I have a just turned 13-year-old son. The title and this information should tell you all you need to know about the current love hate relationship with Fortnite that my wife and I share. If you are reading this and are wondering if I am speaking Elizabethan English, consider yourself lucky. You either have kids too young or too old (if that exists) for the phenomenon that is Fortnite.
What exactly is Fortnite?
For those that are lucky enough not to know, Fortnite is a massively popular “free” online game created for PC, X-Box, Playstation, tablets, and mobile phones by Epic Games out of Raleigh, NC. It is most popular for the 12+ ages but includes all ages up to adults. According to CNBC, this “free” game is on pace to make $3.5 Billion dollars this year alone. The revenue comes in the form of the sales of “V-Bucks” which is virtual currency used in the game to purchase weapons, virtual apparel, and cosmetic items or “skins, gliders, sprays, and emotes” as they are called in the game.
When I was 12 years old…
my friends and I would have a “War Party”, basically a slumber party combined with hide and go seek with a little capture the flag thrown in. We would arrive at each party with our own camouflage gear acquired from the military supply center and cap guns with strip caps from Toys R Us. We would divide into two teams and go at it. This was in the early 80’s, long before paintball was the rage. My friends, Jon, Mark, Dolan, Steve, Matt, Ross, Mike, and others would load up on red strip caps, and paint our faces with camo paint, and run around and “shoot” each other. It was awesome!! We bonded as friends, we colluded and schemed, and had a blast. We were outside, at night, too late for many of our parents, but not our host’s house, which had a big enough yard to spread out and plenty of places to hide. I am not sure if there were winners or losers, we just had a ball running around hiding and shooting.
In retrospect, when my son was 12 years old…
he one day casually asked to have permission to download Fortnite. “It is free” he says. We did not know what was to come, and not wanting to be “those parents”, we relented. My son had X-Box for over a year, and before that Nintendo Wii and gaming never was an issue for us. He played video games from time to time but would much rather be outside playing than inside. That was until Fortnite entered our home. It is now all he really can think about. All of his friends are on the game, and if you are not on, you are an outcast socially. We set rules: No Fortnite during the week, unless homework is completed, room is cleaned, clothes are washed, sorted and put away. He can then play on the weekends. This worked for a bit, until summer came, the summer of Fortnite. Those of you with kids playing this game, know what I mean. From sunup to sundown, and beyond, screaming, complaining, arguing, cheering, were the sounds coming from our old living room, that is now called “The X-Box Room”. The frustration comes from the use of headphones that limit the hearing of the player, who then must scream above the din of the game, to I guess hear himself. Around the house IT sounds like 1940’s Germany during WW II. I tried to let him know our complaining would be limited if he could just “keep it down” and that all the ruckus reminds us that he has been on the X-Box for hours.
On one hand I am happy that he is playing a game of strategy with his friends.
I am happy he is bonding with them but at the same time troubled that the direct face to face social interaction is lost. My wife and I read research that said that being in a constant fight or flight mode, for so many hours could be damaging to the child over time. This is troubling. We also learned of potential harm caused by wireless devices and Wi Fi on the body. My son sits in a room with a Wireless Router, Cable Modem, holding a wireless device, and at the time had wireless headphones. Very troubling. We did get him a wired set, but who knows if it is enough.
Are we good parents for allowing this intrusion in our lives?
That is the question we ask ourselves daily and I know many of you are asking the same. For now, we will take the good with the bad. He is entertained, has friends, and seems to be enjoying himself. If it means homework and all the chores are done even better. The jury is still out on the harm of waves and Wi Fi. What I really should do is organize a good old fashioned “War Party” for him and his friends. Stay tuned.
Kevin Beasley is a Full Time Husband and Dad, Writer, Part Time Chef and Basketball Player with range