Most people of good sense ignore tabloids for the trash papers that they are, but unfortunately Fortnite appears to be a pretty favorite target for the ignorant hoping to play on moral panic. Take for instance one Fortnite tabloid story writer who has been caught paying out for quoted testimonials about a player who claimed the game made them “a suicidal drug addict.”
According to a report published in the UK’s Daily Mirror, one 17-year-old fan of Fortnite was so hopelessly addicted to the game they were taking speed to continue playing all night. Things were reportedly so bad that the teen claimed to attempt suicide, but was stopped by his father.
In addition to being soundly criticized on social media, the fine folks at Eurogamer did a bit of deeper digging and found that the story’s writer, Matthew Barbour, had sought out a case study to create bad press for Fortnite and offered a £300 fee for their testimonials. “The case study can be anonymous…we can also fully credit any clinic or therapist,” reads an email from Barbour. “We need this to be as strong as possible.”
Furthermore, buying out people for smear stories is apparently old hat for Barbour; two years ago he sought a case study from anyone who claimed addiction to Pokemon Go and offered a £100 fee for the story, and in 2015 Barbour was found attempting to pay patients for negative press regarding a healthcare worker strike that year.
The report from Eurogamer does point out that there’s no hard evidence to refute the claims of the family and the Fortnite-addicted gamer referenced in the Daily Mirror piece. Still, the full investigation is absolutely worth your time for a look at just how stories like this are born and to perhaps help instill some critical thinking.
First off, kudos to the writers at Eurogamer for this report. Second, gaming addiction certainly has meritorious points worthy of discussion, but stories like the ones written by Mr. Barbour do little to further those conversations, trivializing any good that may come from attempts to help those with mental health issues.
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