Fortnite, Credit:  Flickr

Fortnite, Credit: Flickr

Traditional sports are on the decline. The past five years have seen negative trends in viewership for the NFL, MLB, and NBA, while participation in high school sports has seen a similar decline. According to a 2017 Article in the Washington Post, “Almost 45 percent of children ages 9 to 18 played a team sport regularly in 2008...Now only about 37 percent of children do.” But Post only gets half the story. Children haven’t stopped playing sports; they’ve switched to different sports. They’ve switched to e-sports. They’ve switched to Fortnite.

Since its release by Epic Games in 2017, Fortnite has taken the world by storm. Record breaking sales, a mobile release, and a diverse playerbase - few games have done so much so fast. Indeed, critics have pilloried the game for being too addictive (a.k.a. good!). Schoolteachers in particular have raised concerns, citing Fortnite as a distraction from homework. But where an antiquated anti-videogame culture protests, Durham’s Voyager Academy Stands apart. They’re not just embracing Fornite; they’re starting a team.

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After-school sports, meet after-school e-sports - every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. “Signups were off the charts,” Voyager tweeted last week. “We may have to expand our coaching staff.” 

“Fortnite is misunderstood,” explained Tony Steinman, the athletics director at Voyager. “People think it’s an addiction, a distraction. They forget all it’s teaching our kids - teamwork, focus, critical thinking…. That’s why we're starting a league here at Voyager. We want to nurture our students’ passion for the game, not crush it.” It’s not just about improvement either. The new Fornite Team will prepare students for an age of e-sports, ever growing as we speak.

Will Voyager succeed? It’s too soon to tell, but Steinman is hopeful. “It’s not even the first Voyager’s led the way in advancing education,” he explained. “We did it by becoming a Charter School, we did it by implementing project based learning. Now we’re doing it with Fortnite.” “But e-sports aren’t REAL sports!”, cry the defenders of baseball, football, and basketball (not to mention soccer, tennis, and fencing). They’re welcome to cry. They’re welcome to enjoy their “real” sports. It’s a free country.

But for kids who love Fortnite and e-sports, you’re not alone. Voyager Academy is making your dreams a reality.