Fortnite pro, big-time streamer and good son pays off his mom’s student loans

Here’s a heartwarming story to close out your weekend: A top flight Fortnite pro and streamer paid off all of his mother’s student loans. His livestream at the end of the week captured the moment, and his mom’s delighted, genuine surprise.

As to that, Aydan Conrad’s mother sounds more surprised by her son’s ability to engineer the payoff, rather than coming up with the money for it. Aydan has 1.4 million Twitch followers and, as a member of Ghost Gaming, more than $125,000 in Fortnite winnings, so his mom reasonably knows he has the means of retiring her loans. Still, she says, “I don’t need anything, Aydan, You’ve done enough for me.”

Besides, with regard to her student debt, “You can’t … it’s not a federal loan,” she says. “I don’t think you can touch that.” But then Ayden says the magic word — evidently the name of family, a friend or another go-between who can make the payment happen — and his mother realizes he’s not fooling around. Cue the waterworks, especially for Aydan. Even if she’s happy, it’s still rough for anyone to hear their Mom cry.

We’re not sure how much Aydan’s mom was in debt for college, but in the United States, the figures are grim enough to make it a crisis-level presidential campaign issue. The most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education show 42.9 million borrowers are responsible for $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. Of that pool, $575.49 billion is held by 14.1 million borrowers ages 35 to 49 — an average of $40,814.

So, yeah, this was probably a big deal. But “It’s not me,” Aydan says modestly, “It’s all the people watching my stream right now. They made it possible.” In gratitude, Mom comes up with a thoroughly well deserved plug: “Everybody hit exclamation-point SUB and exclamation-point PRIME,” she laughs.

Aydan was most recently seen at the Fortnite World Cup Finals, earning $50,000 for finishing 37th in Tier 1 of Duos play, and another $10,000 teaming up with Robert Abisi of the DJ duo Lost Kings in the Celebrity Pro-Am.


Doom documentary discusses demon designs

Noclip, the documentary team that delivered deep dives on Fallout 76, Bethesda Game Studios’ origins, and the history of Quake, is back on the case with a 20-minute look at the demons of Doom Eternal. It’s part preview, part design documentary, and it gives ample time to the game’s all-new foes as well as icons updated for present day.

Hugo Martin, Doom Eternal’s game director, starts with four throwbacks to 1994’s Doom 2: Hell on Earth: The Arachnotron, Archvile, Hellified Soldier and, of course, Pain Elemental, one of the series’ more iconic beasts.

The Pain Elemental’s updated look still draws on the Cacodemon’s — throughout the series both units have been visually similar to the point of being mistaken for each other. But Martin says the Pain Elemental, in addition to being a tougher bullet-sponge enemy, also has a personality akin to a “grumpy landlord.”

Archvile, which also appeared in Doom 2 26 years ago, occupies a role similar to the Summoner’s from Doom (2016), Martin explained. Still, Archvile is rendered with a nod to his hell-raising pose and style from the original sprites id designers created so long ago. “It’s a testament to those original id guys, because they still hold up,” Martin says.

Among the newer baddies, Martin and his colleagues have cooked up a variety of threats designed to get players to “do the Doom dance.” Roughly speaking, that’s to prioritize enemies, identify their weak spots, target them with the optimal weapon, and always stay moving.

Whiplash, the Doom series’ first female demon (though she does not have breasts; id and Bethesda wanted to use her in marketing materials) is a good example of a foe to keep you on your toes. She drops to the ground, changing the player’s aim perspective, and slithers to a flanking attack. It’s important to use freezing or stunning weapons on her to counter her mobility and get her out of the way before lesser AIs on the map overwhelm you.

“They’re some of the best chess pieces the studio has ever made,” Martin boasts, somewhat justifiably. Martin admits the challenges they put forth can be frustrating, but for players who can pay attention and adapt, designers hope these enemies will push players into a more varied and fun style of play.

