There are a couple possible responses when the topic of Fortnite is raised around parents. First is “I don’t know what Fortnite is,” in which case you should try talking to your kid once in their life, or the other response of, “Oh, I hate Fortnite, it’s just terrible,” in which case you’re probably in league with the vast majority of parents out there.
A quick explanation of what everyone already knows – a fortnight is a time period of two weeks, or 14 days. Fortnite is a 2017 battle royale first person shooter where you run around shooting people in an ever-shrinking playing field until only one remains. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to jump out of a flying bus only to land on a small island where you can hide behind some palettes until an unseen foe shoots you from behind then does a dance over your corpse, this is the game for you. Let’s hit some pros and cons before I just tell you to leave your kid alone.
- You shoot people (and also build ramps and walls). If you are a household that doesn’t want, especially for younger kids, a culture of guns around then find something more wholesome. Now in reality, don’t buy into the usual “kids desensitized by video games end up in school shootings” that certain politicians like to use as scapegoat instead of dealing with gun violence. While there are guns, the game is mostly leaning towards a cartoonier “game of tag” style of playing over some of Fortnite’s more realistic competitors like PUBG or the countless other first-person shooters that have been around in games for decade after decade. Keep in mind this is a popular video game and they are mostly playing it with their friends online as a group activity, they are not satiating a lust for violence – they are playing tag mixed with hide-and-seek mixed with “I wonder if I can shoot this rocket and then hop on top of it and ride the rocket.” Regardless, tell them to have headphones on or to turn the volume down so you don’t have to hear any of it.
- It’s a distraction from reality. Expect kids to be focused on the game, they aren’t doing their chores … they aren’t responding to you when you ask them about their day … they aren’t being socially engaged with the rest of the family. Guess what? They weren’t going to be doing those things regardless, because they’re kids. If your 14 year old would rather hang out talking to their friends and playing a game instead of telling you how their day was then it is probably because they are 14, not because of a stupid game. And guess what? The Manchester School District has a fairly lax policy on phones; don’t be surprised if the child who is giving you a hard time at home is probably also playing Fortnite at school instead of doing their biology classwork. Keep in mind there have always been kids not paying attention. There was a kid at my school years ago who distracted himself from class by drawing penises all over his notebook … so maybe you should appreciate that kids today have better technology to waste their time with so that you don’t have to be the parent of Penis Drawing Kid.
- What about social skills? Well, this will be a chicken-or-egg situation. Which came first, their game playing or their lack of social skills? There’s plenty of well balanced people playing this relatively addictive game in a well-balanced way. There was also a recent report in the UK that over 200 couples cited Fortnite as the reason for their divorce (article from Esquire). I’d also like to think for every 30 year old who is hiding in a video game so they don’t have to hear their nagging partner, there is probably a 13 year old making friends and playing with a wide variety of people online. One generation sees younger people glued to their phones and not having social skills, meanwhile those kids are probably networking and socializing with more people in an afternoon online than their parents do in a month.
- It’s expensive? Well… it’s free, so there’s that. As with just about every game out their today the money is made with optional sales through power ups or changing the look of your character, but there is no reason that has to be done. If you’re that worried about the money end of things than you probably shouldn’t be giving your preteen your credit card information.
At the end of the day this is just the gaming trend for the past year, pretty soon it will be something else and maybe parents will have something else to complain about, but it doesn’t have to be something disruptive to your family. There are hundreds of worse things your kid could be into and any of the negatives associated with playing Fortnite are mainly on the parents’ shoulders. If you’re buying the phone or the video game system and letting them play it 24 hours a day then there seems a pretty obvious solution if Fortnite is something causing a hassle for you. Or … maybe just let the kids play their game and enjoy being interested in something at an age where many kids aren’t interested in much at all. However do not, under any circumstances, try to teach your kids a lesson by defeating them in the game. It will not work, they will annihilate you, you do not stand a chance. You may even be sucked into it through the idea that you must win against them, at least once. You will not win. They will beat you in Fortnite.
J Paige has two decades of experience in the nerd culture of New England through convention, event, and retail management. He is co-owner of NeonBomb at 260 Mammoth Road in Manchester (neonbomb.com). Do you have an event coming up? Do you have a nerdish hobby you are looking to connect with fellow nerds on? Interesting input that you would like to get the word out on? Send it over to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: Nerd Alert.