A British teenager whose obsession with video games caused years of arguments with his despairing mother has won nearly £1m and become an overnight star after finishing second in the hugely popular Fortnite World Cup.
Essex schoolboy Jaden Ashman, 15, competing under the name Wolfiez, finished runner-up with his Dutch team-mate Dave John (Rojo) in the duos event, landing a $2.25m (£1.8m) prize fund, which they will split.
Ashman was one of several UK gamers to fly to New York to take part in the tournament where 100 competitors, many aged between 12 and 16, battled it out for a total prize pot of $30m – the largest ever for an esport event.
While many of those taking part are professional Fortnite gamers with legions of fans, Ashman was a relative unknown with only a few thousand followers on social media. The teenager put his success down to the many hours he has devoted to Fortnite since the day it came out in September 2017, sometimes playing it for up to eight hours a day.
“Me and my mum, we clash quite a lot,” Ashman told the BBC. “She didn’t understand how it worked so she thought that I was spending eight hours a day in my room just wasting my time. So now that I’ve proved to her I can do stuff, I’m really happy.”
His mother, Lisa Dallman, said she once threw out an Xbox after an argument but now accepted his career choice as a professional esport player. He got into gaming watching his uncle play the shooter Gears of War, before getting his own Xbox aged six.
Dallman told the BBC: “If I’m honest with you, I’ve been quite against him gaming. I’ve been more pushing him to do his schoolwork. I’ve actually thrown an Xbox out, snapped a headset – we’ve had a nightmare.”
Ashman nearly missed the tournament entirely. He had problems securing a visa for the US flight and, in a mishap that would get laughed out of a classroom, the dog ate his birth certificate.
“This is not a joke – this actually really did happen,” said Dallman. “And then my work messed up my wages, so three things went wrong before we started heading here so I knew we were on an even keel and everything was going to go right.”
Asked how her son might spend the prize money, she said: “I think Jaden’s not really a materialistic person. He will have a lifetime supply of Uber Eats, and I think that will do him, to be fair. Just sitting there playing video games and eating takeaways, Jaden would be in his element.”
The duos winners, Emil Bergquist Pedersen from Norway and his Austrian partner, David W, who play as Nyhrox and Aqua, took home a total of $3m prize money. More than 100 finalists took part in the event, trimmed down from about 40 million who attempted to qualify for the tournament.
With more than 250 million players, Fortnite: Battle Royale has become one of the most popular video games in the world since its launch in 2017. Thousands of fans attended the three-day final in New York with many more watching online. There were no women among the finalists, most of whom were under the age of 20.
One of those hoping to scoop the $3m solo prize on Sunday night was Kyle Jackson, a 14-year-old from Sidcup, Kent, who last year became the youngest professional Fortnite player in the world.
Jackson, who goes by the online moniker Mongraal, is a member of professional gaming team team called Faze Clan. “It really is amazing to do something like this from a young age,” he told Sky News.
“To be able to do what you want to do and earn money from it, it is the main goal in life.”
Another UK competitor, 15-year-old Benjy “Benjyfishy” David Fish, who is competing in the solo competition for NRG Esports, told ESPN: “I would like to buy a house for my family. We have always been renting since my dad passed away when I was eight months old, so it would be nice to be able to help out.”