Something is happening in households all around the free world: the Fortnite invasion. Fortnite has taken over your wifi, your child’s mind and if your kid had his/her way … your wallet. There are tears over missed opportunities to complete challenges and elation over “skins” that have tomatoes for heads. Every conversation begins with “In Fortnite….” and carries on for an eternity while parents are only hearing what can be described as the teacher’s voice in the Peanuts cartoons. It’s exhausting, but it’s not all bad.
When I first heard my son talking about the game, I decided to check it out. I did the same with Minecraft and Roblox, and a multitude of other games. Some were allowed, others were vetoed and in some cases, like Pokemon Go, I joined him in the fun. Fortnite seemed like an unlikely pass for me, since I’m not a fan of gun play, but I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt.
If you are not in the loop on what Fortnite is, there are two versions: Save the World and Battle Royale. Battle Royale is the free version that has gained huge popularity in the past year and it is the version I am discussing. It can best be described as a Hunger Games-ish survival game where players are dropped into a world where they must gather building materials, look for supplies and survive as long as possible. Like the Hunger Games, survival includes eliminating opponents who are trying to outlive you and this is most often done through shooting, which is my least favourite part of the game. However, there is no blood or gore or realism in the eliminating of opponents. The games are times by a storm that gradually increases, forcing players into smaller circles of play area until only one player stands. The games can be played as Solo, Duos or Squads of 4 players and there are limited edition modes that are added weekly. The game has a fill mode and a no-fill mode, which means that your squad can be filled with players automatically, or set to no-fill so you only play with people you invite. There is a chat mode for both text and voice chat in the game.
So what is it that I like about this game? As a parent, I like watching my son play squads and duos with his friends and seeing how they work together to survive. For a kid who has never enjoyed team sports, it’s an opportunity to learn about collaboration and respecting the views of your teammates when playing. My son is not permitted to play on fill mode, so I don’t worry about him interacting with strangers in the game. Playground mode is a limited time mode that allows squads to have the entire “world” to themselves to build or compete with one another. I spent an hour in Playground mode with my son and was extremely impressed with his building abilities and creativity. He made an elaborate building with arched doorways and bouncy rooms. Possibly the best side effect of Fortnite involves in game purchases. Each season (I believe they each run for around 4 months) players can purchase a Battle Pass so that they can try to complete challenges and earn rewards like skins (outfits), emotes (dances, etc) and v-bucks (Fortnite currency). I’m happy to pay for the Battle Pass so he can have goals to achieve. However, I’m less excited about paying for skins that he sees offered daily and wants to buy. It’s been a great opportunity to learn about buyer’s remorse (when he bought a skin that he thought he really wanted, only to have a more desired skin become available a few days later when he no longer had v-bucks), saving and earning. In order to get more v-bucks, he has chores and jobs added on to his regular daily routine. It’s been a great way to get work done around the house!
As a player, I enjoy the challenge. I play with the intention of surviving as long as possible, so I tend to focus more on being stealth and building than on being in the battle, which means my son won’t play the game with me, but it also means I’ve flown past him in levels because I know how to survive. I play in fill mode most of the time, and often mute the other players in my squad. My son tells me this is considered rude but I’ve heard enough ignorant language from players that I know I’m not interested in listening to them for the most part. I usually listen for a few minutes to decide if I want to mute them or not, but anything from music, dogs barking or sibling arguments can be heard over the mic and I would rather not listen to most of it. I have my computer set to only transmit sound if I press a button, so no one can hear anything from my end unless I want them to.
Even though I enjoy playing the game and I appreciate the strategy, team work and creativity involved for players, I also get tired of hearing about the game constantly. I often avoid turning it on in front of my son because I know it will lead to a huge monologue about the game, and I don’t always have the patience for it. I went through the same thing with my oldest son’s obsession with Pokemon in the 90’s and my teenage daughter’s love of Panic at the Disco and Twenty-One Pilots. When it starts, I take a deep breath to center myself, go to my happy place in my mind and do my best to seem interested and engaged. When I can’t do it any longer, I mention some chores I need done and that usually makes them disappear pretty quick.