For more on Doom Eternal, check out our preview from earlier this month. Chris Grant says that for all of its over-the-top violence, the Doom series “is absolutely a Saturday morning cartoon. And Doom Eternal gets that, and leans into that, more than any Doom game I’ve ever played.” Doom Eternal launches March 20 on Google Stadia, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One, with a version for Nintendo Switch following sometime later.


What we discovered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

Each year, filmmakers, studios, and streamers descend in Park City, Utah to present and watch the best new independent films of the year. The 2020 Sundance Film Festival, running from Jan. 23 through Feb. 2, will unveil 118 feature-length films, representing 27 countries and 44 first-time feature filmmakers. And each night, Hollywood studios like Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, A24, and Neon will compete with Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Amazon, Apple, and smaller digital-first platforms for the rights to distribute those movies to you, the potential audience member.

Unlike Alien vs. Predator, whoever wins, you also win.

Polygon’s entertainment team is on the ground at this year’s Sundance to get the early word on the premieres. Here’s everything you need to know.

Start here


Boys State packs all the flaws of American politics into one weeklong experiment

Polygon’s entertainment team is on the ground at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, bringing you first looks at what are sure to be some of the year’s best blockbuster-alternative offerings. Here’s what you need to know before these indie films make their way to theaters, streaming services, and the cinematic zeitgeist.

Logline: The ridiculously entertaining documentary Boys State follows a thousand teenage boys as they create a state government from the ground up, and wind up reproducing all of American democracy’s worst principles and flaws as well.

Longerline: Since 1939, the American Legion has hosted an annual nationwide leadership event where teenagers in each state gather for a political simulation. Over the course of a week, they separate into parties, create platforms, elect a leadership, and eventually put forward their party candidates for governor, the event’s highest position. Boys State tracks the boys’ side of the project’s 2018 Texas edition. (The events are gender-split, so Boys State and Girls State are carried out separately in most states.)

Married directors Jesse Moss (who directed the excellent Army-combat-LARP doc Full Battle Rattle and the Netflix series The Family) and Amanda McBaine (his frequent producer, making her directorial debut) follow the process from the beginning, interviewing some participants at home before they even arrive at the event, then following them through canvassing, coalition-building, and intense politicking for office. Their film centers on one contentious campaign, as a wide field of nominees for governor of Boys State 2018 narrows down to two candidates, and more particularly, the would-be kingmakers behind them.

The doc lightly covers the vast sweep of the Boys State phenomenon, which feels impossibly crowded for one week of activity — it includes sports matches, a talent show, a parade (complete with a Boys State marching band), a mock news organization staffed by teenagers putting out podcasts and running a mini-TV station, and much more. But Moss and McBaine dive deeply into the gubernatorial race, as a few key players emerge. They track the boys’ strategies and schemes, their on-the-fly adjustments to election results and debate kerfuffles, and their growing determination to win, which results in an increasingly ugly race. And along the way, the participants wind up re-creating the flaws in the American political system with remarkable fidelity, from rabble-rousing populism and flag-waving in place of real issues to a reliance on smear campaigns and dirty tricks.

The quote that says it all: In a one-on-one interview, one candidate gives the filmmakers a candid assessment of how he covered up his own progressive beliefs in order to appeal to the event’s largely conservative demographic. “You gotta say what you gotta say in order to win,” he sighs. “It’s probably a questionable thing to lie in politics, but getting here certainly gave me a new appreciation for why politicians lie to get into office.”

What’s it trying to do? The filmmakers don’t have a clear agenda or a clear bias. Progressive viewers might see them as progressive, based on the comedic moments of hypocrisy and demagoguery that make it into the doc, especially from the more right-leaning participants. Conservative viewers might see them as more sympathetic to those participants’ views, as the filmmakers give the boys time to expound on why abortion or gun control are wrong, or why supporting America means supporting Donald Trump. Balancing those views out, it feels like the directors are genuinely just out to boil a hugely complicated event down to a few approachable, representative, highly relevant narrative threads.

