By Katy Clark
“Does anyone else have a kid obsessed with Fortnite?” I posted on Facebook.
I was hoping for camaraderie, or maybe validation, that my 14-year-old son was not the only one spending all of his time playing this online video game.
As the flurry of responses flooded in, I realized I was definitely not alone.
What is the Game Fortnite?
“Is there a word for beyond obsessed?” posted one mom.
“YES!!!!!” exclaimed another, her reply echoed by dozens more.
“He’s playing right now. He cried when I told him to get off and come to dinner,” stated another.
So what exactly is Fortnite?
If you have seen TV’s Survivor or watched The Hunger Games movies, then you are one step closer to understanding Fortnite. In it, one hundred players drop onto an island where they fight each other until only one–the winner–remains.
Along the way, there are weapons and items to find that players use to arm themselves. Players also can build and hide in structures.
While all this is happening, everyone is forced closer together as the game progresses and the amount of playable land shrinks.
Why Is Fortnite Popular
There are many reasons why the game is so popular. First, it is free to download on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation.
Second, its bright graphics make it visually appealing to all, but especially elementary school kids, rather than the grim and apocalyptic colors of other video games.
Fortnite also oozes a sense of fun: players can don snazzy outfits and dance, all while trying to be the last survivor.
Kids (and by kids, we also mean young adults and Dads) of all ages play, including professional athletes like the NHL’s Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha. While on a road trip with the Detroit Red Wings recently, these two young adults posted pictures of their Fortnite battles on social media.
Perhaps the most significant reason for its popularity, though, is its social aspect. Players can play solo, but most join teams of random players or band together with their friends to work towards achieving last survivor status. It is this social aspect of the game that my teen likes best.
“It’s fun,” he told me as he played, careful to avoid looking away from the screen. “You can play with your friends, and a lot of them are playing it.”
The team or social aspect of the game is what can produce angst from players, though. Leaving a game mid-battle to come to the dinner table puts teammates at risk.
And what does this mom think? Well, I used to race home from school only to call my friends on the phone and talk for hours; thus, I cannot comment on my son’s lack of time spent being with friends in real life.
The Cost: Buying Fortnite “Skins” And More
As mentioned before, Fortnite is free to download. In-game purchases, however, are dangled in front of kids. My son bought the Premium Battle Pass for $9.99 to acquire a specific outfit (or skin) and challenges.
“If you complete a challenge, it will give you XP or experience points,” he explained as I tried to follow. “That will allow you to level up and achieve more stuff like outfits, pick-axes, banner icons, gliders, and in-game currency.”
The good news: players cannot gain an advantage in the game through buying stuff.
The bad news is that players may covet the outfits or extras much like they want the latest iPhone. Besides purchasing that first pass, though, my son has remained mum about any other spending on the game.
Fortnite is about killing off the other players, so some parents may pass based on the game’s premise alone. That said, there is no bloody gore like the game “Call of Duty”.
Another point that parents should consider is how much time their teens may play. Xbox and PlayStation have parental controls that can limit time spent on the devices.
Of course, I didn’t set those. After my son’s first week with our Xbox, Microsoft emailed me a handy report that showed he had spent 11 hours playing. That’s 11 hours of studying, volunteering, or holding down a part-time job that he lost.
But, he pointed out, it was how he wanted to spend his free time and how he relaxed after the stress of high school.
I can relate. Let’s just say I’m grateful I don’t get a report showing how much time I spend watching reality TV, my guilty pleasure, each week.
When Will I Get My Kid Back?
No one knows how long the Fortnite craze will last, but it will wane.
After all, it was only two years ago that everyone was playing Pokemon Go and I haven’t noticed anyone hunting for Charmander in my neighborhood lately.
To put it another way, Fortnite’s popularity may soon go the way of last year’s fidget spinners.
Or maybe not.