What The Heck is Fortnite, And Why Are My Kids Obsessed With It?

by Melissa L. Fenton
Originally Published:

Fortnite Battle Royale has taken over my household. And unless you and your children have been traveling in outer space, or are still chasing around Pokemon in neighborhood parks and shopping centers, I’m just gonna guess it has taken over your household too.

This single video game has sucked more time and effort out of my kids than any other games I can remember — COMBINED. And when I say all my kids, I mean, even the ones who are no longer actually kids. This video game has managed to hold hostage the attention span of not only my 10-year-old, but my 18-year-old as well. But it’s not just the kids and teenagers who are obsessed with being the last one alive, it’s pretty much people of all ages. My kids are literally playing with their friends’ dads, and my son at college has reported that his entire dorm can be heard hollering strategy and hideouts into headphones at all hours of the night.

It’s recently been estimated that over 40 million people are playing this game across a variety of platforms. And here’s the real kicker — when they’re not playing it themselves, my kids will spend hours watching other people play it on the gaming streaming site Twitch. Or they’ll spend hours watching strategy videos, and get tips from other gamers from YouTube videos.

It’s to the point that I had begun to worry about it being borderline unhealthy for my kids to be playing so much, and I’ve also questioned the content and environment of the game. But after a little research, I’ve decided that, for now, as long as we put serious limits on the time spent playing the game (or watching others play it), I’m going to allow the game to continue to my played in my home.

If you’re unsure of what Fortnite is, and how and why it has grown so popular, here are some “get to know the game” facts.

1. It’s free.

How did my kids get this damn game in the first place? Well, for starters, it’s free. First released for desktops, and then subsequently available on gaming consoles (and now even on mobile devices), Fortnite costs nothing and is a free download. As a matter of fact, the mobile app is currently the top rated app in 47 countries.

2. It’s a survival/shooter game.

The premise of the game is simple — outlive the other players on the “island,” and you win. Each game starts with 100 people being parachuted onto an island with only a pickax. Think Hunger Games in a video game format. You can either choose to battle alone, or with up to three other people (teams of four) where you all work together to survive. The island “shrinks” so to speak, as a storm eye is constantly changing your environment, forcing you to stay on the move.

3. It’s single and/or team play, and you don’t need real skill.

I regularly hear my 10- and 18-year-old playing this game together, and actually enjoying each other’s company — which is one of the reasons the game is catching on like wildfire. Another is the fact that, unlike other complicated multilevel story/shooter games, this one takes no skill and can be won on your first try. Matches are short, can be joined at anytime (and left at anytime, so if you tell your kids to get off, don’t believe their lie that “they can’t leave the game now mom!”), and can be played with teams (friends) who can all help you get your first win. There can be a real “let’s work together” aspect of this game if it’s not played solo.

4. It uses cartoon-ish depictions of violence.

This is still my biggest hangup with the game, because when it comes down to it, it is, in fact, a total last man standing game. And the only way you’re the last man standing is if you kill the other 99 players (or they accidentally die on the island for another reason, like falling off a mountain.) And yet the graphics have a very animated/cartoon-ish like feel to them, and the “killing” is often so absurd sometimes (and includes no gore, blood, or bodily damage images) that it doesn’t feel like killing. For example, people in silly animal costumes hacking at astronauts. That’s a whole lot different than the very graphic, very real feeling of major gun and knife violence in games such as Grand Theft Auto.

5. In-game purchases are not forced.

You know those apps and video games that are constantly in your face with the “buy this!” and “buy that!” features? And the only way you’re going to win at those games is if you shell out tons of money to do just that? Fortnite has managed to not be that kind of game, limiting itself to micro-transactions at most, and offering a cheap one-time $10 “battle pass” option. (For a free game everyone in my family can enjoy, I will happily drop ten bucks in a heartbeat.)

Fortnite Battle Royale is not going anywhere anytime soon. How do I know? Just ask Drake. The famous rapper recently tweeted and live streamed himself playing the game and just about broke the Internet doing so. And sports teams, athletes, celebrities, and professional gamers all around the world can be now seen doing Fortnite victory dances, and espousing the game’s fun (and strategies) across all their social media channels.

Besides, for parents everywhere, it has become to greatest of all chore bargaining tools. Hey kids, wanna parachute to the island? Just clean your room, clean the kitchen, do your homework, and a hundred other chores, and the gaming console is all yours. Win-win.

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