Fortnite: Fun & Strategic in Moderation

Fortnite is the latest gaming rage and in my opinion the timing could not be better. Given the amount of time that kids are home for snow days, even parents who despise video games may be feeling somewhat grateful. Unlike the snow days of my childhood, when we were encouraged to go out and play in the snow, the rash of Nor-esters, with 20-60 mile an hour winds, make outdoor activities unsafe.

Fortnite is a very popular video game with some appealing qualities. Teamwork is essential for survival. The game takes place on Earth, where a worldwide storm causes 98% of the world’s population to disappear, and zombie-like creatures to attack the remainder. Fortnite players work in teams of up to four players cooperating on various missions on randomly-generated maps to collect resources, build fortifications around defensive objectives, protect survivors, and construct weapons and traps to engage in combat. Players gain rewards through these missions to improve their hero characters, support teams, and build an arsenal of weapon and trap schematics to be able to take on more difficult missions. The game is supported through microtransactions to purchase in-game currency that can be used towards these upgrades.

Players obtain land, and use weapons and team work to fight to protect the land. There is not significant graphic violence, but the game shouldn’t be played by children under the age of 12. The two modes are Save the World and Battle Royale, in save the world you cooperatively fight of waves of zombies, similar to plants vs zombies with guns. This mode costs $39.99. The free mode, battle royale, 100 players jump of a bus and have to fight to survive while building and finding resources.

Here are some considerations when supervising your gaming teens:

  1. Discuss that Fortnite is not just about winning, but like Minecraft, there is value in learning strategy. Ask your teens to discuss their strategies and logic.
  2. Discuss team work and what to do when four friends are playing and a fifth wants to join. Instead of using a power play and rejecting the extra player, or booting an existing player out, encourage teens to be inclusive. Spilt the existing group into two groups of three and two players.
  3. Game in moderation. Even on snowy, windy days, gaming all day can lead to brain changes that make it harder to get back to reality. Gaming stimulates the neurotransmitter dopamine causing the brain to crave more and more dopamine. Once gaming stops and the brain is in craving mode, teens can crash, causing negativity and anger in this withdrawal state. Protect teen players from getting in this state by not allowing gaming in excess of two hours at a time.
  4. Pair gaming with work. For every hour of gaming insist on thirty to sixty minutes of reading or working out. Even on snow days, push-ups and sit ups can be done. Do it with them to get it started.
  5. Look for warning signs. A perfectly normal teen can come off a snow day where they gamed for 10 hours and appear as though they are ready for war. If you see that your child does not adjust to the real world after a period of gaming, you are not imagining this behavior change. It’s real and it’s not good for your teen or your relationship with them. A 1-2 day break from gaming is necessary to reset a teen back to their “normal” self after they reach this state.

 

Dr. Kate Roberts is a clinical and school psychologist on the North Shore. www.drkateroberts.com

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