Weigh the pros and cons of this popular new video game, Fortnite: Battle Royale and see if you should let your child play it.

Here is my parenting dilemma: my daughter LOVES playing Fortnite: Battle Royale.  

I can see why it has quickly become one of the most popular online games (in less than a year, over 40 million users have downloaded the game). And it’s relatively easy to master, in fact, when I played with my daughter, I came in third the first time I played with no previous training or strategy.

Fortnite: Battle Royale fosters many of the same STEM skills it takes to play Minecraft: Pocket Edition. (For more on why I love Minecraft, check out Zift’s Parents’ Guide to Minecraft). The developers at Epic Games have infused an offbeat sense of humor, pop culture references, avatar dance moves (as an in-game purchase) and regular game enhancements into a pretty Candy Land-colored animated world. 

The problem is that Fortnite is a virtual Hunger Games with the object of the game to kill everyone else before you are killed. The ultimate end goal is to be the sole survivor.

In fairness to the game, when users are killed there isn’t much blood or gore, you’re just wiped from the game and put in a spectator mode where you can watch the end of game. Fortnite is rated by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) as “Teen with violence”, but players as young as six have been reported playing the game. 

And while it looks like a cuddly and cozy Pixar movie from the outside, it’s packed with violence and parents should be cautious allowing any younger or sensitive child to play or even watch closely.

What is Fortnite: Battle Royale?

Fortnite: Battle Royale is a shooter video game that is eerily like Hunger Games. One hundred unarmed players are dropped onto an island from a flying party bus and when they land, they search desperately for hidden resources and weapons so they can defend themselves.

As the game continues, the playing area shrinks so all players are pushed into a condensed location, intensifying the game play and the likelihood of being killed at any moment and from any angle. Each game takes roughly 20 minutes to play and users can play as a team of up to 20 players or on their own.  

The last surviving player wins the game.

Why is it so popular?

Fortnite quickly built a following by being is a free game to play online through computers, an iPhone app, and gaming consoles like PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Epic Games makes its money by in-game purchases of attire or custom dance moves for users’ avatars.

Unlike other games where in-game purchases increase your chances of winning by opening new worlds or giving you more weapons, the add-ons in Fortnite only increases the “cool factor” of your avatar. The avatars are quite amazing on their own, so if your child can deal with their avatar not having the trendiest outfit or latest dance move, they can play Fortnite for free. 

If they need to express themselves by dressing up their avatar or purchasing a new dance move, then watch the in-game purchases because they can add up quickly. It also contributes to why streaming videos of users playing this are a huge hit with avid gamers, making Fortnite the most watched game on both Twitch and YouTube.

Fortnite Listens to its Users

The developers at Epic Games are very tuned in to their audience and regularly push out new "skins" and "emotes" to keep things fresh for players. Skins are the avatar bodies that users inhabit to play the game and emotes are certain actions avatars can perform. By purchasing emotes, users’ avatars can express their attitudes and actions, and although they’re gimmicky, they do make watching the game more entertaining.

After Drake live streamed himself playing Fortnite on Twitch, fans begged the game to incorporate a “Hotline Bling” emote that would allow their avatars to mimic the rappers famed dance. Since the game is free, the emotes are how Fortnite makes their money and gamers are more than willing to pay up to customize their avatar.

Epic Games also pays attention to what users post on Fortnite forums. When the iOS version of Fortnite came out, a teacher, Reddit user and Fortnite player, Mr. Hillman, became frustrated that he couldn’t get his students attention in class due to their obsession with the game. He asked the Fortnite producers to post a warning on the loading screen stating, “Mr. Hillman says stop playing in class”, and Epic Games did just that.

Below is a copy of the post that Mr. Hillman posted on Reddit and the actual gaming screens with the message in the iOS app version of Fortnite.

“First, I love your game,” Hillman wrote on a Fortnite: Battle Royale Reddit forum. “My friends from college and I play pretty much every night. One problem, since mobile came out my students won’t stop playing in class. Idk if it’s possible, but I told them I’d write you and they didn’t believe me. Could you add this to the loading screen for a couple of days to mess with them? Mr. Hillman says stop playing in class.”




What Parents Need to Know

The popularity of Fortnite, has led to the creation of scam sites that trick children and adults into downloading fake Fornite apps. In anticipation of the android Fornite release this summer, a fake Fortnite android app was recently promoted on several bogus websites.

The scammers even created YouTube videos that link to the sites to download the fake Fortnite app. To make sure your child does not accidently download a malicious Fortnite app only allow your child to download Fortnite apps from the official developer, Epic Games. The official Epic Games android Fortnite app will be available in the Google Play store sometime this summer.

Due to Fortnite being available on a free online public gaming platform, your child can easily play with their friends down the street or around the world without requiring a special server or pass. The downside of this availability is that stranger danger can be a real issue.

Your child may not personally know everyone they encounter online and there can be inappropriate conversation within the game’s chat. Several predators have even reportedly solicited nude images of minors.

Before letting your child play on any public online gaming platform, have an age-appropriate conversation about stranger danger and teach them the warning signs of grooming that predators use. Read this Online Safety 101: Online Predators and Grooming guide – it’s a great resource that every parent should check out.

If your child is like most children, losing can bring on tantrums – even if it’s just about a video game. It’s easy for them to get stressed out, especially towards the end of the game when the stakes are highest for their avatars. And, unlike Minecraft or Call of Duty, there are no respawns to continue to play in this game – when you’re dead in Fortnite, you’re dead.

Playing against potentially 99 other players, the likelihood of not winning is not only common, but can be difficult for some children to handle. You may want to monitor your child’s gaming experience so you can help them manage any emotions they may feel if their avatar dies within the game. 

 Screen time limits for Fortnite: Battle Royale is also important to consider, especially since each round takes up to 20 minutes to play. If your child is playing on an Xbox or PlayStation, you can use the built-in parental controls to limit the length of each gaming session. Or, if your child is playing on a computer or iPhone, consider using a kitchen or microwave timer (or even Alexa) for an easy countdown to limit playtime. 

For more info about which apps are safe for kids, check out our App Advisor.


About Kristin MacLaughlin

Mom of three, fosters rescued dogs, and is helping to drive the conversation about digital parenting as VP of Consumer Marketing for Zift.

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