Executive Functions in Fortnite: Planning – A Great Skill for Survival

by Randy Kulman and Ryan Smith

There are many ways to become an accomplished Fortnite player. One old-fashioned way is to practice – a lot! While many of the kids I have spoken to about their love of the game Fortnite have improved by playing too much, others use strategic skills such as hiding when appropriate, acquiring powerful weapons from other players (killing them first), or becoming a valued teammate. These skills employ the executive-functioning skill of planning, which is a vital skill in the construction of the “forts” for which Fortnite was named.

While planning is perhaps an undervalued Fortnite skill relative to players’ facilities with weapons, it is crucial to avoiding danger, protecting oneself and one’s team, and being in a position to attack others. Players who fall into the island without a plan are likely to be eliminated very quickly. Planning is also needed in order not to be left out of the “bubble” when the map of the island gets smaller and smaller towards the end of the game.

The executive-functioning skill of planning is a valued skill in many strategy games. While Fortnite is not technically considered to be a “strategy game,” it has many of the elements that fit this genre. Keen foresight and careful preparation are key for achieving victory in any strategy game. Deciding how best to earn and use the currency and tools is a major factor in many strategy games, as players must weigh the benefits of various options before making purchases or choosing certain tools such as the weapons that are available in Fortnite. Should players be defensive or offensive? Are their energies best spent on upgrading structures or trying to find more powerful weapons? These are just some of the factors players must analyze when preparing for battle.

The management of an in-game economy is another major mechanism used in strategy games. Players must continually replenish resources and currency through many activities. In Fortnite, sometimes this means hunting down other players who have a powerful weapon that can be appropriates. In some other games this might occur through mining ore, chopping down wood or gathering gold. In Fortnite, currency includes the types of weapons and chests that players have acquired. If too much focus is spent on gathering such goods, the enemy might seize the opportunity to attack during these inoffensive, dormant moments. Balancing the gathering of goods, construction of forts, and deployment of weaponry is key to success.

Here are some of the ways that Fortnite practices the skill of planning:

Plan before you land! Coming up with a plan in Fortnite is a great way to get the edge on your opponents. From the start of the game everyone is in a plane together, and players with a plan will end up landing near the best weapons and loot.

Plan with your teammates. If you are playing as a “squad,” it is definitely important to make sure your entire team knows the plan ahead of time so they all land in the same area and can work together, rather then landing miles away from each other.

Use updated information to guide your plans. There is a shifting “bubble” that informs players of the the safe area throughout the map. The best way to move with this bubble is by bouncing from town to town for loot and cover, which requires looking ahead (planning) at your map and thinking before moving.

 

Here are some other strategies beyond playing Fortnite to improve children’s executive-functioning skill of planning include:

Planning Activities – A set of classroom activities that require planning.

Planning eBook – An e-book for parents to encourage the use of planning skills.

 

This article is one of a series of posts about Fortnite. In the past month I’ve been approached by many new services, including Fox News.com, WBZ radio, and Bloomberg News, to provide an expert opinion about the pros and cons of children playing Fortnite. My basic message has been that Fortnite is inappropriate for children under the age of 13, as it is built in a way that can encourage overuse or, in rare cases, even addiction to the game. However, it can also provide opportunities for developing skills such as planning, organization, flexibility, problem solving, and collaboration. At the same time, I have a sense of discomfort with the storyline of Fortnite, where the objective of the popular Battle Royale game is is to kill everyone so that only you survive.  This one-for-all motive in the game promotes a selfishness and lack of empathy for others that permeates our societal and political environment.

 

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