If you’re a parent and you haven’t heard of Fortnite, trust and believe you are the envy of all your fellow parents who are sick to death of the game. Fortnite‘s popularity seems to have surpassed that of Minecraft, particularly among kids with ADHD. Are you watching your kids scramble for the console or computer and wondering what’s so great about Fortnite? Is this video game addictive? Is your child’s love of Fornite something you should worry about?
Fornite is a co-op sandbox survival game available on a variety of consoles. These days when you hear about Fortnite, it’s safe to assume we’re talking about its massively popular free-to-play version, Fortnite: Battle Royale. This version of the game drops players onto a large map–alone, in pairs, or in squads–to loot, build, and battle it out in a constantly shrinking playing zone until only one person remains. This game is most appropriate for kids at least 12 years of age because of its very nature as a survival game. However, parents may feel that the cartoon violence isn’t as serious as a more realistic fight sim.
But what about when kids play the game non-stop? Watch YouTube videos about the game every chance they get? Skip homework or chores to sneak play time? Is Fortnite addictive? How can a game a child is obsessed about actually help them?
Our founder and president, Dr. Randy Kulman, a clinical child psychologist, talked to Bahar Gholipour about this issue in a syndicated special report for Live Science. Dr. Kulman is among the many child psychologists across the country whose patients are having trouble balancing the video game with other unplugged activities and even fighting with their parents over play time. Their parents are seeing a dip in their academic performance and social engagement. Some patients have played an astonishing number of hours. But it’s debatable if this phenomena is any different than a child’s obsession with a game like Minecraft.
Whereas it’s easy to see how Minecraft can encourage focus, planning, organization, creative problem solving, critical thinking, and social emotional learning skills–so much so that schools actively use it as a teaching tool—Fortnite‘s violence, however cartoonish, eliminates it from official academic use. Yet when compared with other games of its ilk, like Ark and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, many parents prefer the less realistic art style of Fortnite. Parents may still find it more difficult to see how a game like Fortnite, with its brutal survival aspect, can actually benefit their child, particularly when grades and friends are suffering as a result.
As Dr. Kulman says in the article: “The sandbox games tend to engage kids for longer and longer periods of time. And in ‘Fortnite,’ if you lose you can just come right back in.” He also explains that Fortnite is a bit like a slot machine. The games are quick, involve a fair amount of chance, and give players a chance to try and try again. This makes it hard to say no to another game. Some of the patients Dr. Kulman has consulted have never won, but that doesn’t stop them from trying again. And again. And again.
As with other video games, this “try, try again” aspect builds persistence. But this isn’t a skill kids will automatically recognize and apply to their daily lives. The key, as with learning from any video game, is adult guidance and involvement. Parents who play video games with their kids (or at least initiate conversations about them) are able to steer discussions toward transferring in-game skills to real life. Of course, parents are still encouraged to set limits and strike a healthy balance in your child’s play diet. But if you want to know how the game time you do allow your child to enjoy with Fortnite can help them build executive function skills like planning and time management, you should check out our Fortnite: Battle Royale playbook.
Are you struggling with a Fortnite obsession in your family? Talk to us about it in the comments or come join the conversation on Facebook.
Featured image: Flickr user Michael Coghlan