Before the start of the 2019 Fortnite World Cup, a press conference was held featuring some of the top competitors at the event. The conference featured NRG's dynamic duo Benjy "Benjyfishy" David Fish, 15, and Martin "MrSavage" Foss Anderson, 14. Ghost Gaming's elite controller talent Aydan "Aydan" Conrad, 20, and FaZe Clan's Nate "Nate Hill" Hill, 24, were also a part fo the conference, and Warriors' Sam "Twizz" Pearson rounded out the quintent.
The pro players were asked by both Epic Games and a multitude of media outlets, including Inven Global and ESPN Esports, about playing Fortnite competitively as a career and the significance of the 2019 Fortnite World Cup.
What got you into Fortnite, and at what point in time did you realize this that was something you could take a bit more seriously?
Benjyfishy: I started off playing Fortnite as a hobby. I really enjoyed the game so naturally, I played it a lot. That gradually made me get better and better at it. The first time I realized that it could become a career was when I qualified for the Winter Royale. At the time, I actually didn't get to play in it, because I was too young, but now that I can actually play in tournaments, I can actually make this my career.
MrSavage: I think my story is kind of the same as Benjy's. I started playing the game just for fun, and I realized that I got good when I placed 2nd in the Winter Royale EU qualifier. Just like Benjy, I was too young to play, but that was when I first found out I was good at the game.
Aydan: I realized I had a career in this at my first Fortnite tournament. Fortnite was still fairly new, and I was one of the only controller players to be playing. I got an opportunity where I killed another controller player a bunch of times, and I blew up off of that. From there, I became a big name. A lot of it was timing, but I took an opportunity when the game was new.
Nate Hill: I kind of got into this game by accident. I was playing other games like Dota and Overwatch, and I got really bored of those. My friend told me about Fortnite, and it looked kind of strange, like something I hadn't seen before. I started playing it and fell in love. I got addicted right away — I was missing stuff with friends, stuff with my job, and only playing this game. A couple of months went by and I watched some big streamers and pros play and I was like, 'I think I'm just as good as them.' Since then, I committed my whole life to being that, and here I am now.
Twizz: For me it was similar. I started playing and streaming Fortnite when it first came out for fun. I started to grow and get involved with my community, and I realized I could take it a bit more seriously when I started to grow my stream a bit more. I started to compete in organized tournaments, and then it was all about putting in the work to try to get as much out of this as I can. I'm excited to be here.
How did your friends and family react to your career choice? Was it interesting to explain it to them at first?
Benjyfishy: I remember I won a $20,000 tournament a few months ago with Mr. Savage, and that was the first money I had ever won from playing the game. I told my friends at school and they couldn't believe it. They thought I was lying at first, so I had to show them the clip of me winning. All of my friends and family have been really supportive.
MrSavage: My family has been really supportive through this whole thing. I guess my friends have been supportive as well; there's not really much to it. I'm really grateful for my family's support, because they're really, really supportive of what I do.
Aydan: My family is really supportive as well. After high school, my dad didn't make me get a job right away and decided to give me a year to try and make a career out of this. I told him, "Dad, if I make what you make, then I get to keep going." And then I made that in like, a month. I remember I played the second actual "money" tournament for Fortnite from home, and my dad was right with me while I was streaming. I ended up making $10,000 and it was a really great moment. My family is still really involved with me in this and they're very supportive.
Nate Hill: I'd say my family wasn't supportive right away because gaming is so new to previous eras. They wanted me to get a real job, but I've had really strange jobs in the past and it's always worked out, so I think they believed that whatever I did, I could do. Since then, they've been 100% supportive, and it seems to be working out, so I think they're cool with it.
Twizz: I've worked a lot of different jobs and I went out and lived on my own from pretty early on, so my family knew I was independent regarding what I wanted to do. They've always been supportive of the games, and since I've been actually able to live off of it and support myself off of it, it's just been continued support. I'm really grateful for that.
