Fortnite Tracker, Fortnite Battle Royale, what does it all mean? Welcome to ParentalGrit, where today we step outside our comfort zone and into the post apocalyptic world of a shooter videogame that now boasts over 125 million players across the globe. For those unfamiliar, the Battle Royal version is basically a free-for-all for 100 different players to kill and build their way into the last person standing. The game plays on the overwhelming success of both the Minecraft and Call of Duty franchises over the last decade and has swept across the Internet at a blistering pace. As recently as a couple months ago, I had never heard of this Fortnite craze. This lack of knowledge somehow earned me the scorn of co-workers, friends, and six year-old bullies.
It’s real and it’s daunting: Fortnite players dialing into the battles for hour after hour, day after day, seemingly locked into an eternal foray. All other responsibilities and obligations shirked, the players obsessively compete late into the night. How these kids can possibly…wait a minute, I wasn’t referring to the kids. I’m talking about the myriad of parents (I’d estimate a very strong majority being fathers) and childless adults content to battle 7 year olds for fictional glory. What a strange, strange world we live in where a little boy unable to tie his own shoe can whittle away his summer vacation engaged in a heated virtual competition with a 46 year-old Insurance salesmen calling in sick.
Regardless, is your kid addicted to Fortnite? It really isn’t relevant; no matter the ‘addiction’, it really comes down to your control over it. My oldest daughter Eliza is addicted to Daniel Tiger, but it really doesn’t mean much since we only allow a certain number of minutes each week. I’m addicted to 7,000 calorie ice cream and pizza binges, but my wife keeps me on lock down so this only occurs a few times per year. Anyway, I find it silly when people argue and research addiction as it occurs for kids with videogames, social media, food, television, etc. It’s ultimately our choice on how many minutes, hours, and days we allow our children to indulge in launching virtual grenades from a homemade bridge at a man in a shark costume.
You would think attempting to murder and embarrass 99 other participants by any means necessary would result in a dark, chaotic environment but Fortnite’s violence is actually gore-less and humorously glamorized without the blood, torn limbs, and elaborate death sequences other first person shooter videogames possess. Fortnite comes across as much more cartoonish; whether it passes a parent’s threshold on acceptable or not depends upon the parent and the age of the kid. As much as I’d love to generationally condemn the violence of videogames and its terrible affects on our kids, I grew up watching a road runner smash a coyote’s face in with an anvil. That being said, an argument can certainly be made that parents should proceed with caution with violent videogames and appropriately sync ages with exposure. I’d avoid letting my four-year old vindictively massacre anonymous internet bullies for 17 straight hours, but I would probably be comfortable allowing my teenager an hour block after their homework is done.
The Worst Part of Fortnite
I have an immensely important and devastating reservation about allowing any of my children to play Fortnite. It’s a deep, dark secret that no one acknowledges and yet it may be the one reason I never allow my children to play. It turns out that Fortnite…wait for it…isn’t what I grew up playing! Why couldn’t my children select Super Mario Brothers or Tetris or Frogger or Donkey Kong or Pac-Man to be maniacally obsessed with? Who wants to launch missiles in an elaborately built, stunning virtual community where your friends can join in from anywhere WHEN you could be jamming a knob pretending to be a hungry yellow circle eating dots for level after level. Kids these days.
As reluctant as I am to allow my children any pleasure that is not duplicated from my own childhood, I will begrudgingly give Fortnite a sticker of approval. It’s free (until your kid starts begging for the add-ons), its violence is rather muted, and it serves as a decent distraction while I try to shower in peace. As with all things media, the most important part of the decision is the amplifier; that is, how long and how often? Establish a schedule and some guidelines to hopefully prevent them from still playing it at 50 years of age and enjoy a little relaxation. Besides, while they’re playing you can always squeeze in a quick game of Sonic, Mario-Kart, or Pong…