“Does anyone else have a kid obsessed with Fortnite?” I posted on Facebook.
I was hoping for camaraderie, maybe validation, that my son, 14, 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.
“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 are dropped 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 can also build and hide in structures. Meanwhile, everyone is forced closer together as the game progresses and the amount of playable land shrinks.
Why it’s popular
There are many reasons why the game is so popular. First, it is free to download on PC, Xbox and PlayStation. Another reason is its bright, rather than grim and apocalyptic, graphics that make it appealing to even elementary school kids. Fortnite also oozes a sense of fun: players can don snazzy outfits and dance, all while trying to be the last survivor.
Kids of all ages play, too, including professional athletes like the NHL’s Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha. While on a road trip with the Detroit Red Wings, these two young adults posted pictures of their Fortnite battles on social media.
Perhaps the biggest reason for its popularity, though, is the social aspect. Players can play solo, but most join teams of random players or band together with their friends to work towards being the last survivor. 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 people are playing it.”
The team or social aspect of the game is what can produce agnst 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.
As mentioned before, Fortnite is free to download. In game purchases, though, are dangled in front of kids. My son bought the Premium Battle Pass for $9.99 in order to get a certain outfit 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, pickaxes, banner icons, gliders, and in game currency.”
The good news it that 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 buying that first pass, though, my son has remained mum about any other in game purchases.
Fortnite is about killing off the other players, so some parents may pass based on that alone. That said, there is no bloody gore like Call of Duty.
Another thing that parents should consider is how much time their teens may play. Xbox and PlayStation have parental controls that can limit playing time.
Of course, I didn’t set those. After my son’s first week playing on 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. Eventually. 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.