Benji, there were articles saying you left school to play Fortnite professionally. Is that true
Benjyfishy: I am still furthering my education; I get homeschooled. It seems that a lot of people think I've dropped school, which I haven't. I still keep on top of my work and still study, just at home. It's a lot easier for me at home, because when I had to go to regular school, I used to have trouble with getting enough sleep. I would stay up late practicing, but it's a lot easier now. I'm still on the same track as I was in normal school.
Mr. Savage, how do you think it's going to feel to play in front of thousands of fans tomorrow in the same arena that the US Open is held in?
MrSavage: I've had some experience playing in front of a big audience before, it's just been over the internet. I've had 130,000 people watching me at the same time on stream before, so hopefully I won't get too nervous when I play here.
Nate Hill, you're our oldest competitor here. A lot of players say when they get to age 24 that they will retire because they won't have the skill and ability to continue. How do you buck the trend of not being under 18 and still keeping up with all of these guys?
Nate Hill: It's so strange that I'm the oldest competitor in the World Cup. I've been playing games since I was a little kid as well, but I never really had the opportunity like this before. Fortnite has given so many of these younger generation kids the opportunity...I don't know, I think I'm just as good as them. Just trying to represent the old guys, you know?
Twizz: I'm 23, so I'm a bit older as well, but I think it's not a matter of age, but more of dedication. A lot of these young kids are so skilled and determined, and they put in so many hours.
Nate Hill: They play forever.
Twizz: They really can, but regarding our experience, we've played games for a lot longer than some of these guys have, and we have a bit more life experience, so I think we can use that to our advantage. I can't see us stopping anytime soon.
Twizz, how does it set in your mind coming into this tournament representing the Oceania region? There are a lot less OCE players here than North American or European players.
Twizz: As a kiwi coming from New Zealand, we're used to being the underdog. We have a small country with not a lot of people, but I like that. I like coming in from a smaller region — we don't have a lot to lose, and we have everything to prove and gain. I think we can go in there with that headstrong, 100% all—in mentality, and we can prove we can compete internationally.
For those of you who haven't been to New York before, what have you guys been doing this week?
Twizz: I've never been to America, let alone New York, before. I love it here, it's so cool. We went out to Times Square last night, and I never thought I'd see screens so big in my life. There's so many people and so many cars, but the interactions I've had have been great. Everyone's been so smily and friendly...I love it here.
Nate Hill: Yeah, in New York everyone's nice and smily...not the New York I know!
Twizz: That's what I've seen!
Nate Hill: I live right in Jersey City, so this is homefield advantage for me. I've seen it all.
Aydan: This is my first time here. I moved to the LA area four months ago from Ohio. It's really crowded and hot here. I figured California would be more hot than here, but no, it's really humid.
I went on the subway for the first time, and right as I got on, I accidentally touched this lady with my bookbag. I could already see in the corner of my eye that she was giving me a weird look. When the subway started, I didn't know it was going to go so fast, and I flew into her a little bit. She looks at me and goes, "Jesus, buddy!" It's been a bit of a hectic experience, and there's a lot of media, but it's all worth it. We're here for a really good time, but I definitely want to go sight see some more.
MrSavage: This is my first time being in New York. My first impression was that the air was kind of weird, but the buildings are super tall so it looks nice...but the air's weird.
Benjyfishy: This is my first time outside of Europe. The first thing I noticed was the air, and I got here during a heatwave, so it wasn't a very good first impression. I haven't really gotten to sightsee much because I've just been practicing. Meeting a lot of the other players has been a really fun and cool experience. That's probably the biggest thing I've gotten out of this thus far. Hopefully I'll get to sightsee after the World Cup, but as of now, I've just been practicing.
What are your thoughts on Fortnite's updates before major tournaments?
Benjyfishy: Before, there hasn't been the best history. I think it was before the Katowice tournament when the upper right part of the map was destroyed, and that screwed over Team Liquid and a lot of other players. It's good that we're playing on the previous patch for the World Cup Finals eventhough Season 10 is about to begin. It's going to be the patch that we know, so I'd say Epic Games is improving on this front.
MrSavage: I strongly disagree with Epic Games making major updates before major tournaments, but it seems that they've been improving on that. They're adding a new sniper in the game, but they're not going to have it in the World Cup, so that's nice.
