Fortnite...Friend or Foe?

Welcome to the latest craze…Fortnite!

It is the new Minecraft. Whether or not you or your child play Fortnite, it has become hard to avoid. Second hand Fortnite is real. My two daughters, in 4th and 6th grade, who have never played the game, hear about it weekly just simply by being around other children, especially boys. And it’s not just little kids. Big kids are playing it too.

Fornite has established a presence in the sports world. The National Hockey League (NHL) team, the Vancouver Canucks, decided to issue a ban on the game during road trips for this season. Boston Red Sox starting pitcher, and winner of Game 2 and 5 in the this year’s World Series, David Price, is self proclaimed life long gamer. When he sustained an injury earlier this year leading him to miss a start, it was heavily speculated too much Fortnite was the cause. After the injury, Price made the decision to not play the game while at the ballpark (aka. the office). Just a coincidence? Fortnite, has even been cited in divorce proceeding.

Needless to say, the latest craze is having a profound affect on the lives of many, including the 125 million registered players around the world, as well as the wallets of developers as the game has made over $1 billion in revenue since launching in 2017. So we explore the important question, Fortnite…friend or foe?

Important questions…

This time last year we looked at screen time in a three part series called, Addicted to the Glow?? Once more we visit the topic of technology as Fornite has brought mental health into question. The World Health Organization has classified gaming disorder as a mental health problem, as cited in the following article. So what does gaming look like in your home for you? for your children? Are you in control of it or is it in control of you?Behavioral issues related to disconnecting from Fortnite may be a challenge for you. And for some Fortnite has become an out and out thorn in your side.

Consider these questions:

  • Has gaming (ie. Fortnite) impaired ability to fulfill obligations?

  • Has gaming behavior continued despite problems?

  • Has a high tolerance been established? In other words, it takes more of it to reach enjoyment?

  • Experiences withdrawal and discomfort when not playing?

  • Unable to quit/cut back?

  • Given up important activities to game?

  • Experienced cravings?

These questions commonly relate to substance use like alcohol, drugs, sex, and pornography. “Substance use” can easily be a video game. How much time does your child spend playing video games? Does it impact their face to face socialization, interest in other activities, health (proper sleep, eating, exercise, getting sunlight), or behavior. This also begs another question, if you answered yes to several of the questions above, what would you like to do about it?

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What’s the impact…

No, we aren’t in Kansas anymore. As technology continually advances and has flooded the mainstream, the battle taking place on Fortnite is no different than the one between mental health and screen time. It can be a tricky one to navigate. One of the major culprits is lack of self-control, or temperance. The most common statement I hear from parents in session is, “Well, all their friends play it.” Think about that for a minute. That is the most common parental statement. In other words, parents are basing their decision on, yep….other parents, who are basing on…yep, other parents. In essence, you are allowing your child to play because other families are. This occurs even when it leads to trouble. It is a vicious loop that feeds off of itself. I often here anecdotes like, “They enjoy it”, “It makes them happy”, and so on. One teenager shared, “It’s like an adrenaline rush if you almost win,” says Miles Weiskopf, age 14, of University Heights, Ohio, “you feel like ‘I gotta play again.’” As I said it is tricky. Thus making an informed decision is key. But what makes it so addictive in the first place?

A major filter we all have and use in our life is “Risk/Reward”. The reward system or circuit within our brains incorporates several different parts of our brain including the ventral tegmental area as well as the amygdala, nucleus accumbens, hippocampus, (parts of the mesolimbic pathway) and prefrontal cortex. The neurotransmitter linked to pleasure is dopamine. The release of dopamine is a pleasurable sensation. The release of dopamine motivates us to repeat behaviors or activities that prompted this release. This system's purpose was to promote survival by rewarding life sustaining behaviors such eating and procreation.) This is the area of the brain that is affected most by addictions. Just like anything else – from drugs to gambling to eating to playing games -our brain seeks to be rewarded. During the brain’s preteen and teenage years, this area is in continuous development and reordering. A game like Fortnite and others like it can offer exciting risks and even more exciting rewards. The near wins, hidden treasures, and ultimate “jubilation” of the victory contribute to what keeps Fortnite popular with your child.

 How does it work exactly? Click above to watch a video on it.

How does it work exactly? Click above to watch a video on it.

Staying informed…

The truth, technology can be an absolute blast! The organization Project Young Eyes (PYE) is all about educating and establishing responsible digital citizenship. They understand the fun factor of it. They also understand the risks. They know that parenting in the present day and age is no easy task. Nor is being a kid with all of this dangling in front of you! Another truth, technology use is not the same across the board for all people. It is not a one size fit all. And certain ages are not ready to handle all the power that having a device allows access to. PYE stays current on technology and shares relevant information and reviews on devices, gaming systems, apps, and games, including Fortnite so that families can make an informed decision. Here is the PYE review on Fortnite. Again, PYE’s goal is about helping families be intentional and responsible in regards to technology.

So as you sit to make a decision for yourself or your family here are some other articles and news reports discussing Fortnite:

Some parents who have a different perspective on the game:

Reviews on the game:

In summary…

A few common themes among the reviewers are:

  • This game is rated for teens and above

  • Prudence is critical regarding the amount of time played

  • Utilizing parent controls is an important way to manage access (in-chat, amount of time)

  • The game is not as bloody and gory like some other video games

I will add that, the ‘skins’, or outfits, the game designers develop, to turn a profit, can be quite provocative and revealing. In addition, the in-chat feature means that your child could be talking to others including strangers where the conversation can turn lewd quickly. Curious or doubtful, simply search YouTube for examples of some of the in game chatter that takes place. It is important to make yourself aware of exactly what your child is being exposed to.

Whether it is Fortnite, another game or piece of technology, I invite you to reflect carefully on the age as well as the amount of time that is played. It is not a one size fit all. Again, technology can be a blast, but so can many other harmful things as well. It is important to be prudent and practice temperance.

Temperance puts wood on the fire, meal in the barrel, flour in the tub, money in the purse, credit in the country, contentment in the house, clothes on the back, and vigor in the body.
— Benjamin Franklin