Inside Oregon football’s Fortnite addiction

Originally Posted on Emerald Media via UWIRE

An addiction is spreading throughout the Oregon football program.

For hours most nights, dozens of players shut themselves away in their rooms, ignoring calls and texts from family, friends and significant others.

Everyone affected says the same: Once introduced, it’s a tough habit to kick.

“Started getting into it around Christmas time,” linebacker Lamar Winston said. “Ever since then, I haven’t stopped.”

Winston is talking about the popular video game “Fortnite,” a third-person shooter sandbox survival game (think of a cartoon version of “The Hunger Games” mixed with “Minecraft”) that has taken the gaming world by storm since its free multiplayer version was released in September 2017. By February 2018, more than 40 million people worldwide had downloaded the game, a number which includes a majority of Oregon’s football team.

For the Ducks, the game has become a weekly, if not daily, ritual. Players log hours online, almost always playing with teammates in four-person squad or two-player duo matches, racking up kills, building forts (hence the game’s name) and sometimes letting days pass by.

“I’d have to say 14 hours,” said defensive lineman Popo Aumavae when asked what his longest session was.

The Ducks admit that they mainly use the game as a way to unwind from long spring days filled with practices, tutoring and classes, but they also insist that there are skills that translate onto the field. Players specifically pointed to the communication aspect of the video game, a necessity for success when trying to outlast up to 98 other competitors or navigate complex college football offenses.

“In ‘Fortnite,’ you have to give exact coordinates as to where targets are or where you want to go, and that’s what I need to let my teammates know,” Winston said. “Especially when a Y-off is coming across to block my other outside linebacker or something, then pre-snap reads and communicating, that kind of stuff.”

Always looking for a leg up in the recruiting world, Oregon’s athletic department even recently entered the “Fortnite” realm. Last month, five-star football recruit Chris Steele tweeted out a photo of himself depicted in a “Fortnite” Oregon-themed edit that the program made for him. The post garnered over 200 retweets and over 1,200 likes on Twitter.

“The best edit I’ve ever had made for me,” Steele told The Oregonian.