Aydan: I think all of us agree regarding adding new stuff into the game right before a big tournament, but I think it was a display of the new items or features by pros for the casual viewing player. Like Mr. Savage said, Epic Games has definitely been working on this, like not putting the new sniper in the World Cup, which is a relief.
Nate Hill: Nothing to really add on that. Everyone's said that we don't like new updates days before a tournament. We like to play what we've been practicing on.
Twizz: I think it's a good trend that Epic Games is starting with the World Cup. They're not making any changes before we play and I think that's a good precedent to set. I hope they continue to make those kinds of decisions for us.
Aydan, you're a famous controller player, and you've proven you can play at the top level, but have you ever felt like you're put at a disadvantage?
Aydan: When you see the numbers of people who qualified with mouse and keyboard compared to those who qualified with a controller, it's a little scary. I think there's 5 controller players here out of 178 people. I've always thought about switching — sometimes I'll mess around with mouse and keyboard and it feels pretty good — but I've qualified for a ton of the tournaments with a controller, so I try not to mess with anything if it's fine. I'm going to stick to controller, probably.
Do you feel any pressure from your organizations?
Nate Hill: I don't feel a lot of pressure from my organization as much as I do support. No matter how I play, I think they'll still be behind me. There's a lot of people from my organization that have qualified for the World Cup, and I think I've proven a lot in the past. Ever since I signed with FaZe Clan, I've been doing pretty well, so I don't think there's much pressure added from being part of an org.
Aydan: I'd have to agree, my org is very supportive. Even before my qualification, they were re-assuring me that I would qualify, and if I didn't, they told me not to worry but that they believed I would. Ghost Gaming has always been really supportive of me, so I'm feeling really good coming into the World Cup.
MrSavage: It's the same for NRG. They're really supportive and always have our backs. I got to meet everyone who works for NRG a few days ago, and they're all super nice people. There's no extra pressure or anything like that.
Benji, in a recent ESPN story, it was revealed that in the UK, you live on an island in the middle of a river with no cars. Is that true, and if so, can you tell us a bit about it?
Benjyfishy: It is true. I live on a river island; you have to walk over a bridge to get to it. It's a nice community, and pretty much everyone there knows what I do. I've lived there all my life, so I'm used to it at this point. It take a ten minute walk to get to my house, which was tough when I was in regular school during the winter. I would have to talk ten minutes in the cold just to get to the car, so that wasn't the best, but overall, I'm used to it at this point.
What is motivating each of you in this tournament?
Benjyfishy: Getting to this point is really big for me. It's always been a goal to qualify for a major tournament and be able to compete in it. Now that I've achieved that, I think my goal is to be known as one of the best players in the world.
MrSavage: I feel like I've already won just being able to meet everyone I've been talking to. It's been one of the best experiences of my life. I feel like the prize pool is just a bonus.
Aydan: I'd have to agree, the prize pool is just a bonus. One thing for me is being a controller player and showing the few other controller players that they can qualify for tournaments like this, too. A lot of them doubt themselves and think they can't do it. Also, I want to bring that trophy home for my stream background!
Nate Hill: Everyone's saying the prize pool is just a bonus, but I feel like $1.5 million is the goal. I've placed really well in super big tournaments, and I find that some people don't even recognize or remember that. People kind of just go with whoever has the stream numbers, so if I can take the money home and invest it or something, that's my primary goal.
Twizz: Coming from a smaller region with less qualifying spots, it was all about qualifying. Once we qualified from OCE, I feel like the box was already checked. Aside from that, my biggest thing is to play with no regrets. I don't want to be left with any 'what—if's or 'maybe I should have's, so for me it's about not hesitating and playing the best that I can. If I place well, that's awesome, but if not I just want to represent my region well and it give it my everything.
What has Fortnite taught you about life?
Twizz: That's a good question. I think there's something to be said about not just Fortnite, but competitive gaming in general in terms of what it can teach people. You see that in some of the younger players here not only in the hard work and dedication that they put in, but in their time management. There's a balance to keep of how much time you spend playing the game, reviewing your game, and working on your skills outside of the game.
