Game on

Las Vegas young professionals host Fortnite tournament for kids.

Story by Lydia Johnson

When members of the Las Vegas, Young Professionals Kiwanis Club wanted to reward middle and high school students who scored good grades, they hit on an unusual idea: a Fortnite tournament.

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Fortnite is a new battle-royal style online video game that’s become a worldwide hit.

“It’s caught on like fire amongst our youth,” says Ryan Max Ocampo, the Nevada club’s service committee chair.

High school teacher Ocampo knew the event would be the perfect way to encourage students to keep up good grades. So the club promised the tournament to students who received A’s and B’s in the school year’s first quarter.

One hundred students earned the right to compete in the November 2018 event held at the massive HyperX Esports Arena, an electronic gaming venue that’s part of the Luxor Hotel & Casino property. During four rounds of Fortnite, they competed for cash prizes of US$75, $50 and $25 for first-, second- and third-place wins.

Throughout the event, volunteers from the Kiwanis club and CKI recorded scores and ran drawings. Members also served as student chaperones.

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Businesses donated video-game memorabilia, including puzzles, board games and Funko Pop! vinyl figures. The top prize in the drawing: a classic Nintendo Entertainment System.

But the event wasn’t just about fun and games. Through community partnerships, students also were able to relate their gaming interests to real-world opportunities.

Representatives from the University of Nevada Las Vegas engineering team talked with kids about coding and STEM careers. Members of the city’s Tuxedo Esports team shared their experiences as professional gamers and passed on advice about securing sponsorships.

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Creators of Mario Party Wars, a gaming group, also attended the event. The group hosts social events and a yearly tournament centered around the Mario Party game franchise.

Through the combined efforts of Kiwanis and its partners, students realized that gaming is also a way to build careers and communities.

“Our goal was to bring in these industry and community members to provide a wholesome experience, not just to play Fortnite,” Ocampo explains.

Students continue to ask when the tournament will return, a sure sign of its success. The Kiwanians have gladly complied and will host the event again — just in time for students to receive third-quarter grades.

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This story originally appeared in the April/May 2019 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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