedicated machines set up and cabled in a private network on the floor of the Esports Arena.

"This format is something very attractive – the bounties are incredible," Ninja told me in an interview before the start of the event. "It's not just about winning, but killing a top player like myself is a great reward." He said that the format is storytelling and helps create memorable moments from the ingredients that make up these Battle Royale games Give to players. "The more ways you can tell a story and paint a picture, the better it is, there's so much to paint, the developers have to make sure there are the tools in the game that allow us to tell that story." [AsapopularstreamerGuy"DrDisRespect"wroteBeahm on Twitter "Competitive Fortnite will certainly be interesting to watch, I would rather see solos and duos than squads," in Regarding games that have only single or two-person teams. The key, he added, will be to "make superstars of the sport" to help people succeed more easily online. "What made this contest easy to understand was that they created a story about Ninja and his obligations," later responded to a fan .

Like Ninja Fortnite became a fascinating hybrid entertainment event that was extremely accessible to even the most casual of fans. It was part of the meeting, part of the legitimate competition and part of the celebration of Ninja's meteoric rise. At a deeper level, it was a remix of the E-Sport formula that created something completely new and refreshing. The fans not only saw that their favorite player was playing, but they also had a chance to play against him. It's a stark contrast to team-based e-sports like Overwatch or League of Legends which operate more like traditional sports leagues. And professionals and semi-professionals who wanted to make a name for themselves had ample opportunity to do so on the biggest stage possible. (It's no surprise that developer Epic Games has designed a similar forthcoming tournament called Fortnite Celebrity Pro-Am, which features celebrity and professional players at this year's E3 in Los Angeles.)

Photo by Nick Statt / The Verge [19659013] As for Ninja's event, it was a complete success. Although Ninja won only one of his nine games, the level of competition was extremely entertaining for both professional players and relatively unknown competitors, generating dozens of crowd-pleasing moments and surprise victories. And viewers agreed – more than 667,000 people voted for Twinj's personal twitch stream at the height of the tournament. He broke the all-time attendance record of the platform, which Ninja himself covered in March when he flocked to Fortnite session with Drake, NFL player JuJu Smith-Schuster and rapper Travis Scott.

After the event was over, Ninja said the biggest surprise was how outstanding the competition was. "Many of these kids were super good and quiet in an intense but friendly environment," he told me. He said it reminded him of the competitions he had been dealing with in the heyday of Halo when he first made a name for himself as a professional e-sports athlete. "It felt so good," he added of the feeling of competing against players he knew were among the best.

This is because professionals and semi-pro players from all over the country have come to the contest. Zachary Zager, a 20-year-old Fortnite player who came from Georgia and plays under the BuBuBoosh grip, said the event was his first semi-professional competition. He played for a long time in exclusive disk chat servers, where Top Fortnite players organize private scrimmages and other training sessions. "I'm a big fan of Ninja," Zager told me before the event. But it was "the stage" that really attracted him. "I want to become a professional player, I hope I can just gain some experience, have fun and make connections."

Other players, such as the 19- Joey Garcia, also from Georgia, came out as part of an established team. Under the name "Gone," Garcia plays at SpaceStation Gaming, a professional e-sports organization owned today by popular social media star Shaun "Shonduras" McBride. SpaceStation sent two of its players to compete in separate heats, not necessarily for the money, which is poor compared to other e-sports tournaments, which may include prize pools in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. It was more about the exposure and the fun of the format.

Another player participating in the online "Blind" deal said he was from Los Angeles to profile himself as a competitive Fortnite player and possibly switch to a pro team. Blind, who wanted to remain anonymous because he says that he does not want to associate his real name with his gimmick, could not have asked for a better result. He defeated Ninja in the first game of the evening, won this match and won the next game. All in all, he earned $ 7,500. But more valuable is his reputation. "I did not think that would happen," he said modestly. "I already get some organizations out there."

Photo by Nick Statt / The Verge

For the Esport Arena, the event could not have gone any farther, and it's the beginning of what turns out to be a fruitful relationship to the Battle Royale genre. "It's impossible not to think of Battle Royale games," said Jud Hannigan, CEO of Allied Esports, the organization that owns and runs the Esports Arena and similar live video game facilities around the world. "People want to come out and have their hands on a keyboard, just like they make friends with people like Ninja, we've gladly expanded it, the possibilities are endless."

Hannigan said the point is in experimental events like these to invest, find out what fans of e-sports want exactly, especially with new genres like Battle Royale. There will always be a contingent of players passively watching online through Twitch and other platforms and enjoying the team-based traditional approach, say, the Overwatch League. But as popular streamers like Ninja blur the line between professional athletes, entertainers and celebrities, E-Sport is starting to evolve to accommodate what its fans and fans of other streamers can expect from a live event. "It's about generating an experience you can not get at home," Hannigan said.

There may not be a better example of this than a player named "4DRStorm," who won the eighth game of the night in a breathtaking performance that had even shocked Ninja. Like all other participants, 4DRStorm was anonymised during the competition, so only the commentators and fans who watched online could see its name, but not other competitors. In his last engagements, he showed the highest self-confidence by hurling a gigantic fortress to kill a player, and then deftly and without hesitation sent his last two opponents with a rocket launcher.

While the victory screen was displayed, 4DRStorm casually wiped the dust off the shoulders of his in-game character with a solemn emote. But when the Esports Arena's live camera crew approached him, viewers and attendees were shocked to see a short, frighteningly young teenager with messy brown hair and glasses. He is 14 years old and has just won $ 2,500 in front of more than half a million online viewers.

The player, whose name is Elijah, came down from Washington with his parents, he told me after the event. He knew he was good Fortnite – He wins many games with his friends, he said. But he did not know that he could compete with the best. This is partly because he has never played a competitive game or even a shooter game before Fortnite . His parents standing next to him beamed proudly.

When I asked him how he could put himself together under the circumstances, he said he had "felt a flow" and had just come to it. Elijah said he aspires to a long-term career in e-sports. What better way to start this career than Twitch's biggest ever audience and some of the world's best Fortnite players.

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