(Pocket-lint) - If you’ve not heard of Fortnite you likely don’t have children of-a-certain-age. It’s a super popular shooting game for kids that's long been drawing fire from mainstream media for being violent, addictive and rage-inducing in children.
Fortnite has been around for a while now, and can be played on pretty much every single platform under the sun. The main game focuses on a Save The World mode where you attack and shoot enemies with weapons and build defences.
However, it’s the online multiplayer Battle Royale mode that is almost exclusively played by youngsters. Similar to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, although with a younger age rating, this pits up to 100 players against each while a storm cloud closes in until remaining players are forced into exhilarating showdowns.
Along with usual advice for parents to play games with their children, and keep games in shared family rooms, here’s a look at what parents need to know about the game to keep it healthy for their children.
Fortnite violence and medical dangers
A good place to start is with the age rating information. In the UK the Video Standards council rate Fortnite as PEGI 12 for frequent scenes of mild violence. This means that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 12 to purchase the game for themselves.
The VSC states why it gave the game a 12 rating. "Violence consists of you using whatever weapons you can find or make to fend off the monsters of the Storm and save the survivors. Damage is dealt by numbers and life bars and monsters disappear in a purple flash when defeated."
In the US, the ESRB gave Fortnite a Teen rating. This equates to those 13 years and older. Similar to the PEGI rating, it highlights that "players use guns, swords, and grenades to fight skeleton-like monsters (husks) in ranged and melee-style combat. Players can also defeat enemies by using various traps (e.g., electric, spikes, poisonous gas). Battles are highlighted by frequent gunfire, explosions, and cries of pain."
On iOS, Apple also rates the game as only suitable for those 12 years and older. Along with the flags for Frequent/Intense Cartoon and Fantasy Violence, it also highlights that there are scenes of “Medical Treatment” for injuries.
Parents need to pay attention to this guidance and use it in an informed way for their children. The following video pairs this information with gameplay footage to show how this looks and plays in practice:
Fortnite online dangers
As with any online game, parents need to take care they understand who children are interacting with and what specific information can be exchanged. This area of the game’s content is created by other players and therefore falls outside of the game ratings.
While playing the game, players can hear profanity (and racist name-calling as you can see in the video above) from others as well as exchange voice chat messages with strangers. Because Battle Royale is played by hundreds of people at once, the range of people they encounter will be wide.
A good way to mitigate these dangers is to get children to play with the sound on the TV in family rooms so parents can hear the conversation. However, many players will want to use headphones so they can hear in-game sounds more accurately and progress better.
Another way to avoid this danger is to get children to join a lobby of the friends they know online before they play. Then, in the game they can turn off the audio of other players while still communicating with their teammates.
Fortnite in-app costs
Although the Battle Royale part of the Fortnite game is free to play. There are a number of potential costs associated with the game. To play online on Xbox you need a subscription to the Xbox Live Gold service which is £39.99 for 12 months (although this will soon be free, so maybe buy a shorter pass for now). On PlayStation you do not need PlayStation Plus.
Also, the game encourages players to purchase outfits and moves to distinguish their player-character from others in the game. These include items like new clothes and equipment as well as being able to perform particular dance-taunts.
These elements are only visual and don’t affect the stats of the player but can mount up. For example the Season 6 Battle pass costs around £6.50 to purchase the required 950 V-Bucks.
Parents should make sure that credit cards for their console require a password, to avoid unintended purchases made by children clicking around.
No parent likes to see their child upset, much less scream and throw their controller across the room. It’s important to understand why Fortnite is reported to cause such behaviour in youngsters rather than jumping to reflex responses.
Like games such as FIFA or Rocket League, playing Fortnite Battle Royale is a fiercely competitive challenge for children. Not only are they fighting against all manner of other players -- who may be more skilled or older than them -- but other factors can trip them up.
If the internet connection slows down their character can lag behind other people. If they don’t have a good pair of headphones on, they won’t hear footsteps behind them. Or, if they are called for dinner at just the wrong moment, the distraction can mean they get killed.
This is made more intense in Fortnite because it’s an instant kill and game over. Unlike FIFA or Rocket League where you can fight your way back, in Fortnite you can be riding high, winning the round one minute and dead the next.
Parents can help with this by getting players to take regular breaks. Also taking an interest in the game and how well they are doing can provide a way for a child to communicate their anger in other ways.
Also, it’s worth having a discussion with your child about how and when they will stop. Certainly, limits on play time are healthy. But also understanding that once they have started a match, if they quit they will lose standing and let teammates down is helpful.
Less violent alternatives to Fortnite
For some, particularly those children under the recommended age, will need to be told no when they ask to play or get the game. However, it’s important that this isn’t the end of the conversation. The following games offer an exuberant and enjoyable alternative to Fortnite until children are old enough.
- Splatoon 2 (PEGI 7+)
- Minecraft (PEGI 7+)
- Roblox (PEGI 7+)
- Lovers In a Dangerous Space Time (PEGI 7+)
- Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 (PEGI 12+)
So should kids be playing Fortnite?
Fortnite is a game that offers youngsters a huge number of benefits. Not only is it a lot of fun to play, but it can create a space where friendships are forged and extended as well as teaching teamwork, cooperation and sharp reflexes. There are also a lot of tactics involved in the online multiplayer, both in terms of movement but also managing weapons and locations.
Provided parents understand both the benefits and dangers of the game, as outlined here, Fortnite can play a big part of healthy and balance leisure time.