Does it get there? Does it ever. The event starts off looking like a goofy role-playing and character-building exercise for precocious junior politicians, but it rapidly turns into a high-intensity battle. At first, the stakes are small and personal, particularly for participants like Steven Garza, a comparatively shy kid who struggles to get other boys to sign onto his initial campaign. But once the boys are arbitrarily split into Nationalist and Federalist parties, a rabid sense of competition overtakes them. Nationalist party chair Rene Otero faces what he sees as a racist uprising among his party, while his Federalist counterpart, Ben Feinstein, tries to exploit Otero’s image problems. As Garza emerges as one of the Nationalist front-runners, he faces competition from Rob Macdougall, a charismatic good-ol’-boy type trying to manipulate his peers by appealing to their enthusiasm for guns and a good time.

One of the many things that makes Boys State entertaining as well as relevant is the way Moss and McBaine capture these kids’ different facets, and track how their combined ambition and naïveté play into the big picture. On the one hand, the participants clown around with the process, proposing legislation to address “the looming threat of alien invasion” and the difficulty of pronouncing the letter W. (The wag who introduces that bill demands that Boys State officially change the letter to “dubya.”) A favorite leadership tactic involves getting them to chant, howl, or hoot like apes in order to focus their attention. There’s a lot of young male energy in these proceedings.

But at the same time, Boys State captures the actual moments where these boys — many of them activists, many of them already working toward planned military or political careers — realize that bipartisanship and compromise are hard, while inventing scandals, loudly appealing to patriotism and group loyalty, and talking in noncommittal soundbites is easy. In one-on-one confessionals with the filmmakers, the film’s primary subjects openly admit the various ways they’ve learned that telling the truth or playing fair with their rivals would get them nowhere in politics.

Moss and McBaine’s access throughout the doc is startling: they capture everything from emotional breakdowns to the boys giggling over the dumb Instagram memes they make to dis their opposite numbers, and they track everything from miniature scandals to cynical strategy sessions. (Inserting some lavish praise for the audience into a speech, Rob tells his inner council, “People like that stuff. People like that stuff a lot.”) And it’s all edited together in a way that keeps it lively, tells a series of distinct stories, and builds real tension around the results. What starts out as a bunch of kids playing politics turns into a nail-biting referendum on different forms of American thought, and a preview of the next generation of American leaders.

What does that get us? It might leave viewers a little depressed, and very curious both about how other Boys State events play out in different states, and how Girls State compares. It’s especially worth wondering if the girls’ events typically make abortion such a central issue, and whether they decide as cavalierly that it should be universally banned. Still, there are so many laughs, and so many telling and relatable moments, and so many fascinating, colorful characters here, Boys State is utterly mesmerizing.

The most meme-able moment: At one early point on the campaign trail, Rob delivers a bro-y speech designed to get the audience screaming his name, but gets a tepid response. Then Steven follows with a fiery call for Nationalist pride and unity that has the crowd howling with approval and standing to applaud him. The directors cut to Rob’s reaction, and capture a perfect expression of stunned humiliation that feels like it could be slapped on a Know Your Meme page called “What Just Happened?”

When can we see it? Boys State is at Sundance seeking distribution, so it’s going to be a while, but it seems inevitable that it’ll get picked up.


Soulcalibur’s samurai gets a showdown with Haohmaru

Announced this weekend at Evo Japan 2020, here is Haohmaru from Samurai Shodown crossing over into Soulcalibur 6. He’s taking on his Soulcalibur counterpart Mitsurugi in this reveal trailer.

Haohmaru is the second of the four characters comprising Soulcalibur 6’s second season of downloadable content. He’s the protagonist of the Samurai Shodown series (and cover star for the 2019 game), first appearing with the franchise’s debut in 1993. He previously crossed over in the two Capcom vs. SNK collaborations of 1999 and 2001.

Mitsurugi, likewise, is no stranger to Soulcalibur fans, being a prominent part of the series since its inception in 1995. So if Bandai Namco and SNK are touting Haohmaru as a special guest star, there’s no more appropriate adversary for him.

