A month away from her 59th birthday, you’d expect Anne Fish to be looking forward to retirement and spending more time pottering around her scenic garden overlooking the River Thames.
Instead, she’s locked in her computer screen for up to 13 hours a day playing Fortnite, the online video game that has hooked more than 350 million players worldwide – most of them teenagers – and amassed billions of dollars for its creators.
At the peak of her gaming, she played for 18 straight hours, taking only short breaks to make cups of tea and use the bathroom.
But as the mother of one of the world’s best Fortnite players, it’s perhaps no wonder she got engrossed in the game herself.
Now Ms. Fish is looking forward to being rewarded with a piece of the pie for her efforts after being signed up by Dubai-based esports company Galaxy Racer. She has a paid contract to produce content around the game, including live-streaming videos of herself as she plays and teaching baffled parents about the battlefield where their children are in suspense.
Anne Fish turned pro after her son Benjy dropped out of school at age 15 to focus on Fortnite – a PC game that has netted him over £500,000
Mrs. Fish holding a controller in her hands while sitting on her battle station
Benjy gives his mom some clues on the PC screen
She should know better than most: As the manager of 17-year-old Benjy Fish, a professional gamer, she watched him progress so fast that she pulled him out of school at 15 so he could focus on the game.
She didn’t start the game herself until February of this year, playing in the family’s living room while Benjy played in his bedroom, admitting she was “really bad” – but soon realized there was a market for streamers who want to see average players in action.
Mum of two, Mrs Fish, who lives in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, said: ‘I played a game called Banjo-Kazooie on the Nintendo 64 with the kids when they were very young, but I hadn’t played any games. in years.
My computer had such outdated graphics that it couldn’t even run Fortnite.
‘Because of Benjy I was already involved with that world, but I didn’t understand much of it.
“Everything happens so fast in Fortnite that you don’t always know what’s going on when you see someone else playing, but when you play yourself, you understand more about the endgame and the strategies.
At the peak of her gaming, Ms. Fish played for 18 straight hours, taking only short breaks to make cups of tea and use the bathroom
“Since I’ve done it, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from other parents who are starting to play with it.
“I have quite a competitive side and enjoy the challenge of learning a new skill. It’s fun.
“The building element of the game is pretty cool, although I can’t and usually just hide or turn to the dead side, meaning I go to a part of the map where there aren’t many players.”
Fortnite involves dropping 100 players on an island, where they must build defensive fortresses, find weapons and kill each other until only one player is left.
Benjy, who started playing at age 13 and was signed up by esports company NRG at age 15, has made more than £500,000 from professional gaming after qualifying for international tournaments, including the Fortnite World Cup in 2019 .
While his mother is far from being able to match his earnings, their fortune stands in stark contrast to Benjy’s early years, when he and his family were left homeless after his father David died of esophageal cancer at age 57. Benjy was only eight months old at the time.
Mrs. Fish, who was widowed at the age of 42, was unable to pay their rent and had to rely on benefits from her parents.
While still living in a rented house – Benjy is too young for a mortgage and most of their income is tied up in the family business – Ms Fish said Benjy’s father would have been “extremely proud” of what they had accomplished.
She said, “I’ve always been focused on work and raising the kids. It was great fun doing something completely different. I’ve had the most fun I’ve ever had.’
Mrs. Fish bought her son Charles, now 24 and a jazz guitarist, a used laptop when he was eight years old.
While Charles was only concerned with online gaming and soon lost interest, Benjy became addicted to playing games such as League of Legends and Rocket League from the age of eight.
While his mother is far from being able to match his earnings, their fortune stands in stark contrast to Benjy’s early years, when he and his family were left homeless after his father David died of esophageal cancer at age 57. Benjy was only eight months old at the time. Mrs. Fish, a widow at age 42, was unable to pay their rent and had to rely on benefits from her parents
In real life, he was an avid bowler and entered his first tournament when he was three years old. But when he was diagnosed with the joint swelling condition Osgood-Schlatter at age 11, he stopped playing sports and spent more and more time playing online.
Ms Fish only realized how good he was when he entered a tournament in February 2019 with his Norwegian gaming partner Martin Foss Andersen, known as Mr Savage, and they won £7,200 each.
At the same time, Fortnite creator Epic Games lowered the age limit for participants from 16 to 13 and Benjy qualified for the game’s first World Cup.
Ms Fish approached his principal of Reed’s School in Cobham, Surrey, asking for leniency with his class schedule, as Benjy often played into the early hours. When he was refused leave, she pulled him out of school.
She said: “He needs 10 to 12 hours of training a day if he participates and six to eight hours a day if he doesn’t.
“Being signed as a professional esports player is the equivalent of being signed as a professional footballer for a Premier League club. You have to make the hours.
“I took him home to teach him when he was 15. It was a difficult decision to make, but I have always been a big believer in giving your child the opportunity and encouraging them if they are passionate about something.”
Although Benjy has not yet taken GCSEs and stopped tutoring when he was 16, she said he could take exams later in life: “I didn’t go to college and went back to college when I was in my 50s. My father too.’
Fortnite, among other online games, has come under criticism from behavioral experts, who say it can cause anger and mood swings in teens and is designed to be addictive. There are also concerns about the level of violence associated with participation, although it’s not as gory as games like Call of Duty.
Mrs. Fish is adamant hers and Benjy’s habit is healthy. She said: “Gaming is largely misunderstood.
“When your kids are gaming, they learn other skills, such as leadership, communication and team building. Those skills can be transferred to other professions.’
As part of Cope – the Coalition of Parents in Esports – she hopes to remove some of the stigma surrounding competitive gaming and educate parents about its benefits.
Anne Fish signed her own contract and produced content based on the game Benjy is already playing at the highest level
She hasn’t done her job, though; according to Verto Analytics, only 0.1 percent of Fortnite players are over 55.
“Parents need to look at the bigger picture,” she said. “There are now degrees in esports and career opportunities in the management and administrative side of things.
“Hopefully myself and other parents can help dispel the myths that exist.”
She accidentally fell into gaming. Benjy took online chess lessons from Norwegian grandmaster Jon Ludwig Hammer, who also livestreamed his Fortnite game on Twitch, a platform popular with gamers.
Ms Fish said, “When I saw Hammer streaming and wasn’t very good at it, I thought I could stream too.
“There was also an audience because I was Benjy’s mother and I was trying to learn how to play.”
She started live streaming on Twitch as mamabenjyfishy – Benjy plays as benjyfishy – and quickly gained followers.
She now has 166,000 subscribers on YouTube and 430,000 on Twitch. Former accountant Mrs. Fish said she had gone from being a mentor and advising young gamers about their tax dilemmas to a friend.
“The gaming community has really supported me,” she said. “They don’t see me as a mother, they see me as a friend, and we have online Monopoly nights and karaoke nights and we also enter competitions.”
She hopes to get to a professional level, but said it could take two years: “I’m old and not that good. Their skill level is different at their age.”
Ms. Fish is also working on two self-published books: one about Benjy’s rise to fame and a second about gaming from a parent’s perspective.
She said, “I stream for five or six hours most days and until 12 noon on tournament days.
“I’m having a great time and playing more than Benjy now.”