Even if you don’t play video games, you’ve probably heard of Fortnite. The Hunger Games-style, last-player-standing gunfight has over 200 million users.
But it's not easy. The game’s maps and weaponry are constantly changing, which creates a steep learning curve. So players can go about improving their stats two ways: the honest way, and cheating.
For about $15 per session, a tutor can coach players through different techniques to improve how they aim and build cover against other players' onslaughts. Or, players can hire what's known as a "booster," another player who logs in to their accounts and plays for them.
Corey Sousa, a 28-year-old computer software salesman, has taken up Fortnite tutoring as his side hustle. Since then, he’s seen an increase in parents seeking out services like his for their kids.
“To me, it isn't different than, like, someone whose kid wants to get better at guitar or piano,” Sousa told VICE News. “Get them a few lessons, like maybe their kid won't be the next Justin Bieber or Nirvana drummer or whatever, but he might gain some confidence.”
After some practicing, Sousa added, some of his students have gone on to play in tournaments where the winner can take home up to $100 million in prize money. Some of his students have even won.
For the players who don’t want to practice, there’s an alternative. High-ranking players will log in to your account and "boost" your level, kill, and win — for a price. The more gameplay required, the higher the cost.
Christopher Eldabh became a full-time booster last year and even contracts some of his friends to help him complete orders. Even though his business is controversial among gamers, he doesn’t think what he's doing is wrong.
“You're paying for a service, and you're not exploiting the game,” he said. “You're not using any bugs or anything like that to get a win,” Eldabh told VICE News. “Epic [Games] is going to [punish us] if there is something that we're doing that is against their terms. You know, I hope that they’d let us know.”
This segment originally aired December 12, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.