Haohmaru’s launch date is no more specific than “coming soon,” this spring, which may mean March. He was announced way back in August when Namco put out its first trailer for the Season Pass 2 DLC. Hildegard von Krone has already joined the game; creation parts sets will also accompany each fighter. Soulcalibur 6’s Season Pass 2 is $33.99.


Kylo Ren returns to SNL for an Undercover Boss curtain call

Contrary to the popular assumption, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t close out that family’s nine-movie saga. This does. Adam Driver on Saturday Night Live revisited both Kylo Ren and the Undercover Boss sketch he did four years ago for the premiere of The Force Awakens. It’s pretty alright.

It’s still a riff on the same themes that made the first skit funny so, yeah, it’s somewhat derivative. But hey — this could very well be the last time Driver ever performs as Kylo Ren. Whatever else people want to argue about Rise of Skywalker, Driver busted his ass for that role, so him getting back into character one last time is a treat.

Applause breaks include a disrespectful stormtrooper, Kylo/Randy misapplying a generational slur, and then going all Michael Bolton on a printer. By the way, I’m sure we have more than a few Wookieepedia nerds here, can someone tell me what this post-it note beside Bowen Yang says? My guess is it’s something about Stefon’s lawyer’s girlfriend working at Yoshinoya Beef Bowl.

screen capture of a scene in SNL highlighting a post-it note with alien writing on it Image: Polygon screencap via NBC

And if you’re looking for a recap of the original Undercover Boss spoof from January 2016, here you go:


Netflix dominates Annie Awards as Klaus wins Best Feature

Each year, the Hollywood chapter of the International Animated Film Association hold the Annie Awards, naming the year’s best in animation. Not only do they recognize the broad swath of achievements from the year, but with only seven days before Oscar voting begins, they stand as an influential moment in deciding which film could win the coveted Oscar.

The 2020 nominations had Frozen 2 and Missing Link leading the list of contenders, but as we know, the Disney animated sequel didn’t even make the nominee list for the Academy Awards this year. Which explains why it also didn’t go home with Best Feature when the winners were announced on Saturday night. That honor went to Klaus, Netflix’s 2D animated holiday film directed by the long-overlooked Sergio Pablos. It’s worth noting that, since the Best Animated Feature category was created in 2002, 13 of the 18 winners of the Annies’ feature prize took home the Oscar.

Here’s a complete breakdown of the winners, which range from theatrical, episodic, and even commercial animation. Netflix came out on top with 19 wins across all the categories.

Best Feature


Netflix Presents A Production of The Spa Studios and Atresmedia Cine

Best Indie Feature

I Lost My Body

Xilam for Netflix

Best Special Production

How to Train Your Dragon: Homecoming

Dreamworks Animation

Best Short Subject

Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days

Regina Pessoa (Ciclope Filmes, National Film Board of Canada, Les Armateurs)

Best VR


Baobab Studios

Best Commercial

The Mystical Journey of Jimmy Page’s ’59 Telecaster

Nexus Studios

Best TV/Media – Preschool

Ask the Storybots

Jibjab Bros. Studios for Netflix

Best TV/Media – Children

Disney Mickey Mouse

Disney TV Animation/Disney Channel

BoJack Horseman and his roommate Todd Netflix

Best TV/Media – General Audience

Bojack Horseman

Tornante Productions, LLC for Netflix

Best Student Film

The Fox & The Pigeon

Sheridan College

Best FX for TV/Media

Love, Death & Robots

Blur for Netflix

Nominees: Viktor Németh, Szabolcs Illés, Ádám Sipos , Vladimir Zhovna

Best FX for Feature

Frozen 2

Walt Disney Animation Studios

Nominees: Benjamin Fiske, Alex Moaveni, Jesse Erickson, Dimitre Berberov, Kee Nam Suong

