04 December 2018
The latest on Fortnite
Released for PS4, Xbox One, Windows and Mac OS back in the summer of 2017, the increasingly popular Fortnite Battle Royale is now available for cross platform play, meaning gamers can play with other users across multiple platforms, and is in the spotlight once again due to the more recent releases on Nintendo switch as well as certain Apple and Android devices.
While Fortnite has a Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating of age 12 for its frequent scenes of mild violence, not all parents are aware of this and many children at Primary school age are playing the game. It’s worth noting that some experts do believe parents are better able to judge whether their child is mature enough for the content of this game, as all children do develop at different rates.
However, it is important that parents are aware of the safety concerns around this game to facilitate safe play.
Is it an addictive game?
While the World Health Organisation has recently recognised ‘gaming disorder’ as a condition, plenty of scientists, researchers and academics disagree with this decision.
Either way, Fortnite doesn't appear to contain any unique gameplay systems that would make this any more addictive than other games. As with most games, there are inherent risks to safety, welfare and wellbeing to be aware of:
Performance in the game can impact on a user’s social status in the physical world: with those who do well sometimes experiencing improved social status, and those who don’t sometimes being subject to negative comments – in and outside of the game - which can build up to cause anxiety, depression and other mental health issues
Indeed, the game has been linked to increased levels of bullying through ‘wolf packing’ within squads, where the weakest player is bullied into leaving the team by comments typed and through headsets. This behaviour has sometimes extended into the classroom environment, where those perceived to be weaker are excluded.
As many of the game’s new updates are released in the early hours of the morning, children are staying up late so they can play the latest versions ahead of their peers – with the associated fatigue impacting their physical and mental wellbeing.
There is also a risk of children being contacted and communicating with complete strangers as users can talk to each other through both the in-game keyboard and headset.
So, why do children and young people like it?
When children get into things, they tend to do so quite intensely and Fortnite is a good example of this. It’s perhaps because the game combines many different successful gaming elements into one package - strategy, shoot-em-up and dancing - that makes it so “sticky” and appealing. Virtual players enjoy battling to win as much as showing off their character costumes (“skins”) and victory dances (the Floss, the Boneless etc).
What happens in a game?
Players are air dropped onto an island, armed with nothing but a pickaxe. Once 100 players have joined, the game starts - this can last for up to 20 minutes. On the ground, there’s a mad rush for supplies (shields, potions, ammo, guns) that have been scattered randomly across the map. Every few minutes a storm draws closer, herding survivors towards a final stand-off. The goal is simple: to be the last one standing.
✓ Play is for free; paid for “add-ons” in the game don’t give any competitive advantage
✓ Bright, friendly and cartoon-like visual style; no bloody violence
✓ The emphasis is on progression and customisation
✓ The game is full of random surprises and rewards (e.g. glowing treasure chest filled with loot)
✓ No need to win to enjoy the buzz of success - getting close to winning is exciting and satisfying
Why it can be good for young people
It's free, fun and, with loads of ridiculous items and costumes such as space suits and dinosaur outfits, silly too
There’s a non-competitive mode to meet up and practice in – called Playground
A variety of dance moves are often copied during the game, and have extended beyond, into the physical world, so encouraging physical activity
Users can team up with a friend (duo mode) or friends (team of 4 in a squad) to compete - making it a sociable expierence
Players need to co-operate and build in order to survive, helping to develop teamwork and problem-solving skills
Simple safety tips to share
Chat functionality is unmoderated but voice-chat can easily be disabled and it may be appropriate to do this.
Fortnite offers three levels of privacy settings: parents are advised to ensure the appropriate level is selected
- Public = anyone can enter the game
- Friends = only friends can join a game
- Private = join by invitation only
There's an in-game feedback tool in the main menu of the game to report bad player behaviour.
Many experts believe that parents benefit by playing the game to better understand it, to get onto their child’s wavelength and to be able to promote safety in a credible way.
Useful tips for parents
All experts agree that screen time must be monitored and managed, and active non-screen time should be encouraged.
A ‘family agreement’ will help parents to formalise time spent on Fortnite, by specifying daily and weekly time limits
Parental controls limit the length of playing time; plus a stopwatch/timer can be used to limit the time of individual sessions e.g. to 60 minutes
Keeping game consoles out of bedrooms will help to prevent late night temptations
Children should know how they can report and block other users they shouldn’t be communicating with; and encouraged to block or report inappropriate comments and behaviour
Reinforce that personal information should never be given to other players
- While it is a free to play game, players are encouraged to buy add-ons when they’re in the game: it made $1 million from in-game purchases in its first 3 days; since then it has made more than $1 billion from in-game purchases
- It is estimated that there are 125 million players worldwide, and that 3 million people around the world are playing it at any one time
- It is the most watched game on Twitch
- Since being made available on IOS earlier this year, it has been downloaded 100 million times
- The average player spends 6-10 hours a week playing the game
Source: DMR 2018