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A Parents’ Guide to Fortnite: What You Need to Know

Many parents know that their kids and teens enjoy playing the video game Fortnite, but that may be all they know about this global cultural phenomenon. The basic overview of Fortnite—it’s three versions of a survival-genre third-person shooter game with cartoonish graphics—doesn’t really explain how and why Fortnite has become so ridiculously popular. The following more detailed information about the game should help parents understand what all the Fortnite fuss is about.

What is Fortnite?

Fortnite is a survival-genre video game published by Epic Games that is currently available in three versions: Fortnite: Save the World, a cooperative survival game; Fortnite: Battle Royale, the most popular version in which up to 100 players fight to be the last person standing; and Fortnite Creative, in which players design and create their own battle arenas. The backstory for all the games is the same: An apocalyptic storm has wiped out 98 percent of the human population, and players (solo or in squads) must fight for survival while building fortifications, collecting resources and killing zombies (“husks”).

Fortnite: Save the World is available for Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One platforms. Fortnite: Battle Royale is additionally available on mobile devices and Nintendo Switch. This partially accounts for that version’s immense popularity, which amounted to over 125 million registered players in its first year of release.

Why is Fortnite So Popular?

It’s hard to define the exact reason for Fortnite’s popularity. However, experts cite the vibrant cartoon-like graphics, cool characters, a silly sense of humor, and the all-encompassing, fantastical universe that inspires conversations between kids outside of actual playing time. The names of island areas, such as Snobby Shores and Greasy Grove, appeal to younger players, as do the popular dance moves and cool costumes (“skins”). Nick Paumgarten, the parent of a Fortnite fanatic, writes in The New Yorker that the game “seems to be mostly free of the misogyny and racism that afflict many other games and gaming communities,” alluding to a somewhat wholesome aspect of the Fortnite universe that balances its inherently violent concept.

The Basics for Parents

Fortnite has an Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating of “T” for teen, meaning the “content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up,” and a Pan European Game Information (PGEI) rating of 12 as “not suitable for persons under 12 years of age” due to “frequent mild violence.” In this case, it is cartoonish violence and there is no blood or gore, but guns are the main weapon used to kill opponents.

To download and play Fortnite, players have to create an account using an email address and create a display name and password. Players are not asked for their age. Game-play involves playing against others of all ages, all over the world.

Fortnite: Battle Royale is free to play. Fortnite: Save the World requires the purchase of a Founder’s Pack, which starts at around $30, but a free version is scheduled to come out soon. This game also features in-game purchases, which require the purchase of V Bucks costing from $5 to over $100. These purchases allow players to make aesthetic upgrades, but do not help them advance in the game.

The Pros and Cons

Parents need to be aware that Fortnite is a violent game. Experts are not in agreement about the impact that violent video games have on children, so it’s best for parents to research the issue and consider all factors, such as the child’s maturity levels and family rules. Keep in mind that the violence in Fortnite is cartoon-like and not gory or bloody. Concerned parents can watch a Fortnite game session to understand its specific style of violence.

And Fortnite poses another potential risk. Newsweek reports that “…popular gaming apps including Fortnite have become fertile grounds for adult predators luring minors. Multiple arrests have been made in recent weeks.” Experts say parents should discuss this possibility with their kids and ensure they are practicing safe online behavior.

The addictive nature of video games is another concern with no definitive answers. Fortnite is so popular that kids are sometimes caught playing it in class, which causes problems for teachers in school. However, this game is likely no more addictive by design than any other video game. This issue is an individual one, so parents should monitor their kids’ screen time, behavior, and school performance and discuss any concerns with teachers and other professionals as needed.

In favor of Fortnite: its format calls for creativity, problem-solving, collaboration and analysis. All good traits for kids to learn. It’s also more sociable than it might appear. Kids and especially teens often come together in groups to watch each other play, or play together but independently on their phones. Many players FaceTime or Skype each other while playing at their own separate homes.

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