Disclaimer: Your Fortnite player/child/young adult might claim that most of this information is incorrect, for which I have provided links to reliable resources and many more are available online if you wish to confirm any of the facts mentioned in this post.
If you are a parent (caretaker or teacher) of a child between 9 and 16, chances are that you’ve heard of the game Fornite. It is a global phenomenon and is the most game played. It is easily accessible on PS4, Xbox One, Mac and IoS. The most played version of the game is Battle Royale. It is completely free to download compared to other games which require a download or CD worth 50-60 $ (e.g. FIFA ’19).
So why are parents, teachers and psychologists around the world concerned about the game? They are just playing a game, a trend that everyone is following and will probably grow out of it. It enables them to play from the comfort of their homes, while also interacting with their friends online. The game seems non-violent and the graphics are quite cartoonish so that’s another thing we don’t need to worry about. Understanding some facts about the game can help us as parents and caretakers to manage the children accordingly.
The Game is engineered to be addictive.
There are three games modes: the most played and free Battle Royale, another free but private and less played Creative and the paid version Save the World. The paid version of Fortnite is played less but the game developers, EPIC games announces rewards and prizes for joining so children might be tempted to try the paid version. In the Creative mode, players can play privately with their friends and build their own challenges called death runs, maps etc
The most played version and the real problem is Battle Royale. A hundred players are dropped on an island for an online battle that lasts twenty minutes and the last one standing wins the game. So the odds of a child winning are 1/100. This is where the trouble starts. Players keep on playing to achieve the desired result, causing them to binge-play but never truly satisfied even after hours of playing.
The WHO has listed the Gaming Disorder in the 11th Revision of International Classification of Diseases. A child obsessed with the game is unlikely to get enough sleep, work and physical activity required for him/her to function normally.
The average Fortnite enthusiast might be playing for several hours a week and also watching it being played for several more which is not counted as game-playing usually. There are famous youtube channels streaming hours and hours of game playing which the children watch to mostly to improve their gaming skills.
The Game is Free
A child does not require approval from the parent for a game that is available for a free download, so they all have it on laptops, tablets etc. The game does not push for further purchases but to advance through the game players end up purchasing skins for their characters. These purchases only affect the experience of gaming.
The game is constantly upgraded and new featured items are available for purchase within a day of their release. These are just to improve the look of the character. In Pakistan, children have accounts of either US, UK or UAE. They usually buy PlayStation/XboX/PC cards to buy items from the ‘item shop’
Even if a parent decides to limit access to the game, the whole school or community (friends, class mates) are playing and discussing it. As it is a constantly evolving game, children who miss a few days while their peers are still involved, experience a lot of pressure and are sometimes mocked by others around them.
To interact with the other players in the game, players need a pair of headphones with a microphone. Usually this helps them keep up with their friends but with strangers online, children need to be aware of the reporting feature that the game offers. They should also be able to inform the parents of any inappropriate language used during the game so it can be duly reported.
Yes, the game is 12+ so there is no reason for your 8, 9, 10 and 11 year old to play it. There are plenty of other games available for their age groups which are interactive and not as addictive. The game is only rated 12+ because of the cartoonish-like graphics, otherwise the content and purpose could be rated higher.
School performance & Social Activities
Some children might still be bringing good results back home, but their interest in meeting friends and playing outdoor sports is reduced. They can be found sulking all the time, counting minutes and hours to their game time, even when surrounded by friends or family. Dr. Leonard Sax, author of best-selling book ‘Boys Adrift’ states on Psychology today “studies show that playing video games excessively undermines school performance, increases distractibility, and erodes the parent-child relationship
Coping with the Game
So when should we worry about the games’ effects? Look for signs of depression, binge-playing, dissatisfaction, loss of interest in other activities. As parents we need to monitor, manage, adapt and provide alternatives.
To monitor we can set some rules about the time limits, whether they should play on weekends or weekdays etc. Surprisingly, if we reason with them about the problems associated with the game, most children will understand and set reasonable limits for themselves.
We also need to look for signs which might indicate that quitting the game might help or seeking help from a professional therapist or counsellor might be required. You might find this gaming addiction quiz helpful. There have been cases where children have been sent off to rehab camps because of addiction to this game. Schools and communities have organized Fortnite Detox, where the whole community and school give up the game altogether for a full 90 days.
Most importantly we need to regulate our own use of devices and smartphones. To get an idea of the time spent on different apps, time trackers like Stayfree can be installed on our phones. We need to spend more time outdoors and away from screens other than what is necessary.