On Thursday night, a now iconic trio came together to play a video game and broadcast it to the world: Popular Twitch streamer Ninja, hip hop superstar Drake, and controversial New Zealand dance musician and political dilettante Kim Dotcom. Adam Goodall was watching.
Wildly popular Twitch streamer Ninja and hip hop superstar Drake had been playing Fortnite Battle Royale for an hour when a little speech bubble popped up in the lobby. It said “TheKimDotcom is Online.” Two minutes later, Ninja (real name Tyler Blevins, a 26 year old streamer who made his name playing Halo professionally) asked Drake, “Hey, uh, you cool if Kim Dotcom joins?”
“Yeah,” Drake responded. “It’s all good.
Ninja and Drake’s four-hour Fortnite stream Thursday night (you can watch it here – Drake comes on at about the 3hr 50min mark) was great, but it was also a record breaker. At one point, over 635,000 people were watching as they stormed around Snobby Shores and Retail Row, racking up a kill count that must have been in the hundreds. It was the most concurrent viewers any single Twitch stream had ever had.
They got a little help from friends like ‘Goosebumps’ rapper Travis Scott, who was pretty quiet and pretty not good at the game, and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who missed the first two hours of the stream because he needed to go to Best Buy to buy a new computer. So you might think that if there were any lessons about how to be a good team player in this stream, they’d come from the professional football player, or the rap legends, or the former e-sports champion.
What if I told you, though, that all of the stream’s teachable moments came from Kim Dotcom, the cringey internet mogul, dance musician, conspiracy theorist, and bumbling bit player in our country’s political history? Would you believe me?
Bear with me here.
First, the explainer. If you already know about Fortnite, you can skip this bit. Ninja and Drake’s stream represents a kind of critical peak for Fortnite, which has been steadily gaining in popularity since the launch of its Battle Royale spinoff. It wasn’t always this way: developer Epic Games released Fortnite into early access in July 2017, six years since it was first announced.
Fortnite was, at the time, just a co-op survival game – a bit tower defence, a bit Minecraft, you and your teammates played survivors of an apocalypse who built forts and fought off waves of zombie-goblins. It also wasn’t very popular. Coverage and community engagement tanked straight after launch; in the month leading up to the Battle Royale announcement, Fortnite was struggling to pull more than 3,000 peak viewers on Twitch. Part of the problem was that it was up against PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the new hotness, a zeitgeist-defining phenomenon that popularised the ‘battle royale’ subgenre of multiplayer shooters: one hundred people drop on an island with nothing, and fight to be the last person standing while a deadly ‘circle’ closes in on them. It was so popular that even games about competitive ice fishing are jumping on board now.
But Fortnite jumped first. A free-to-play spinoff version that Epic called Battle Royale was announced in early September, and Fortnite’s has exploded in popularity since. That explosion has many reasons: it was the first free-to-play ‘alternative’ to PUBG; it beat PUBG to consoles and supported crossplay between PC and console players; it had fewer problems with hackers; its PG13 cartoon aesthetic, with ‘Slurp Juice’ and pumpkin rocket launchers, was more accessible to kids and families.
That explosion travelled to Twitch, with Fortnite streamers like Ninja experiencing a surge to the top of the Twitch heap. As of last week, Ninja had over 140,000 paid subscribers; Forbes estimates that, assuming all his subscribers are legit, Ninja is pulling in around US$350,000 a month from playing Fortnite for 16 hours a day.
Let’s talk about Kim Dotcom though. Kim was a ringer, brought in for one game while JuJu bought his new computer and Travis tried to friend ‘TheBoyDuddus’ on PSN. He also claims to have set the whole thing up, which, cool. Nice work. Now we know Drake is friends with Kim Dotcom. I don’t know what we do with that information now.
But being a ringer didn’t stop Kim, playing as a vinyl-clad Mako Mori look-a-like, from embodying five important lessons for anyone who wants to be a true team player, whether in Fortnite Battle Royale or in real life.