Another thing is communication. It's very important to have really good communication skills when you want to work with someone and play in duos. These kinds of skills, as well as knowing that you will make mistakes and being accepting of them, will help you take the ego out of your game and analyze things from an outside point of view. Those are the kind of skills that really show in these players and I think that's what competitive gaming can teach you.
Nate Hill: This game has a lot of adaptability. It's ever-changing, so you have to keep adapting to it. Even moreso than that, it's given me an opportunity to help other people in life. it's given me a platform to help teach other people about life skills in general, and I'm really thankful for this game.
Aydan: Things have been setup where we're provided with the capability to provide for others. It's nice seeing how advanced some of these players are; they're so quick. It's just like impressive aspects in sports, like when a tall guy can dunk. It's nice to see everyone come together and enjoy a good time.
MrSavage: I've learned so much from this journey, so I don't even know where to start. I don't know...I've learned so much, it's incredible.
Benjyfishy: I like what Twizz said about time management. When I went to normal school, I was having a lot of trouble balancing Fortnite and sleep, so it's taught me a lot about being healthy and learning how to balance stuff in life.
If you win the World Cup, what's the first thing you're going to buy?
Benjyfishy: I've said this in quite a few interviews, but I'd like to buy my family a house. Right now, we have a nice house, but we've been renting for my whole life. Being able to settle down in a house would be very nice, but apart from that, I'd save it and invest it.
MrSavage: I don't really want to buy anything, I'm kinda chillin', you know? I may donate some to charity or something, but I don't think I'd spend the money. I'd just save it.
Aydan: Same thing as Benji, I'd probably get mom and dad a house. Besides that, my duo partner said if we won, he would buy me something nice like a Rolex or something, so I'd have to spoil him too. I'm already pretty good at saving my money, so I'd probably just save the rest of it and chill.
Nate Hill: Yeah, same thing. We're all gamers so we don't really do that much. I think I would help my family or some people get out of debt, and then save or invest the rest.
Twizz: I think my answer is relatively similar to the other boys, though one thing I would like to buy myself is a nice new pair of glasses because I'm pretty blind. Other than that, a house; somewhere to live and somewhere to set myself up would be really awesome...maybe a new car...
Nate Hill: Maybe...
In traditional sports, athletes have routines before they compete. Do any of you have any pre—event routines?
Twizz: My kind of mentality that I try to take into things is based around that I play Fortnite every day. So when I'm going into a tournament to compete, it's just another day, because it's just Fortnite. It's nothing different; I know what my gameplan is going to be; I just have to be confident, go into it, and play Fortnite.
Nate Hill: I don't really have a ritual or anything I do before, but you want to have perspective on what you're doing. You're just playing a video game. I've had a lot harder things in my life than this competition, so it's good to have perspective. Play and be free is the mentality I bring into it.
Aydan: One thing I've noticed is that I'm pretty good without practice, so usually, there's not a lot of practice before a big tournament. Maybe I'll do a warm-up game or something and hop in, but most of these players scrim and practice a lot before a big tournament. I don't scrim, and surprisingly, I've done really well at tournaments.
MrSavage: I just listen to music. There's not really much else.
Benjyfishy: Yeah, I don't really have a ritual that I do before, but I like to go in feeling confident that I'm better than everyone else in the lobby. It gives you confidence going into the game knowing that you're better mechanically than everyone else in the lobby.
Benjy and Mr. Savage, being as young as you are, how do you regulate your fame?
MrSavage: That's a tough question...I don't know. I'm still a normal person; I don't feel like much changed just because I got followers on Instagram. I still go to school, I still do normal things that a 14-year old would do. Not much has changed.
Benjyfishy: I don't want to say everything is the same, because now I have this following, but I still do the same type of stuff. I play Fortnite, record, and stream. It's everything I loved doing before I blew up, and it's just normal to me at this point.
What did you think of the qualification process for the Fortnite World Cup, and what would you like Epic Games to do differently in the future?
Twizz: There were not a lot of spots for the Oceanic region. We had three duo spots and five solo spots, which is almost under half of some of the other regions.
