Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

Halfway through the school summer hols and for my son it's most definitely game on...

Fortnite champion Kyle Giersdorf
Fortnite champion Kyle Giersdorf

By Kerry McLean

We're now officially more than halfway through the school summer holidays. I'm fully aware that seeing that written down in ink will either sadden those parents who're happy to have their little angels at home, or gladden the hearts of those who're counting the minutes until they can chuck them out the door and back into their classrooms when school begins again.

I think, if most of us are honest, we have moments when we could easily fall into either camp. I love my lot at home with me, but we've hit the stage where we've had days at the beach, nights spent camping, we've planted little gardens, created bug hotels and gone for walks in the woods.

We've sat in darkened cinemas on rainy days, played 10-pin bowling under neon lights and, quite frankly, I'm running out of ideas and spare cash.

I began the summer back in June with the hope that the next few months would be as free of technology as possible and, to that end, I have bribed, cajoled and threatened the kids into setting down their phones and interacting with me and the world around them rather than just a small glowing rectangle in front of their face.

With my daughter, it's been a fairly easy journey. The promise of a few face masks, some nail varnish and a day's shopping for clothes brought her round to my way of thinking.

With my son, it's been a whole other game, quite literally, because he like every other young teenage boy is obsessed with his video game console. During term time it's not such a bone of contention. He knows he's only allowed to play it for half an hour each day at the weekend and accepts that. He's so busy with school and homework and everything else Monday to Friday that he doesn't miss it.

But in the summer, spending so many more hours at home, the lure of his console is so much stronger.

It's a well-rehearsed battle each day, him begging for access and me, the big bad wolf, denying it.

For months I have told him that playing these videos and especially watching YouTube videos of others playing these games (what is that all about?) is an absolute waste of his time.

Normally he responds with a heavy sigh and a roll of his eyes, a move reserved for people he clearly believes too elderly to understand his passion. But this week he had a different response. Instead, he flashed me a smug smile and showed me the story of a young man, Kyle Giersdorf, who, at the tender age of 16, has just become a multi-millionaire thanks entirely to the time he has spent playing and practising one video game in particular, Fortnite.

For those who haven't encountered it, Fortnite is a game where you build defences and then battle the bit out with other players online.

It's massively popular, so much so that when Kyle and other fans of the game gathered to take part in the first world cup finals in New York, they did so in a packed-out sports stadium. Thousands of people paid to pour into the venue and watch competitors, sitting at computers, pitted against each other in a virtual world.

Personally, I can't imagine anything duller, but I'm guessing the knowledge that $30m worth of prizes were up for grabs raised the interest levels somewhat.

Players were knocked out, one by one, until only Kyle remained, clutching a massive silver cup and a cheque for enough money to set him up for life. There are pictures of him standing beside his proud mum, a woman whose smile got even wider when Kyle announced that the first thing he would buy with his winnings was a new home for her.

Clearly a lovely, kind young man, yet I couldn't help but notice how pale he looked. Just how many hours had he spent in a darkened room, honing his skills?

Which left me thinking that, while it may be lovely to have my son earning money and showering us with gifts, I'd still rather see him spend his childhood years playing in the real world and soaking up the summer sunshine.

Belfast Telegraph


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