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Coronavirus Diaries: It’s a Great Time to Be Me, a Professional Fortnite Player

There are tons of bored people watching gamers on Twitch and YouTube.

Two hands holding a mask that says "Coronavirus Diaries" over images of several characters from Fortnite including a golden man, an anthropomorphized cat with large muscles, and a man in a luchador-like skull mask.
Photo illustration by Slate. Images by Epic Games Inc.

Coronavirus Diaries is a series of dispatches exploring how the coronavirus is affecting people’s lives. For the latest public health information, please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. For Slate’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with 21-year-old professional Fortnite player Madison “Maddiesuun” Mann, who plays for Gen.G Esports. The conversation has been transcribed, condensed, and edited for clarity by Aaron Mak.

I play Fortnite professionally, so pretty much every single day I practice for about eight hours. Usually on weekends I’ll compete online. Sometimes there are LAN tournaments [events where players connect locally and compete in person], but obviously right now there really hasn’t been any. Sometimes I’ll stream on Twitch and also Caffeine now. I upload YouTube videos. So on the side I’m just kind of dealing with my own content creation, creating my own brand.

It’s a little weird with the coronavirus because I always stayed in, so I didn’t have to go outside. I feel like I have to do more because now everyone’s home and people are going to be on YouTube because they’re so bored. So I want to push out as much content as I can and take full advantage of that. I’ve definitely noticed an increase in my viewership. But I haven’t really done anything much different besides moving my setup from my office [Gen.G has an office in Los Angeles] to my house, so I’m not going there every single day now. My sleep schedule has definitely gone downhill. I’ve spent a little bit more time away from Fortnite. I’ve been playing Minecraft after-hours to chill and get away from Fortnite just because I can’t go outside and do anything. I’m definitely trying to not put too much in. I don’t want to burn myself out. In general, it’s gotten more competitive—more people are giving the game a try right now. There have been more casual players and more people getting into the competitive side than usual.

Fortnite does do a lot of online events. Most of their competitive events are online, so there really hasn’t been a huge loss in that. But it seems like they’re having smaller online events rather than one big event. They’re spreading it out over time. I would assume that they’re creating more events for more people to have something to do so they’re not losing interest in the game within the next few months. Right now we’re in a champion series, which has qualifying events every single weekend, then going to grand finals for the remainder of March and April. Fortnite is really weird about announcing competitions; they don’t really announce anything until the last minute. We assumed that they had something planned soon, but it’s most likely getting delayed until further notice. I know that DreamHack [an esports festival] was postponed until August, so that was supposed to be another upcoming event. I don’t think that’s happening for a little while. They just started having cash cups every single day. That was something they’d never really done. But only first place gets money. People are a little annoyed that they’re not putting all that money into one pot where more people can get money. I know a lot of top pro Fortnite players shouldn’t be too concerned, because most of them are being salaried, so it’s not like they’re living solely off of Fortnite money.

The Fortnite community is pretty annoyed, only because a lot of them are so young and they don’t really understand the seriousness of the whole pandemic. They don’t like that there are tournaments being spread out one after another and that the money is not being combined into larger amounts. They’re just transitioning into a different competitive style. They’re all young, so they don’t really know how to react appropriately and maturely. So they’ll just rage at anything that Epic Games [the creator of Fortnite] will do.

In the last month and a half, there have been a lot of server issues with Fortnite. Even Discord, where everyone talks, had a lot of issues going on. Twitch went down a little bit the other day. So I think there has been a lot of traffic that they’re having a hard time keeping up with. It definitely affects the game because Fortnite is so heavily ping-based. [Ping is a measurement for the lag time it takes to send data from a player’s computer to the game’s server.] And so if you’re on high ping, you’re going to have a hard time versus people who are on low ping. I’m usually playing on about 20 to 30 ping, and the ideal ping in Fortnite is zero. A lot of people on zero ping want to play aggressively, and people on higher ping want to play more passively.

I think now is a great time to not just focus on your own Fortnite skills but to focus on yourself as not just a player, but as a person outside of gaming. I think a lot of Fortnite players focus so much on Fortnite that they’re going to get so sick of it being inside all the time. They’re going to want to find something else to do. I know that Fortnite won’t be forever, so that’s why I’ve been focusing on my brand and to prepare for something afterward. I know I want to go back to content creation and be more of a YouTuber or Twitch streamer. I just want to get that ready to go.