Fortnite

No game has seen quite the same success as Fortnite. With more than 78 million players every month, Fortnite in less than two years has become one of the most played games of all time. Many parents have shared their displeasure about the effects of Fortnite on their children. The anger that losing a game of Fortnite can induce in children and young adults is surely a cause for concern. Fortnite is a game whereby 100 players are dropped into a map with varying terrain and obstacles. Once in this map the goal is to be the last person alive, this often involves killing other players with weapons and equipment that can be found by exploring the battlefield. To understand how youths are affected so drastically by Fortnite, we must start at the beginning with the battle royal genre. “Battle Royal” is the term given to games which place multiple players on a map with limited resources to fight to the death. For anyone that has seen The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012), this film was largely the original inspiration for the genre. Although the first battle royal games came in the form of Minecraft mod’s back in 2012. It wasn’t until early 2017 when PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds stepped into the gaming limelight, that Battle Royal took the world by storm. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – affectionately named PUBG – combined the tension of Battle Royal games with the satisfaction of first person shooters like CSGO – Counterstrike: Global offensive. It is at this point that an important distinction must be made, the difference between hardcore and casual gamers. “Hardcore” gamers are those that play skill intensive games which usually involve competing with other people, while “Casual” gamers are those that play games for fun rather than competitively. There are by far and away more “Casual” gamers than “Hardcore” in the gaming sphere. The decline of PUBG began mostly due to the game developer’s (BlueHole) inability to keep up with the “Hardcore” gamer community’s demand for bug fixes and new content. This decline however, set the stage for Fortnite to become the gaming powerhouse it is today. The genius of Fortnite is that it satisfies both “Hardcore” and “Casual” gamers needs within one medium. “Hardcore” gamers are drawn in by competitive nature of the Battle Royal genre, and “Casual” gamers are enticed by an easy to learn game with many quirky features. It would be a stretch to say this is the first time a game like this has surfaced, Blizzard entertainment’s Hearthstone did a fairly good job of retaining both audiences back in 2014. However, no game in history has done it as well as Fortnite. From advertising, to twitch.tv streamers to the free to play nature of the game, everything about Fortnite is constructed to present an Aura of accessibility across the gaming spectrum. For many young people Fortnite is inescapable. When they are not playing Fortnite, they are watching it on YouTube or twitch.tv, when they are not watching it, Fortnite bombard’s you with online advertisements and incentives to play/watch more. This form of 24/7 gaming subjugation is new to the 21st century and the effects it has on our youth are blatantly unsavoury. Fortnite by way of over saturation has artificially inflated the importance of winning. For young people winning a game of Fortnite is something they can share with their friends, online and in real life. It stands to reason therefore that losing can often invoke antithetical feelings of extreme rage and displeasure.

Aside from the Fortnite media cycle, the implications of free to play games stands as the penultimate reason for concern. Free to play (F2P) is the term given to games that do not charge any money to purchase or play the game. F2P games make money purely on cosmetics. Cosmetics are in game purchases that alter the look of your character or your characters equipment. These cosmetics in no way give an advantage over another player, it is only a matter of looking more aesthetically pleasing. With the average Fortnite players spending upward of $80 USD on cosmetics items, Epic games profit margins are obscene. In April of 2018 alone, Epic Games made $296 million USD. Fortnite abuses the incremental payment system and applies it to their target audience. The problem there lies in young people’s inability to remember how much they have really spent on the game. A payment of 5 USD here and 10 USD there seems insurmountable at the time, however these payments add up, and ultimately players spend more than they would have on any AAA title – a game produced by a major publisher.

With all this in consideration, a particularly bleak picture is painted about Fortnite and its social discourse. However, simply making young people stop playing Fortnite is not the solution. Game developers the world over have seen the success of Fortnite and are quickly trying to replicate its fundamental principles.  In the next few years more likely than not there will be a new game, free to play and inescapably prevalent. The challenge for parents lies in educating their children to the dangers of the gaming world. The use of parental controls can help monitor the duration in which children absorb Fortnite media. In terms of in game payments, the age in which children must learn the value of, and how to, manage money is rapidly becoming younger. For better or for worse, this new form of easily accessible gaming is here to stay. The best thing parents can do is provide their children with the tools to navigate this new digital gaming landscape. The links bellow offers guidance as to the most effective practises for monitoring your child’s gaming habits. A family online safety contract creates a tangible agreement with your children, which can help with moderating levels of gaming and online media access. iParent offers various tips and tricks to help create a safe gaming environment for your children. Common Sense Media is a website that consolidates gaming reviews in terms of online safety for varying ages, as well as offering insight into the world of gaming with their own informative articles.  

Family online Safety contract:

https://www.fosi.org/good-digital-parenting/family-online-safety-contract/

iParent 5 Safe gaming tips:

https://esafety.gov.au/education-resources/iparent/staying-safe/online-gaming/safe-gaming-5-tips

Common sense media:

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

sammy heimsath