If you have older children at home, the chances are you’ve heard of Fortnite.
The latest video game craze to sweep the globe has attracted fans and critics alike – but why is your son or daughter so obsessed?
The game, available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows and Mac, has two versions. Fortnite: Save the World is the paid-for form, while Fortnite: Battle Royale can be downloaded for free – and has been, to date, by more than 40 million people.
Reports of children racking up bills on their parents’ credit cards are widespread
Players go head-to-head with other gamers from around the world, battling it out with guns in a bid to be the lone survivor. The game combines resource-collection and building elements found in Minecraft with traits of other shooting games; it’s violent, but cartoon-like graphics spare players the gore of other gun-based games.
Why the controversy?
Many parents are concerned about Fortnite’s addictive nature.
In Battle Royale – the most popular version – gamers are pitted against 99 others in real time. It’s a frantic battle for survival, with the last player standing claiming victory.
Its fast, frenetic and fiercely competitive traits have led some parents to complain younger participants are left upset and angry when they lose. And as each player gets just one life per game – when you’re out, you’re out.
If they make it to the end, a game generally last around 20 minutes. Which leads us to the next problem – getting children to stop once they start.
Anyone who’s ever asked a teenager to turn off a game mid-battle will know exactly what this means. Some parents have reported sullen, unhappy and even depressed children who find no joy in life once the excitement is over.
Set the boundaries
As with screen time generally, setting limits is important. If you talk to your children and agree on a reasonable amount of game time in advance, this should help keep arguments at a minimum.
Another criticism is a common complaint about many online games – in-play purchases. Battle Royale may be free, but there are numerous outfits, weapons and other useful items available – at a price. Reports of children racking up bills on their parents’ credit cards are widespread, as they try to seize any advantage to help them in their quest.
Add this to the online element of the game, where children play against – and talk to – 99 strangers at once, and it’s easy to see why Fortnite has some fierce critics.
Fortnite has a PEGI (Pan European Game Information) rating of 12, although this refers solely to the game’s content. The real-time contact element may mean players are exposed to swearing and offensive language through in-game chat. It’s worth noting the chat feature can’t be turned off; nor can players choose their opponents.
Focus on the positives
But it’s not all bad – psychologists say some features of the game can have a positive impact on children.
It teaches them strategic thinking, forward-planning and even creativity, as they navigate Fortnite’s fictional island, trying to remain unseen. And if they join forces with a friend against their mutual enemies, they’re learning collaboration skills as they work to save each other.
Ultimately, it comes down to communication and common sense. Talk to your children and let them see you’re trying to understand the appeal of Fortnite. Learn about the game and set some ground rules on when they play. Then they can enjoy their games while you enjoy some peace of mind.