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Fortnite: Battle Royale – Harmless gaming craze or something to worry about?

Posted on 24 April 2018

Say “Fortnite” to any child over the age of eight, and the chances are that the reaction will be much more than a flicker of recognition. If that child isn’t already playing the game, then a friend probably is. Since its launch in September 2017, Fortnite has become the fastest growing game in history with 45 million players to date.

What makes it so fun?

The premise is fairly straightforward: Fortnite is an assassin style game where 100 players (all logged in together) are released via parachute onto an island for a last-man-standing war. On the island are several items to help players along the way, including the usual guns and bombs but more interestingly, it also allows a player to collect building materials. This introduces an almost “Minecraft” element to the game, masterfully balancing between the shoot ‘em up and construction styles, Fortnite: Battle Royale allows the players to use creativity as well as strategy to gain victory.

As a parent, what else do you need to know?

Fortnite: Battle Royale seems to attract almost every gamer personality – over a third of all gamers have downloaded it – and that it’s highly addictive. How is this different from other games, especially addictive games like FIFA and Rocket League? Some argue that it’s similar but in Fortnite - a player only gets one life. One of the addictive features of the game is the pressure to stay alive – raising the intensity and need to keep playing to improve.

The other key to this game’s popularity is that you can play in a group, with friends or other gamers, allowing you to team up against the others on the island. This opens parent concern for inappropriate language, engagement with strangers, etc., as you can communicate through headphones with the players on your team.

Your child is obsessed – what can you do?

With its increasing popularity, it’s unsurprising that there is a certain amount of controversy around Fortnite. For parents to truly get a grasp of the game, it’s useful to read a guide (CommonSense Media provide a useful one).  Once clued up, sit down with your kids and find out what they love about the game. Treat it like a book review, learning what the characters are like, why the setting works and understand the strategy together.

A frequent parent complaint is that the argument with turning the game off is painstaking and challenging. How can you make it go a bit smoother? It’s good to know that these only tend to last around 20 minutes. So maybe, set a time limit that works around a number of rounds (say three for an approximately an hour?).

Talk with them about Digital Distraction – you can even use yourself as an example. Something like, “You know how annoyed you get when you ask me something and I’m on my phone?” Your frustration is not new as we all navigate this ever-changing world of technology.

How can we teach them where gaming importance fits into their schedules?

In a recent ITV episode of This Morning, parents called in to discuss their concern for the addictive quality of Fortnite and requested that it’s rating be increased from a 12 to a 16. This was met with a mixture of positive responses and backlash, as some feel it is just another gaming craze.

On the programme however, one mother claimed, “The game is so full of energy and adrenaline that when you pull them off they are screaming at the television; they’re hiding, they’re calling each other, they are living in it with their friends.”

Sound familiar?

A recent discussion on CommonSense outlined some good media habits, including co-play and co-view. If you can’t beat them, join them? Well, not necessarily. You shouldn’t be expected to sit and monitor all the time, however, joining in and understanding why your child enjoys Fortnite in the first place, is a good starting point. You may find it leads to other discussions and types of activities. For example, did you know that Fortnite was based on a game that loosely follows the Hunger Games series?

Another idea follows a stricter method – earning Fortnite time by doing other activities – family games, homework or even reading. The trick here is to explain that Fortnite is not the reward after a chore (you don’t want reading to fall into that category). But understanding that there are tasks that should be done before rewards or balancing screen entertainment with other forms of fun is a lesson we all must learn at some point. Establishing a few media free zones around the house helps with this.

Finally, you do have the ability to register a complaint with Epic Games, if you hear language that you don’t approve of or feel your child is not in a safe online environment. You can do this through the main menu of the Fortnite Support Centre.

Set boundaries

Screen time has positive attributes and is known for relieving anxiety in children and adults. The key issue seems to be managing the amount of time on the screen, which means understanding what works for your own family.

In short, establish the boundaries and work together with your child to understand the game. Fortnite: Battle Royale could become a pastime that you find tolerable…who knows, you may even enjoy it yourself?