What are your kids learning when they play Fortnite? Sure, they are learning to hunt and destroy, and some kids become experts in building forts and shelters. But maybe they are also learning something useful. The nature of Fortnite is to lose and to lose often. In the Battle Royale version of the game, 100 players enter and only 1 remains at the end (although it is possible to be a member of a 2- or 4-person team and survive to the finish). Players who want to become better at the game need to be flexible, to change their tactics over the course of games, adapt to the weapons and “chests” that are available to them, and alter their behavior based on the storms that appear in each game.
Action games such as Fortnite require flexibility, an executive-functioning skill that is defined as adapting and adjusting to changing conditions and expectations. Action games are so much fun because they send players through lots of different levels and environments, often facing a wide variety of enemies and obstacles along the way. Whether it’s one of the early Super Mario games or a modern 3D action game, the key to success will always be players’ ability to adapt to the constant changes presented by the game.
In my conversations with kids about playing Fortnite, they uniformly talk about how much they like the changes that happen in the game and the introduction of new modes. Some of the changes keep the game refreshed and make it a bit more “addictive.” These variations also require cognitive resources and skills such as flexibility, making the game a more intensive experience for players.
Here are some of the ways that Fortnite practices the skill of Flexibility:
- Each match is different from the last. There are new players, new chests, and new safe areas of the map, and no two matches are ever exactly the same.
- Players can never fully plan a strategy beforehand. Players are forced to play by the current situation and can never fully plan out a match, because all of the enemies are real players and therefore unpredictable, so it becomes a test of adaptability and flexibility.
- Fortnite regularly evolves and changes. There are patches, updates, and seasons on a weekly and monthly basis to keep the game fresh. The best players stay up to date with each change and use this knowledge to be flexible in their approach and get an edge on their competitors.
- Additional strategies beyond playing Fortnite to improve children’s executive-functioning skill of flexibility include:
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.
by Ryan Smith and Randy Kulman