I asked my seven-year-old son if he knew about Fortnite, and he started telling me about how he played it with his friends at lunchtime. After a minute or so I realised that he and the other boys were playing a live-action version of it in the schoolyard. Yep, this game is so big that kids will play it in real life when they don’t have access to screens.
So what is it exactly, and why has it become an obsession for so many kids around the world?
Fortnite Battle Royale is a multiplayer shooter game, described as a cross between Minecraft and The Hunger Games. The idea is that 100 players land on an island that has weapons and other combat items around it. From there, it’s a fight to become the last player standing.
What makes this different from other battle-type games is that it’s more cartoonish than gory, so it’s appealing to younger kids. Players die, but you don’t see the blood and guts. Dance moves are a part of the game, and people – including Major League Baseball players in the US – copy the moves in real life. There’s also random fun stuff being added all the time, like dinosaur-inspired outfits.
To make it even easier for kids to get into, it can be played on a range of game systems, as well as phones, and it’s free (although players can pay to buy “skins”, AKA outfits). Real-life friends can team up to play together online.
Released last year, the game already has more than 40 million players. It’s believed that many of them are under the recommended age for the game, which is 13 plus.
For older kids in the US, there’s even more incentive to play. Ashland University in Ohio is offering partial scholarships to students who excel in Fortnite.
Plus, it’s just been announced that there will be Fortnite tournaments, with $US100 million in prize money in the first year.
What worries a lot of parents is that their kids seem to be addicted to Fortnite. Is it okay for young kids to be so obsessed with battling and killing? Should parents ban the game – or maybe just ban all screen time?
Psychologist Jocelyn Brewer spoke to This Glorious Mess podcast about Fortnite, and what she had to say is likely to set parents’ minds at ease.
Brewer agrees that excessive time spent gaming can be a problem. But it’s not a simple case of the less gaming, the better.