I would like to see a bit more tailoring towards specific regions. That doesn't necessarily mean more spots, because I understand that servers that aren't very big might not need more spots. However, I think there could be more tailoring in terms of point systems and trying to give the best experience to the players and build faith in the system.
Nate Hill: I personally would like to have succeeding rounds of qualifiers. Basically, there would be a custom match full of all of the people who have proven they're tough enough to be there, instead of these random lobbies where you can get into a map with really bad players. There's a lot of RNG with the current system because you can get in lobbies with worse players and just run through them because you're so much better. I wish that it was more condensed competitively for qualifiers.
Aydan: I'd have to agree and say custom games are definitely a step in the right direction. Epic Games has done a really good job since Fortnite first blew up. It was invite only before, and I do like that the World Cup is open qualifiers. Technically, everyone has a chance, and I really like that. I've never even met half of the people who qualified here, and it's cool that they get the chance to come here and make at least $50,000. Some of these kids are 13 or 14, so that's pretty nice.
MrSavage: I don't really have much to add onto what the other guys said, but if there's one thing I don't really like, it's that there is one point for each elimination. I like having more of a passive playstyle, and getting people who push you in the middle of the game kind of ruins your game, so I'd like to see more of a passive and placement—pointed format.
Benjyfishy: I think Epic has done a really good job. The open qualifier means that random people who play Fortnite can just be $50,000 richer. I think that to start, the competition should always be open qualifiers so anyone can compete, but then it should go towards smaller and smaller lobbies.
What do you think of Epic Games' anti-cheat technology they're using to keep gameplay fair?
Nate Hill: I think they've been doing pretty well. I've seen other games just immediately introduce a ranked system, and right away everyone is getting aimbotted. I was aimbotted in Fortnite maybe three or four months ago, but just one time. I would expect a lot more, so I think whatever they're doing is working really well.
Benjyfishy: During my whole time playing Fortnite, I haven't run into a single cheater. I think there were a few in Winter Royale, but from then, Epic Games has really improved things to where there is almost none. They're definitely doing a good job.
Twizz, were there any unique challenges in qualifying from Oceania?
Twizz: I think the biggest challenge of coming from a smaller region was the playerbase. We simply don't have the same amount of players as these bigger regions, and I think that can limit the opportunities in terms of what competitions are being held and/or how strong the competition is.
With a smaller playerbase, there's going to be less strong players. That can be a hard challenge, because the more talented players you have, the better your entire scene is going to get, and good players will continue to be produced in increasing frequency. With a smaller playerbase, our region has to make sure we're all pushing each other and trying to get the best practice that we can.
Given your comments about playerbase size, what is it like to go from scrimming the same players every day to facing opponents you've potentially never seen?
Twizz: It's definitely something to be taken into consideration. We haven't had the opportunity to face the caliber of players we see here today, but for us, it's all been about working on our own individual game and making sure that we're tightening up our game plan and finding all the little mistakes we make. It's been less about the players around us and who we're facing, and more about our game plan and strategy to make sure we're confident in ourselves.
Nate, you mentioned this being a homecoming for you. What's it like for you to play somewhere as famous as Arthur Ashe Stadium?
Nate Hill: It's great. I have a lot of people coming because it's so close to home. I'm a big tennis fan as well, and unfortunately, I've never been able to get tickets to the US Open, so this is kind of like I'm going to the US Open...minus the tennis spectacle and I'm part of it. I'm really excited, and it's super easy for me. I'm going to go home later and play on my own setup while these guys are in the hotel. *laughs*
I'm pretty grateful this is at home, because I've been always traveling to LA for tournaments.
Twizz, how has it been joining Warriors, and how does a sports organization like Warriors approach esports?
Twizz: That's a good question. We're very proud to represent Warriors. I grew up watching the Warriors play in the National Rugby League, so it's really cool to wear that brand and represent our country coming to the US. It's been great, they've been really supportive and have a good bunch of people who came to talk to us about our practice and what's happening to us behind the scenes.
Both the physical and mental support from the organization have been very strong. They have an office where we've been able to go and practice and play next to each other, which we feel has been very helpful leading up to the Fortnite World Cup. They've been very supportive, and I'm really looking forward to working with them some more.