Kids these days and their dad-gum vidja games!
At least, that’s what tabloids across Europe want you to think, as they try to blame Mesut Özil’s back injury on a Fortnite “addiction.”
Özil, Arsenal’s German No. 10, hasn’t played since Nov. 11. He’s been having back problems, according to the club.
And in an apparent effort to create more drama around the polarizing figure, various tabloids across Europe have decided to run a story claiming the injury is down to Özil playing too much Fortnite, the popular battle royale shooter.
Özil has missed the Gunners’ last four matches (though he was on the bench on Nov. 25) and hasn’t played in eight games so far this season (not including two in the EFL Cup, for which most regulars were rested by manager Unai Emery).
So of course there has to be some nefarious reason this placid footballer is unable to play, because back injuries are only for losers, or something.
This has led to an “investigation” that has been followed up on by such media outlets as Die Bild in Germany, the Daily Star in England and Marca in Spain.
Die Bild started this tomfoolery with an article on Thursday suggesting Özil was injured because of his time spent playing Fortnite, quoting a university professor as saying playing Fortnite “can” be the cause of his back problems. Keep in mind, this professor hasn’t examined Özil. Just as when people try to claim Donald Trump has Alzheimer’s despite never talking to him, this sort of diagnosis is unsafe and unethical.
The Daily Star looked into Özil’s play time on Fortnite and found, via Wasted on Fortnite, that he has played 5,221 matches. They extrapolated that data to suggest that given the average match length of 20 minutes, Özil has therefore played 104,420 minutes, or 1,740 hours, or 72 days. This, they suggested, equated to five hours per day. Of course, this ignores the fact that matches only last 20 minutes if you reach the end; players can lose a match after just a minute or two before starting up the next one.
Now, we’re not here to say those are completely insignificant numbers, but we think it’s silly to reach some of the conclusions that these tabloids have jumped to.
While the author of the Daily Star piece was careful not to use the word “addictive” himself in his writing, the article featured the word more than half a dozen times in headlines and cutlines, and the article ended with a quote from a random dude on Twitter talking about addiction. Claiming this as an addiction is absolute folly — would these tabloids claim Özil was addicted to reading if he had been plowing through books for five hours every day?
Five hours (probably closer to four or less) playing a game isn’t really that big of a deal for a professional athlete. Soccer players spend a lot of their days at the training facilities, but they also have loads of downtime as their bodies heal and rest from their daily physical exertions. This leaves footballers with free time in which they don’t want to be too active, thus why Lionel Messi and Freddy Adu have so much time to watch TV and movies.
Instead of doing something passive like watching a movie, Özil spends his downtime playing video games. Nerdy entertainment like comic book movies or fantasy TV shows have become more mainstream in the past decades, but video games for whatever reason are often still seen in a different light. The world has come a long way since the 1970s and 80s when idiots claimed playing Dungeons & Dragons was akin to worshipping the devil. But as we see with this Mesut Özil injury story, those who play video games are very often misunderstood.
Özil has made no secret his love for video games and Fortnite. In October he launched his career as a Twitch streamer, even picking up a win with his Arsenal teammate Sead Kolasinac. (The Bosnian Hulk was still coming back from a knee injury at that point, but no one said he was playing too many video games.)
Özil is actually pretty good at the game, racking up 600 wins, which is nothing to scoff at considering you’re going up against either 99 other players, 48 other duos or 24 other four-man squads in any given match.
Footballers, by virtue of how much they’re paid, are placed under an impossible microscope. And if you’re a well-liked figure, you get a bit more leeway, even if you do something really fucking stupid like drunk driving. But if fans and the media have a negative opinion of you, they might claim you’re an “addict” just for playing video games.
Özil, like just about everyone in the world, is a complicated figure. He does a ton of charity work in his off time, but also was recently reportedly caught on camera using nitrous oxide laughing gas, which isn’t illegal, but is frowned upon as “hippy crack.”
Just because the footballer likes to play video games doesn’t mean he’s injuring himself by doing so. Most people I know (myself included) find comfortable ways to play video games for long periods of time, even if it seems like we’re scrunched over a computer monitor. We get up and stretch once in a while; we don’t just sit down for five hours straight playing games (OK, maybe we do sometimes). Özil is probably no different, and suggesting otherwise without any real evidence is absurd.
Özil is unlikely to appear in Arsenal’s match against Huddersfield on Saturday, pushing his absence close to a month long.
But instead of blaming his injury on video games with no proof is insulting. We might as well blame it on Prince William for making Özil stand awkwardly to pose for this photo.
Thank you for your time - HRH Prince William - Duke of Cambridge What an honour meeting you for the "football for peace" project and taking part in the youth leadership season with you #M1Ö #FootballForPeace #footballsavelives #SeeYouSoon @KensingtonRoyal @FfP_Global pic.twitter.com/BTS8APFWec— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) November 22, 2018