A young Brazilian Fortnite player, Zenon, burst into tears during a stream after his account was banned by Epic Games, supposedly because he is only nine years old, and therefore not allowed to compete in the in-game tournaments.
The young competitive player is part of Brazilian organization DETONA Gaming, but has been handed a 1500-day ban from Fortnite. He had been playing “Arena mode,” the competitive playlist in the game, which requires players to be at least 13 years old.
Zenon was handed the suspension due to his age, but it has caused uproar, especially in the Brazilian competitive scene, with the hashtag #FreeZenon trending on Twitter.
The clip of Zenon’s ban went viral on social media, as he burst into tears with his father watching on.
que isso pelo amor de deus??? a criança joga com o pai do lado, trás sustenta pra família jogando. pra epic games tá tudo bem destruir o sonho de uma criança?
— thateuss (@thateuss) May 5, 2020
Even Tyler “Ninja” Blevins stepped in to defend the player, arguing that although rules are rules, the punishment is too harsh, and that Zenon shouldn’t be banned from playing regular modes in Fortnite.
Unless Arenas start offering money for placements there is no reason for #FreeZenon to be banned from them until he turns 13. That being said the age requirement to compete in Fortnite is 13 and he is 9. He shouldn’t be banned from any other aspect of Fortnite 100% @FortniteGame
— Ninja (@Ninja) May 5, 2020
Top esport players from Zenon’s home country also spoke out in his defense, including professional CS:GO players Fernando “fer” Alvarenga and Vito ‘kNgV’ Guiseppe.
kNgV wrote “no one should have the right to ban someone because of age, this is the esports revolution, there are more children with these dreams.”
#FreeZenon ninguém deve ter o direito de banir alguém por causa de idade.. essa é a revolução do esports, vão vim mais crianças com esses sonhos.. igual a mesma criança que sonha em ser jogador de futebol.. não tira isso de uma criança.
— Vito Giuseppe (@kngvito) May 5, 2020
Esquece, é #FreeZenon ?
— Fernando Alvarenga (@fer) May 5, 2020
Professional League of Legends player Leonardo ‘Robo’ Souza said, “It is totally wrong to prevent the development of a talent within esports. The boy is 100% accompanied and supported by his father. You can’t do that to a child! He just wants to have fun!”
É totalmente errado impedir o desenvolvimento de um talento dentro do esporte eletrônico. O garoto é 100% acompanhado e apoiado pelo pai. Não podem fazer isso com uma criança! Ele só quer se divertir! #FreeZenon
— ROBOOOOO (@robolol1) May 5, 2020
Fortnite streamer Dakotaz spoke about the issue on Twitch, arguing “[Epic] shouldn’t have banned you like that! If you’re going to hand out a four-year ban, and they’re nine years old, they should have handled that a little differently in my opinion.”
— #FreeZenon ?? (@Of_Zenon) May 5, 2020
Epic Games has not commented publicly on the player’s ban, but Zenon himself is determined to see it overturned.
Fortnite is one of the most lucrative esports if a player can make it to the professional level, with Fortnite World Cup 2019 winner Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf winning the biggest individual prize ever of $3 million.
Even just at the semi-professional level, players can earn money playing in-game, online tournaments, such as the Cash Cup. However, to compete, Epic enforces a strict 13+ minimum age, which they clearly take very seriously, given the severity of Zenon’s punishment.
Playing alongside his father, Zenon has a popular YouTube channel with over 130,000 subscribers.