1. Be ready to make sacrifices for your friends
Before Kim had even started talking he was offering to make sacrifices for the good of the team. When Ninja found out that Travis Scott wanted to join the game, he was excited, stunned – two rap superstars in one stream? In his stream? But there were already three people in the team, and JuJu wasn’t far off.
That’s when Kim made a bold decision. “Kim’s in here,” Ninja told Drake, “but I’m definitely sure Kim will leave if other people are coming in.” In that moment, ready to back out so his friends would have the best chance of getting a Victory Royale, Kim was a great teammate – whether he made the decision himself or not.
2. Be generous, but not too generous
Winning in Fortnite, like in any other battle royale game, can come down to luck just as much as skill. To come out victorious, you need the tools that guarantee victory: good weapons, bandages and shield potions, a healthy amount of wood and steel and brick. It’s that much harder to win if you don’t have those tools and Kim, to his credit, understood this rule innately. He was constantly checking on his friends’ kits (especially Drake’s), offering up his own if they were running short of anything. At one point, knowing that Ninja only had common weapons, which don’t do much damage, he called him over and dropped a legendary rocket launcher for him. “I don’t know what to drop for that!” Ninja groaned, shocked and touched by the gesture.
But you can’t just throw around your stuff with reckless abandon. A dead teammate doesn’t help anyone. Kim found that out the hard way five minutes later: alone in the woods, his teammates all far away, Kim was sniped by a player that everyone else knew was there, a player he probably could’ve taken down if he’d kept the rocket launcher. Or, for that matter, the SCAR-L that he really wanted to give to Drake.
3. Don’t be a braggart
My mother always told me that no-one likes a gloater, and that’s just as true on the battleground as it is IRL. Three minutes after dropping in Lucky Landing, Kim showed us all why. Sniping an unsuspecting player at the entrance to Lucky Landing, Ninja walked into the open to finish the job, only for a third player to get the drop on him and bring him down. Crawling behind a wall, Ninja looked on as Kim rode in to take down the third person and save the day. Reviving Ninja seconds later, Kim bellowed into the mic, “Rezzing the Ninja, baby! It’s the other way around, you in my backpack now!”
Ninja responded in good humour – “there’s nothing like a good carry” – but there’s a teachable moment here: there’s no I in squad. Don’t make your squadmates feel like they’re a burden. You’re not carrying them; you’re all carrying each other.
4. Know the vibe. Don’t try and push a different one on your teammates
Drake and Ninja had a good energy going before they switched from Duos to Squads. It was friendly and chill, the two shooting the shit without getting too intense about it. They had long, rolling chats about what they wanted Fortnite to do in the future, about where Drake was recording his new album, about Drake’s conversion to vegetarianism and whether you should put pineapple on pizza. (Drake’s a pineapple-on-pizza fan and he’s right, don’t @ me)
Kim drained them of that energy. I’ve never had cause to use the word ‘glomp’ before and I had hoped I never would, but that’s what Kim was doing to Drake here – glomping him so hard that Drake stopped responding. “I know Swizzy is watching right now!” Silence. “I never thought I’d say this, Drake, but I have a Slurp for you.” Silence. “Do you want this SCAR-L, Drake?” Silence. “Where is he. Where is he.” It got to the point that Kim was asking whether anyone could hear him. That’s never a good sign that you’ve read the room correctly; it’s also never a good sign that you’re on the same wavelength as your team, the people who you’re ultimately trusting with your digital (or real) life.
(Kim says Drake couldn’t hear him because Kim was in Discord and Drake was in the in-game voice chat, which, I don’t know, whatever helps you feel better about killing the vibe I guess.)
5. Don’t be a cringey internet mogul, dance musician, conspiracy theorist and bumbling bit player in our country’s political history; if you are that, though, definitely don’t be that online.
I mean, that’s just a hard place to work from.
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