If you’re a parent, you’ve most likely encountered Fortnite–the hottest thing sweeping through primary schools since Snapchat. Tweens and adults alike are obsessing over the game ever since it dropped in September 2017, but at some point, parents might just find themselves asking – Is Fortnite consuming my kid?
What is this “Fortnite” my children constantly speak of?
To start with the basics, let’s first try and wrap our heads around what Fortnite actually is. In the simplest of terms, it’s a game. However, if you talk to someone who is an avid player, they might tell you something more like, “Fortnite is my life!”
The game comes in two versions. Fortnite: Save the World is set on a post-apocalyptic Earth where survivors must band together in teams of up to four to collect and protect resources while fighting off zombie-like creatures called ‘Husks’ in a stormy and weather hostile environment. If you have ever played Super Mario Smash Bros or, reminiscent of simpler times, King of the Hill/Raft, then you understand the concept of “last [wo]man standing” games–which is the premise of Fortnite Battle Royale. Multiple players (100 actually) are dropped onto an island and must locate weapons, shields and supplies with the goal of being the last survivor.
Though Fortnite has been described as a “shooter game”, it is actually much more benign than the Call of Dutys or Grand Theft Autos of the world. Fortnite is a third person shooter game, which means that the player’s avatar (or character) is visible on the screen, creating a sense of disconnect between person and character. Furthermore, the game is cartoonish in a style that mimics Pixar’s The Incredibles, so though there is violence, it is not gory or gratuitous–more slapstick–as the goal is to eliminate rather than kill your foe.
Why is my kid so hooked?
The strong social aspect and immediate gratification of Fortnite makes it so… irresistible. It’s a live game, so you play with other people “logged on.” And because the game can be downloaded across a wide array of platforms, from Macs to PCs, Xboxs to PS4s, and even onto mobile devices, there are always opponents available within the massive community base. Fortnite has an estimated 125 million downloads worldwide and holds a record of roughly 3 million people playing at one time.
Also, with such a wide fan base, naturally there are star players that have even reached mega celebrity. One player, known as Ninja, rakes in half a million monthly by simply streaming his game feed onto YouTube. He even has more “social interactions” online than Cristiano Ronaldo – the world’s most famous athlete and star soccer player for the Portugal national team.
More intriguing for youth than a chance at potential stardome, is that Fortnite is free, so you don’t have to ask mom and dad for their credit card, it’s stimulating and colorful, and with all its’ spontaneous dance sessions, dinosaur costumes, camaraderie and competitiveness, it’s just a really fun game.
Is there a cause for concern?
As with anything that your child can have access to without your knowledge or supervision, you should be cautious. Though the violence is not grotesque, Fortnite is still a shooter game and it can be argued that it even glorifies violence by making light of it in a very entertaining way. Because the game is free, children under the intended audience age of twelve can download and play the game on nearly any device. So be sure to have those parental controls secured and even try playing with your kid, or at least observing to make sure the contents of the game are age appropriate by your standards.
Also, because the game is hosted online, your child can play with people from around the world. Though this can expose them to a wider community and new cultures, there is no way for you as the parent to know who is actually on the other end of the line and what exactly they are saying to your child.
There is also the potential risk of your child becoming a little too consumed by Fortnite. Teens have addictive personalities by nature, so it is always important to monitor how their time is spent. If a child becomes too enveloped by a video game, they are likely going to start neglecting other needs and responsibilities like school work, sleep, other hobbies, and in-person quality time with family and friends.
What cautionary steps should I take to make sure Fortnite doesn’t consume my child?
Elicit and stay strong to the 2 to 3 recommended hours of recreational screen time per day, but 1-2 hours during weekdays is probably best. Be sure that your child remains engaged in a wide variety of interests and activities and to not let any one thing consume them – be it Fortnite, YoutTube, or whatever the next trending phenomenon may be.
Be sure to be open with your kids and expect the same from them. Know who their friends are, especially the friends they’ve made online. Also encourage them to talk to you if anything odd happens or if someone online says something that makes them feel uncomfortable. Keeping open lines of communication at all time will help to facilitate honest dialogue with your children. Ask your kid how they feel while they are playing the game too, and if any alarms go off, trust your gut and intervene while trying to explain to the best of your ability why you must do so.
Also, be sure to keep your parental controls on constant check and always be aware of what your child is downloading and viewing online. Though there are many positives about the World Wide Web, children are not equipped to handle it on their own. Teach your child internet safety. As with any danger children face, like crossing the street or learning how to swim, if you teach your children the right tools early on, they will be able to utilize them later when they step out there on their own.
If you suspect you or someone close to you has a gaming disorder, more information and resources are available here.
Cover image, source unknown.