For the past several months, we have been hearing of the risks involved in allowing children to play Fortnite Battle Royale, a viral online co-op sandbox survival game with over 40 million players across a variety of platforms.
While the original Fortnite game follows a Save the World storyline, offering its own social implications and benefits, it’s the online multiplayer Battle Royale spinoff that is garnering all the interest. Fortnite Save the World provides players a number of map options, some with time restrictions and others without. Battle Royale, on the other hand, follows the same premise as the Japanese thriller movies, Battle Royale (2000) and Battle Royale II: Requiem (2003).
The movie is purely a game of survival with no particular storyline. It starts with 100 people parachuted onto an island, armed only with a pickax. As you play, you can pick up more weapons and ammunition, becoming more and more adept at killing. There is no particular skill required, and even younger, more inexperienced players can quite easily ‘win’ by outliving the other players on the island. With so many teens devoting sleepless hours to the game, there are concerns that it could cross the divide between hobby and obsession - and that its violence, however comic, may have an unhealthy impact on the overall development of children.
Spirit of coopetition
Individual players or teams of up to 4 members can work together to survive. Children find a strange social element to this otherwise digital sport, coordinating with players from around the world and players of all ages. They discuss the nature of the game and formulate the best strategies to win. Children can even be inspired to learn a foreign language to keep up with the voices in their headphones!
Children love to play this cheerfully designed, almost cartoonish video game. Full of energy and adrenaline, Fortnite Battle Royale offers entirely immersive and engaging gameplay for the duration of your child’s leisure hours.
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. There are in-game purchases, which however don’t impact gameplay – they only help create an avatar that stands out better. You can play the multiplayer online version using Playstation without investing in Playstation Plus. Xbox Gold, on the other hand, would be required.
So far, so good. But where are the pitfalls?
Risk of addiction
Children don’t just spend hours playing – they watch other people play on gaming streaming sites, watching strategy videos, or getting tips from other gamers on YouTube. The downside to such immersive gameplay is that it’s tough to pull out from the game into the real world. Balance is necessary, and often difficult to achieve. Do oversee your child’s interaction with the game.
Kids can get angry if they lose, because of the excitement and adrenaline associated with the enthralling game. Poor net connection, a momentary distraction such as being called for dinner or earphones that don’t capture every sound can make a child lose. This is especially rage-inducing as there is no respawning and the player faces off against 99 enemies in each challenge!
Children are playing this violent game in coordination with a number of strangers across ages, from 10-year-old children to teens and college-goers to even fathers of their friends. Tempers run high, and the chances of your children hearing unsavoury language over their headsets – especially when someone dies – are significant.
A primary school in England has encouraged families to ban Fortnite for children in nursery and primary school. While the colorful, even cartoonish animation makes parents believe that it’s safe for children, there is a fair amount of violence in the game (though no gore). The cute depictions, indeed, can desensitize children to violence. In the United Kingdom, the Video Standards Council rated Fortnite PEGI 12 for frequent scenes of mild violence. In the US, the ESRB gave Fortnite a Teen rating (13 years and older), saying that “players use guns, swords, and grenades to fight skeleton-like monsters in ranged and melee-style combat. Battles are highlighted by frequent gunfire, explosions, and cries of pain.”
Fortnite has been drawing fire from mainstream media for being rage-inducing, violent, and addictive in children. A highly immersive game with players who are passionate tending to obsessed, Fortnite, like so many other video games, is perhaps not dangerous in moderation. Keep an eye on your child’s time on their devices to ensure that they are not becoming addicted to or obsessed with this game. Effective screentime rules and app management implemented through apps like Mobicip can ensure a safe and responsible engagement with such addictive games!