The teenage esports star who claims Fortnite helped him get his life back
As Smith is on the road to recovery from his illness, however, he says that he and his father “went halves” on a gym for the family home as he “gets back into the sporty side of things”.
Both Smith and Gilbert say their parents were supportive from the beginning of their nascent esports careers. “When I started earning a bit of money, my parents realised I could do it properly,” says Gilbert, who is taking a gap year ahead of a B-tech in Business at University. “But they always supported me, because my dad was a gamer as well, so I’ve been playing on a PC since I was eight years old.”
Other players, however, have not had it so lucky.
“Some people who are really good, for example, they just get completely held back by their parents,” says Smith. “Because they just don’t understand and they want them to stop, basically because they want them to do something else. It’s a really big negative that holds people back a lot.”
The hope within the $1bn esports industry is that the mainstream mania over the Fortnite World Cup and stories such as Smith’s can begin to change the narrative. While the industry still has many issues to get to grips with over regulation, professionalism and player protection, the new spotlight also reveals the sustained career paths available to players beyond their likely fleeting professional gaming career.