Best Character Animation – TV/Media

His Dark Materials

BBC Studios

Nominees: Aulo Licinio

Best Character Animation – Animated Feature


Netflix Presents A Production of The Spa Studios and Atresmedia Cine

Nominees: Sergio Martins

Best Character Animation – Live Action

Avengers: Endgame

Weta Digital

Nominees: Sidney Kombo-Kintombo

Best Character Animation – Video Game

Unruly Heroes

Magic Design Studios

Nominees: Sebastien Parodi, Nicolas Leger

Best Character Design – TV/Media

Carmen Sandiego

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing and DHX Media for Netflix

Nominees: Keiko Murayama

Best Character Design – Feature


Netflix Presents A Production of The Spa Studios and Atresmedia Cine

Nominees: Torsten Schrank

Best Direction – TV/Media

Disney Mickey Mouse

Disney TV Animation/Disney Channel

Nominees: Alonso Ramirez Ramos

Best Direction – Feature


Netflix Presents A Production of The Spa Studios and Atresmedia Cine

Nominees: Sergio Pablos

Best Music – TV/Media

Love, Death & Robots

Blur for Netflix

Nominees: Rob Cairns

Best Music – Feature

I Lost My Body

Xilam for Netflix

Nominees: Dan Levy

love, death and robots robots Image: Netflix

Best Production Design – TV/Media

Love, Death & Robots

Blur for Netflix

Nominees: Alberto Mielgo

Best Production Design – Feature


Netflix Presents A Production of The Spa Studios and Atresmedia Cine

Nominees: Szymon Biernaki, Marcin Jakubowski

Best Storyboarding – TV/Media

Carmen Sandiego

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing and DHX Media for Netflix

Nominees: Kenny Park

Best Storyboarding – Feature


Netflix Presents A Production of The Spa Studios and Atresmedia Cine

Nominees: Sergio Pablos

Best Voice Acting – TV/Media

Bob’s Burgers

20th Century Fox/Bento Box Entertainment

Nominees: H. Jon Benjamin

Best Voice Acting – Feature

Frozen 2

Walt Disney Animation Studios

Nominees: Josh Gad

Best Writing – TV/Media

Tuca & Bertie

Tornante Productions, LLC for Netflix

Nominees: Shauna McGarry

Best Writing – Feature

I Lost My Body

Xilam for Netflix

Nominees: Jérémy Clapin, Guillaume Laurant

Best Editorial – TV/Media

Love, Death & Robots

Blur for Netflix

Nominees: Bo Juhl, Stacy Auckland, Valerian Zamel

Best Editorial – Feature


Netflix Presents A Production of The Spa Studios and Atresmedia Cine

Nominees: Pablo García Revert


Uncharted movie bumps Masters of the Universe off March 2021 release date

Sony Pictures still thinks its Uncharted movie is coming out at some point during our current space-time continuum, even as it hunts for yet another director, the seventh for the 13-year-old project. Sony on Thursday moved the film from a Dec. 18, 2020 release date to March 5, 2021.

That’s bad news for He-Man. Deadline reports that Masters of the Universe already had the March 5, 2021 date; now it simply has no release date. Masters of the Universe is also listed in pre-production, per IMDB.

The move means Sony still expects shooting to begin on Uncharted sometime this year. Ruben Fleischer (Venom) is said to be Sony’s top choice for director, but that has not been formalized yet.

Tom Holland (the Hollywood Spider-Man since 2016) is aboard; all the date-moving is because Sony wants to get Uncharted shot before he goes off to work on the next Spidey sequel. Mark Wahlberg (Boogie Nights, Max Payne) has also been attached to the picture for a while. Rafe Judkins (TV’s Chuck and Agents of SHIELD) is writing, along with Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, who also wrote Masters of the Universe’s screenplay.

At the beginning of the year, Travis Knight (Bumblebee) left the Uncharted movie, joining Dan Trachtenberg, David O. Russell, Neil Burger, Seth Gordon and Shawn Levy in ghosting on Sony. An Uncharted movie has been discussed as a super sure-thing ever since the first game, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, launched on PlayStation 3 in 2007.


