If you’re the parent of a middle-schooler or high-schooler, especially boys, then you undoubtedly know about the “free” video game called “Fortnite” that’s sweeping the country….literally! “Free” to download to your child’s Xbox, iPhone, iPad, etc….but certainly not free from the headaches that will ensue. Trust me, from personal experience and the many stories from fellow parents, this Fortnite has been a nightmare!
According to a recent article in the New York Times, Fortnite generated $223 million in March 2018 alone, mostly attributed to V-bucks which is a currency that players can purchase to buy things like “skins” (ie. character uniforms) and other cosmetic items. Fortnite is also one of the latest trends of social experimentation where players can play along side friends in virtual settings while communicating via headsets, Facetime, alerting other players about upcoming threats in a particular game, coordinate strategy, or even talk “smack” to one another. Believe me, if you’ve heard the screaming of “give me bandages” from your living room during a son’s game, then you know what I’m referring to!
Another positive is that while the game does involve shooting weapons, the graphics are free from blood and gore, unlike another video game series, Call of Duty, which was just the opposite. Lastly, there’s research to confirm that action video games cultivate spatial skills needed in advanced math and engineering. Maybe I should have played more video games before “Plebe” math at West Point?
With all these positives, how can Fortnite be bad, you might be asking?
Just the word alone conjures up images of someone who’s lost control and cannot make decisions without some assistance, either it be counseling, prescriptions, or going “cold turkey” altogether. There are stealth habit-forming features in this new game such as the element of “luck” that, by human nature, keep players coming back for more. Players need that “hit” or the “high” or the “rush” with the belief that good fortune is just around the corner.
That same NYT’s article explains the adrenaline rush that comes if you almost win. Players will feel like they have to play again to try and overcome that near win scenario.
My wife and I have found ourselves struggling for ways to apply some controls around these video game sessions. There are days, especially on the weekends, where our living room if filled with a half dozen boys. I’ve seen some pictures of multiple monitors and devices where teens are playing Fortnite. Recently, we purchased an Eeros system for our home which creates a “network mesh” for our WiFi. Every device on the home wifi network has a profile to which a schedule can be applied. So, the boys’ Xbox is one profile and during the school nights, the Eeros system will shut down the Xbox from the network between 5:30 pm until 6:30 am the next day.
We have another schedule on the weekends where the Xbox shuts down between 10 am and 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Ingenious? Maybe….but even the Eeros as a means of our sanity has created an uproar from our two sons.
“What are we supposed to do until 3 o’clock on a Saturday,” was one response from our oldest son when we were explaining the rules one evening. It was a literal melt-down. As a parent who was himself raised doing chores around the home on weekends, and mowing lawns around the neighborhood to earn some extra spending cash, the “what are we supposed to do” response did not sit well with me. A conversation about responsibilities around the home quickly followed.
Now I’m not writing today to say we have it all figured out. In fact, it’s just the contrary. We are still struggling. And many of you are too.
What are the “Fortnites” in your lives? For me, it’s my aspiring love of playing golf. I’ll have a terrible round and I’m ready to throw away my clubs, but then magically, I’ll hit an amazing drive straight down the middle of the 18th fairway, and I’ll turn to a playing partner to say, “Man, I love this game!” or “Isn’t golf easy….?”.
Some might call that my addiction. There’s an element of the “rush” or “hit” in my golf game too, isn’t there?
Addictions are not always the historical ones of drugs, alcohol, or other vices. We live in a new age where everything in excess can become addictive.
There’s a biblical message for all of us, especially as it relates to Fortnite. The video game, although caustic as times, has become a focal point for conversations. I’ve learned to be a little more patient. Learned to keep to my word as it relates to the Eeros schedule. And I think we’re talking more as a family.
We’re learning to tackle problems head-on instead of festering in a back bedroom. There are fewer slamming doors, fewer shouting matches, and, thank God, we actually have some quieter times in the evening after 5:30 pm.
Funny or not, I find myself talking to God on a daily basis….”Lord, just help me through this final 30 minutes of hearing Fortnite in the other room…!”
And the boys, well….they’re coming around too. Amazingly, our youngest doesn’t treat the kitchen as his personal diner anymore, demanding anything and everything on the menu…..And I’ve even witnessed him wiping down the kitchen island with a damp sponge after taking his plate to the sink now. Progress!
If there is a “Fortnite” in your household, consider yourself lucky. Really….lucky. Embrace it. Monitor it. Keep it in check. Use it as a focal point to bring the family together rather than tearing it apart.
I’m learning. And I know you can too!