Is Fortnite Safe for my Child? My thoughts as a parent of three boys, having supervised their play for a year now.
Is Fortnite Safe for My Child?
A couple of years ago, I began hearing about a game called Fortnite. There were children in my boys’ school doing “Loser” dancers and other Fortnite inspired moves at school and eventually a letter was released by the headteacher of our school saying they were concerned about the amount of children playing it, as it’s rated 12-13+, which means only children in year 6 should be playing it. From what I heard, I assumed for months that this game was clearly created by the Devil himself and was sure my kids were never going anywhere near it. Plus, they never mentioned wanting to play it to me and so I carried on thinking the worst of it and riding on the Fortnite Hating Bandwagon. I never even Googled, “Is Fortnite Safe for my Child?”
Fast forward to lockdown and my children were curious, and after one of their friends invited them, they asked if we could download it, as it’s a free game. So, I decided that instead of passing on the negative opinion of other people [whom I later discovered also had never actually looked at the content of the game either], I’d better be a grown up and decide for myself whether it was safe for MY children. So here’s my opinion, and some information on the game if you’re a non-video game playing parent and completely clueless like I was.
What is Fortnite? Is it Safe for Children?
So, released in 2017, fortnite is essentially a survival video game where players are soldiers. The game can be played across every device I have in the house. Phone, PC, laptop, Playstation, Switch – every single one we have, has it downloaded. Made by Epic Games, it really is, pardon the pun, quite Epic. Basically, from what I see, as a player you can dress your avatar in “skins” – which you buy from the Item Shop. Once your player is suited up, you appear in the Lobby for the game and climb aboard the Battle Bus with 99 other players, which sails through the sky over the map of Fortnite, until you decide to disembark and glide to a part of the map to begin your mission to be the last person standing, and gain the Victory Royale [the “vic”].
Once on the ground, players search for weapons, [so many different guns] loot crates and med kits that they use to survive as they encounter other players. Your soldier can build and destroy structures, drive cars, boats, and fly helicopters too. Players have the ability to save other players by “rezzing” them [resuscitating] and holding a healing hand in front of them whilst the injured player is crawling on their knees. In some modes, if a teammate meets their end during the game, each soldier leaves a reboot card in place of their body, which can be collected and taken by a player to reboot vans in the game and they will appear back in play. It’s all very tactical.
Whilst you’re playing and trying to stay alive, there is a storm coming. There’s a whole story woven through Fortnite that I won’t go into, but there’s a storm which engulfs the map from the outside in, shrinking the area on the map in which players can roam and forcing everyone into a closer quarter. This obviously helps the pace of the game and prevents hour long matches where there are 4 players spread across the whole map left in play and trying to find each other to eliminate. The storm is announced and a purple mist descends, sucking the life out of your soldier. Players have to run and escape the storm or risk being wasting away in the gloom.
Is there Violence in Fortnite?
That was my worry. But no, if you’ve been wondering, is Fortnite safe for my child in terms of violence, rest assured that there’s no blood, no gory wounding, no horror – it’s more like laser tag where when hit, your player will sink to their knees if injured and disappear as if they’ve been zapped to an alien spaceship if they die. There’s nothing horrific here to see. Your children will learn an awful lot about artillery though – mine know more than me, and I was in the military.
The Fortnite Item Shop
So this is where all of my money has gone this lockdown, I’m pretty sure. It’s an online shop where skins, pickaxes, “back blings”, gliders, and emotes can be bought. All to customise your character – and they’re bought using V-Bucks. The selection on offer changes every day at midnight, but there’s a particular You Tuber that they all watch who announces the new line up before midnight so they don’t have to wait until the next day to find out.
V-Bucks are in game currency, and what you use at the item shop. They’re available in bundles and the larger bundle you buy, the bigger discount you get. I think the smallest amount possible to purchase is 1,000 V-Bucks and that’s £6.49. It was more expensive thanks to Apple, but Epic Games went to war with them and now we all have cheaper V-Bucks whilst they battle it out in court. You can purchase items for yourself with them or gift to others. Most skins begin at 1,200 V Bucks and the very swish licensed ones which come as an outfit complete with back bling and pickaxe or glider accessories are usually 2,800.
There are ways to earn V-Bucks throughout the game with missions, events, and there’s also a monthly subscription which our boys have that gifts 1,000 V-Bucks a month along with special skins for £10.
The Battle Pass
The Battle Pass is one of the most exciting elements of the game. This is a sliding scale of rewards to be won as a player progresses through their levels, gaining XP to level up. There are free items available to any Fortnite player, but if the Battle Pass is bought, there are additional exclusive items, and V-Bucks, which can be unlocked. This season there are battle stars which are earned with each level, and these are used in an online shop related to the battle pass so that players can decide for themselves what to spend their battle stars on.
The Crew Pack is the monthly subscription to Fortnite – it costs £10 per month and contains an exclusive bundle of items chosen specifically for that month. For example, this month Loki Laufeyson is the main attraction in the game [which we are also loving watching on Disney+ ] and so this crew pack has Loki’s Skin, his sceptre pickaxe, cape back bling, Chitauri chariot glider and his welcome loading screen. Buying these separately would have cost more than £10 and so we’re happy to pay for it.
Fortnite Playing Modes
It’s a really social game – you can play alone against 99 other people, or you can play with your friends in duos and squads. Our boys aren’t allowed to play with people they don’t know in real life, and there are controls that prevent unknown random strangers from joining your child’s squad. Over lockdown they played with their friends from school and it was quite honestly the best time they had. Our boys aren’t huge phone conversationalists but they chatted away merrily playing this.
The Dark Side of Fortnite
Fortnite is Highly Addictive
So, whilst I have no issues whatsoever with the boys playing Fortnite content wise, there is a dark side to it. The game is ADDICTIVE – and that’s a serious problem for children. Our boys are not able to self regulate the amount they play, as we swiftly realised, and pretty soon they were cycling through games, back into the lobby area of the game with their friends and playing match after match, after match. Because the game is so amazing, and because there are new seasons, new items, new skins, new missions constantly, it never gets old and there’s always something to be aiming for. It will eat their free time away, so be careful.
Playing Fortnite can cause emotions to run high
We have experienced tantrums and anger as a result of playing, or during the playing of, Fortnite. I keep a close eye on the emotional state of the boys, and they’re pretty good about going to take a break or get a drink to calm down when needed. Left unchecked I can imagine they would genuinely play for hours, bicker incessantly, and forget to eat or drink, leading to more anger. That part would worry me if they were away from home at university or somewhere, but as they play here in the living room and under our supervision it’s easy to spot the emotional episodes coming.
Fortnite is EXPENSIVE
Yep, expensive. Despite being a free game, the purchase of items and passes and so on means that it can get expensive pretty quickly if you have more than one child playing, and unless you have a will of steel [which I do not have], you’ll find yourself buying V-Bucks more often than you’d like so your kids can have the new skin that they really can’t live without. I dread to think how much we have spent on it, genuinely.
So, is Fortnite safe for my child? That depends on your child and when and where they play, I’d say. Everyone’s children will react differently to it, and despite all of the issues I’ve listed here on the dark side, I’m happy for them to play with their friends. They’ve learned to read a map, navigate, work as a team, manage resources, and a whole host of other skills including being able to name most of the artillery in the world – and it’s kept them connected to their friends during the pandemic.