What is Fortnite?

Fortnite, by Epic Games, is one of the most popular titles on most gaming platforms right now (early 2018). If you’ve got a teen or preteen child at home playing video games, they’re probably already playing it, or asking for it. They’re almost certainly hearing their friends talk about it.

There’s a very active Fortnite community online. And plenty of people are posting game videos on Twitch and elsewhere that are being watched by the thousands.

Epic Games announced on March 8 that Fortnite Battle Royale is being made available on mobile devices as well, so its reach will extend even farther.

So, yeah, Fortnite is a pretty big deal right now.

What is Fortnite?

Fortnite is a fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic setting, a time it theatrically refers to as “after the Storm.”

Now, the original version of Fortnite is called Fortnite: Save the World. Here players have to fight for survival by gathering resources, building forts, and trying trying to save the world from zombies. The more popular version of the game is the more recent release.

Fortnite: Battle Royale

In this version of Fortnite, 100 players are pitted against each other as individuals or in teams in a fight until one player or team is the last one standing. Players jump from a flying “battle bus” and parachute onto an island, so they can begin in a different place every time. The map doesn’t really change. There are empty towns or wilderness caves and all manner of places in between. Upon landing, players immediately begin looking for supplies and weapons.

The Storm has not finished yet. Every few minutes the storm envelops more of the island, and the habitable circle shrinks. This forces players to eventually move into closer proximity to each other as the game progresses, so they battle each other until the winner is the last one standing.

The game has a fun blend of strategic gameplay with first-person-shooter style battles that gamers of all ages seem to enjoy. Additionally, the ability to play with a squad of your friends adds a social element to the experience. Once you die, you are immediately switched into spectator mode, showing you the view of one of your teammates or the person who just knocked you off. Or you can leave the game and immediately get into a new round.

Is Fortnite too violent?

While there is obviously some inherent violence in Fortnite (players are out to kill each other, after all), the entire game has a sort of cartoon quality. There is not really any blood and gore depicted.

In keeping with the cartoonish look and feel of the game, it’s not particularly realistic. Players can carry around huge amounts of supplies, build ramps and forts instantly, and sometimes heal mortally wounded comrades.

It all helps make the game a bit more fun and lighthearted in spite of its rather dark premise.

Is Fortnite addictive?

Any game can be addictive, of course. And many (most?) games are designed to try to keep players in the game as long as possible. So in that sense, yes Fortnite can be addictive. Kids enjoy the game – it’s never the same twice. They can interact with friends, and quickly move from one game to the next.

That said, there’s nothing obviously insidious about Fortnite. If you find your child can only think and talk about Fortnite when he/she is not playing, that’s a big clue you may need to pull back. (Hopefully you monitor screen time anyway!)

Is Fornite appropriate for kids?

The game is rated T for teen, though many preteens play. As we said above, the violence is cartoonish in nature and the game is not particularly realistic, so we don’t find it to be inherently dangerous for a preteen to play, though obviously such decisions are best made on a kid-by-kid basis.

The biggest danger in Fortnite is unmoderated chat, wherein players can be chatting via headset with whoever else happens to be in that game, particularly if they are in the same “squad.” As always, these online interactions are not rated, and something you need to think through. As an example, my own kids can talk with their friends (people they know offline) in the game, but aren’t allowed to interact with strangers or even use the headphones when playing without friends.

Lastly, there are in-game purchases that your kids may well start asking you about.

Beyond Fortnite: Beware

If your child gets really into Fortnite, he/she may well start looking for Fortnite content outside the game itself. As we alluded to above, there are untold numbers of Fortnite videos on YouTube and Twitch, mostly of players who have recorded and/or streamed their videos.

But as often happens in the seedy side of the Internet, there are some perverse appropriations of Fortnite, including Fortnite-inspired porn (featuring Fortnite-style players in animated porn videos). This is not unique to porn, of course, as seemingly any and all popular franchises (games and movies) get the same treatment. As always, parents will want to closely monitor what their kids are searching for and watching online.