Batman: Arkham Knight gets another free costume on PS4

Almost five years after launching, Batman: Arkham Knight is still getting free alternate costumes for the Caped Crusader.

The latest is an Earth 2 Dark Knight skin, which will be available only for the PlayStation 4 version of the 2015 game. Developer Rocksteady Studios said yesterday that it would be available in the PlayStation Store beginning Jan. 28.

Earth-2 is the first wholesale retcon of the DC Universe, dating to 1961. The creation of a parallel earth explains why there are different versions of major heroes, such as the Golden Age Flash (Jay Garrick) and his better-known Silver Age reboot (Barry Allen). Batman was largely exempted from this as he was one of a few major DC characters with a single continuity going all the way back to his first appearance. Still, if there’s an Earth-2 with a bunch of superheroes on it, then it also has a Batman.

This costume was part of the Batman: Arkham Collection that launched last year in Europe. Previously, the skin was available only in the North American version of the 2015 game, and only through a couple of limited-time promotions. Last July, Rocksteady promised that the Earth-2 Dark Knight costume would be made free to all who own the PS4 game, worldwide, sometime early this year.

So it’s unlikely this points to anything in the rumored sequel that WB Montreal is said to be developing. The studio (makers of 2013’s Batman: Arkham Origins) has been teasing a new Batman video game since last autumn. Clues as to what that’s supposed to involve point to the Court of Owls, a sinister society of Gotham City’s old money elites, which first appeared in 2011’s Batman Vol. 2 #1. That was part of The New 52, yet another wholesale reboot of DC’s lineup.


Fallout 76 robbery victims say Bethesda gave them all their stuff back, plus more

Some of the more than 500 PC players robbed by Fallout 76 miscreants exploiting yet another bug over the holidays have not only had their inventories restored by Bethesda Game Studios, they’ve been given the game’s premium currency as a make-good.

This thread from Thursday in the Fallout 76 subreddit features comments from multiple players saying Bethesda managers cloned earlier versions of their characters in order to replace what was stolen — which means that in some cases they’ve doubled the stock of certain items, some of it really valuable. They’ve also been given Atoms, the microtransaction currency that buys scrap kits, cosmetics, plans and other goodies in the game’s Atom Store.

“Bethesda sent me an email today not only saying I would be getting back a 100% of the items I lost but will also be given 8250 atoms,” wrote thread-starter JedediahJedi. “Way above and beyond what I expected. […] Good on you Bethesda.”

JedediahJedi said Bethesda cloned their character and offered help transferring everything back to the original one. The 8,250 Atoms appears to be tied to whether a robbery victim was a Fallout 1st subscriber at the time of the crime, or not. Fallout 1st gives players 1,650 Atoms per month for their $12.99 buy-in. So those who were subscribers get five months’ worth of Atoms, and those who weren’t get three months, plus another three months of Fallout 1st access.

The exploit came to light just before Christmas. Hackers could open other players inventories and just take anything they wanted from it. This video shows the hack, which only affected the PC version of Fallout 76, in action. JedediahJedi says that’s their character getting burgled at the 1:35 mark.

On Dec. 24, Bethesda acknowledged the exploit and asked players victimized by the hack to send tickets to the company’s customer support team. The exploit itself was quickly patched out.

Redditor n0b0d7 added that they were also given a clone of their character from Dec. 20, three months of Fallout 1st and 4,950 atoms. “Same for me!” said Boavisteiro. “Really happy with them for fixing the mess and rewarding the players who lost their items.”

Another redditor pointed out that this was all good news because “We now know for certain that Bethesda can restore lost items somehow.” Good point, as Fallout 76 has frequently run into inventory bugs, exploits and other issues since its November 2018 launch.

It also leaves JedediahJedi and others with the happy problem of what to do with the extra stuff they have but don’t need. He’s going to give away “an ungodly amount” of scrap that has now doubled, via some kind of lottery-style drawing among the community. “Will also give away a set of the lower end [Fasnacht] masks […] And hell, a couple fully decked suits of power armor.”