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A Fortnite out in Lakewood Ranch

Video game craze comes to Heritage Harbour.

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  • | 9:00 a.m. July 18, 2018
Jacob Jones, 12, from Greenbrook, watches as his player parachutes down to begin his second game.
Jacob Jones, 12, from Greenbrook, watches as his player parachutes down to begin his second game.
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As a group of 15 boys crowded into a room of the Stoneybrook Golf Club at Heritage Harbour on a Friday night to play the internet's hottest video game, Fortnite, Chris Bradshaw had to feel like the big winner.

Bradshaw, along with his brother, Jeff, and dad, Gary, bought the clubhouse and 18-hole golf course in February. and immediately started to consider ways to pump some excitement into their new facility.

One thing Chris Bradshaw noticed was the previous owners weren't really forward thinking when it came to attracting children.

“You know, the last owners catered to the snowbird crowd," Chris Bradshaw said. "In the summers, they would close early every night. Now we’ve got a pretty good crowd of families that come here. We’re trying to build a place for family and communities. If one family comes here because their kid plays Fortnite and ends up wanting to book a wedding or an event, then that’s more business for us.”

It would be interesting if a Battle Royale video game where kids are trying to wipe out the opponents to become the last man standing would lead to the club hosting a wedding.

On this particular night, Greenbrook 12-year-old Jacob Jones wasn't concerned about who was watching. He was mowing down the

competition and taking a great deal of satisfaction from doing so.

“I like playing with my friends even though we’re in two different places,” said Jones, indicating he plays at a higher level than most.

He then posed for a photo, using his fingers to shape an "L."

It was for "all of the 'L’s' (losses) I gave to the people I was playing.”

Jones and his fellow competitors found they could play their favorite game starting after school recessed for the summer in May. From the first tournament, Chris Bradshaw saw he was on to something.

 “You know, kids are crazy about this game," he said. "I had a lady come up to me one weekend to tell me that her kid had never stopped to read a sign before he saw our 'Fortnite' signs off State Road 64."

The prize each week is modest, a $25 gift card to a PlayStation Store. Bradshaw said when the tournament first began, he offered Nerf guns and toys as prizes, but soon learned Fortnite players don't play with toys or games not attached to a computer. He changed the award.

“It’s like a drug to these kids," Stoneybrook General Manager Mark Bruce said of Fortnite. "I’ve never seen anything like it. They can’t get enough.”

Arbor Reserve's Brock Pope was one of the parents visiting the clubhouse to watch his 7-year-old son, Red, play Fortnite. Red is so locked into the game he carried along his own Nintendo Switch, a handheld game playing system, instead of using the club's video screens.

“He plays too much,” said his mom, Jamie Pope. “I actually let him get away with it because he wants to chat with his friends now over the game. And it is teaching him how to type quickly and helping him with his reading comprehension.”

Typing and reading aren't likely to be the reasons Fortnite has the nation's youth fixated.

It is a combat game.

Heritage Harbour's Mike Stockton sat behind his three kids, Jaden (14), Rylen (12) and Kasen (8) as they took turns blowing away the enemy.

He said he didn't mind that it is a game based on violence because his kids realize it is only a game.

"They play probably three or four hours a day,” Mike Stockton said. “But I like to play with them. We’re a competitive family and we like to all play together.”

And now Bradshaw makes sure they have a place to go.


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