Team 33 has signed an eight-year-old to its Fortnite roster, and the legality of this move has been scrutinised owing to the child’s age and the expectations of his contract.
Earlier this month, Joseph “33 Gosu” Deen (the player in question) received a $33,000 signing bonus and high-performance gaming hardware worth approximately $5,000. “It’s a dream come true!” said Deen in the press release provided by Team 33. “While many other teams didn’t take me seriously due to my young age, Team 33 scouted me through Fortnite games and let me train and learn with them daily. I couldn’t be happier today to become an official member of the team.” Deen’s skill is undeniable, as he has been training solidly for two years for the chance to become a pro.
“We are beyond excited to have Joseph on our exclusive Team 33 roster,” said Tyler Gallagher, one of the founders of Team 33, and praised Deen’s dedication to the game. “We have secretly been scouting talent for our roster and games over the last few years and are proud to officially sign Joseph. We made it a point to train him over the past few years because young gamers are the future, and we want to start training them early. He has shown incredible tenacity and commitment to the team over the last two years and has trained almost daily with our team. It has now finally all paid off and is a momentous day for all of us.”
Though congratulations are in order for this achievement, its legality is being given the third degree by the industry and the general public. Only a week ago were the family of six-year-old Call of Duty player RowdyRogan found to have pretended that Activision banned his account in an attempt to create viral content. Furthermore, Fortnite has a minimum age for its tournaments, 13 years of age, which was publicised when FaZe Clan signed the eleven-year-old player H1ghSky1 to its roster.
Speaking to Kotaku, Gallagher maintained that Team 33 is not in violation of any labor law by signing the young gamer. “He doesn’t have to work,” he explained. “He’s just gaming… We’re not flying him out anywhere. He’s not entering tournaments. He’s playing like he would play on Saturday or Sunday. We’re legally allowed to give money to him because we believe in him and we’re making an investment.” The contract was examined by Deen’s mother before it was signed, and it includes a clause which allows them to void the contract if gaming is prioritised over the child’s formal education.
Additionally, the contract concerns the development of Deen’s YouTube channel, training him in Fortnite and Call of Duty, and to create merchandise based on Deen. Again, the waters are muddied when it comes to Call of Duty, as it is literally a game with an age restriction of 18 years. Team 33 will also gain a 33% share of the profits from his channel and merchandise, and the channel will be repossessed by the company should Deen leave the team.
Kotaku also consulted an esports lawyer, Ryan Fairchild, for their perspective. “My gut says that a Commissioner of Labor or Secretary of Labor would want to look at this closely and probably not like it,” they concluded. However, Deen’s mother is thrilled for her son, calling the company an “amazing team,” and is in regular contact with Gallagher. Personally, I think it’s odd, even if the child isn’t being paid or sponsored to play his favourite game.