If there’s one game that has scared pretty much every parent in the world over the last six months it’s Fortnite. The media has been full of it, and it's been blamed for all sorts of problems with young people. At one point, it’s lowest point we feel, it was shown to be the reason why a very young girl was admitted to hospital with addiction issues. She had wet herself due to not leaving the game for a toilet break.
We love Fortnite, but we understand some parents will be nervous about it, to say the least. So we’ve put together a quick guide that answers some of the most common questions that parents have.
What is Fortnite?
It's a game where a number of players compete to win something called Victory Royale. This involves moving your on-screen character around a huge map, shooting (mostly) other player’s characters. The last player on the map wins.
There’s also another game inside Fortnite, which involves shooting zombies and trying to defend your fort. But hardly anyone really plays this much.
Is Fortnite addictive?
Yes, highly addictive. But all good games are. We can’t take away from the fact that this is a well-produced, exciting game.
The most addictive games keep offering challenge, while also allowing players to feel they are meeting with regular success using gamification (of course). Anyone who spends more than a few hours playing Fortnite will experience exactly that.
There are in-game challenges that are motivating, and also (importantly) achievable. You can team up with your real-life friends and play (so it’s social), and you can also buy ‘skins’ and gliders (transport items) among many other goodies. That keeps players coming back for more and more.
I thought it was free?
It is 100% free to play. You can download it for free. However, if you want your on screen character to look cool wearing the latest skin, you can pay for the privilege. You can also pay for a Battle Pass, which gives you perks that make it easier to progress. Like many other games and online software or apps, this is called a freemium model. The basics are free but there are 'premium' elements for which the user has to pay.
The ‘cost’ in Fortnite comes about because players want the latest cool stuff, or they want to become high level players quicker.
However, you can achieve these things without paying. It will just take you a lot longer.
So why is my child become frustrated and angry when I ask them to stop playing?
There’s that addictive aspect. There’s also something else too.
The problem with Fortnite is that it takes place in rounds. Players are dropped into a map and the battles take 20 mins (and more) to complete. This means that every time your child joins a game, you can expect them to be on it for a long time. Your child would have to be highly disciplined (and not addicted) to play one round and then leave the game. There's also the social aspect of peer-pressure here too. I mean, which member of a group would want to be the one who has to leave early?
This is what cause problems. Your child could become angry when they have to leave a game part way through. And they don't want to play just one round. So some parents are finding that they ask their child to come of the game and they won't, or can't do so.
This creates immense frustration.
In the past, before video games became what they are today, they asked for just a few minutes at a time, and people could leave without worrying about the impact of walking away. Fortnite rewards long periods of play, and it rewards ‘grinding’ (working very hard) to get to the top levels.
At the same time, play involves being beaten by other players in high-stress situations. No matter how you dress this problem up, it’s only going to stress kids out if they get bested by another player. It can become personal, and there are definitely emotions at play when a defeat occurs.
So what do I do?
As a parent, you’ll have to ensure your child plays for sensible amounts of time. If they play for any longer than an hour, they should have breaks, and many parents are happy with a couple of hours play a day. This may not seem like much, but over 7 days that’s 14 hours.
You know your child the best. A sensible combination of schoolwork, physical exercise and gaming is possible. Get that particular balance right, and you should find that Fortnite isn't a problem you can't deal with.