Ah, Fortnite, the game we parents love to hate—or is it hate to love? If you’re into gaming, you’re likely jockeying with your teen to outlast and outlive your competitors in Fortnite. But if you’re not a gamer, you’re probably scratching your head at the popularity of the battle royale game. If you haven’t played Fortnite, it might be helpful to understand why your kid loves it so much.
What is Fortnite?
Fortnite is a player versus player (PvP) multi-platform battle royale game in which players must scavenge items for survival and kill (or be killed) to be the last player standing and claim rights to being the “King of the Mountain.” Players are dropped into the real-time game and pitted against 99 other players in the battle to survive. As players move through the playing area, they must find items to help aid them in their survival, with weapons being the key to picking off other players.
Players can build structures to evade being killed or create a type of hunting blind to take sniper shots at other players within range. Once someone offs the second to last player, the remaining player claims the “Victory Royale” and players queue up to take part in another battle royale.
Why is Fortnite so Popular with Teens?
Thanks to the internet, gaming can be a highly social activity. Fortnite appeals to teens for a variety of reasons:
- It happens in real time and competitors are real people.
- Kids can play it alone or as part of a team.
- It can be played across all platforms, including mobile devices, and has all of the attractive features of a console or PC game.
- Gameplay is relatively short, allowing players to easily drop into a game during short periods of downtime.
- It’s free to play.
It’s rare to find a game like Fortnite for two reasons. First, it is available free of charge. Second, it allows players to experience full gameplay without additional costs. Fortnite makes money through optional in-app purchases that allow players to enhance their gameplay. The most popular purchased enhancement is the ability to fully customize and outfit one’s avatar.
Should Parents be Concerned?
There are benefits to playing video games but, as with anything, moderation is key—especially with video games like Fortnite, which are designed to keep players playing. It can seem like the game is taking over your kid’s life, getting in the way of schoolwork, adequate sleep, household chores, and family time.
These concerns are not without merit. Obsessive gaming has recently been categorized as a “gaming disorder” by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is “characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
Mike Langlois, a psychotherapist specializing in gaming, social media, and psychology, bridges the gap between gaming kids and their parents. Langlois encourages parents to change their perspective of gaming. Instead of seeing it as an isolated activity, understand it is one that’s very social in nature. In fact, online gaming is how many teen boys spend time socializing with their peers.
“The conflicts I see are usually parents worried about their kid’s academic performance, sleep, or engagement with the family,” says Langlois. It’s normal for teens to want to stay up late and hang out or socialize with their peers, says Langlois, and kids will always find a way to divert and distract themselves. “The trick is to understand when something is normative adolescent behavior and when it’s something more difficult.”
For parents, it can be a good idea to take a step back and sync your sense of time with your child’s. Langlois encourages parents to adjust the way they create time constraints regarding the game their child is playing. “We want to teach kids how to handle time,” he says. He suggests that parents ask how long the game typically lasts or how many games your child can play in half an hour, and then work from there.
Approaching time limits in this way makes us aware of what our child is doing. It’s also more realistic (and less likely to cause a fight) to tell a kid that he can play two more rounds of Fortnite before he needs to switch activities. If you have a Minecraft aficionado, tell them they can finish their build. If he is a World of Warcraft player, he can finish one more quest.
Instead of intervening when you think your child is not balancing their time appropriately, let them figure it out. Our teens are trying to learn how to regulate their lives. We need to give them the space to work it out—despite it being our nature to regulate for them. “Parents are far too quick to jump in and intervene,” says Langlois. “Part of helping a teen find balance is letting them experience being imbalanced.”
He wants parents to consider the value playfulness in their child’s life— and to join in. “Parents need to cultivate a better attitude with their kids around playfulness. It’s a basic building block for creative thinking,” he says. “Play these games with your kids,” he says. “Play them and let them teach you how to play them.”