It’s being touted as the most addictive game of 2018 by blogs and newsstands across the country. Fortnite is taking over the internet. Since it launched last year it has grown to have more than 40 million users worldwide and many of those users are kids.
8-year-old Christopher Self has found a new favorite game. “You can’t really resist playing the game,” he said. It’s fun that is drawing in the whole family, mom included.
Christopher’s mom, Jenifer Mcclendon, is a teacher and she said her son isn’t the only kid with eyes glued to the game. “Almost every one of my students plays this game and there’s also a mobile app for it. So, the students will have it on their mobile app and want to play it constantly as well,” McClendon said.
It’s a trend across the country.
“It’s just a real rush,” Herman Poole, owner of Rocket City Arcade said.
Poole is a former professional gamer. He says Fortnite’s popularity rivals games that have been around for years. “45 million is huge. We’re talking World of Warcraft numbers, even better than that,” Poole said.
He beta tested the game and says part of the reason for the game’s popularity is the price. “The cool thing about Battle Royale is that it is a free game.”
The game pits 100 players against each other and it is a battle to be the last one standing. “You lose, you get to complain about it on social media and say, ‘gosh darn it I almost did it. Next time I’m going to do better.’ So it really encourages you to come back and take a second bite at the apple,” he said.
Some are going as far as calling it addicting. Video game addiction is a growing concern for parents, so just how concerned should you be about Fortnite?
“I wouldn’t say that it’s anymore potentially addicting than any other video game,” Dr. Rachel Kowert has studied the psychology behind video games for a decade. She says she her research is debunking common misconceptions about gaming.
“A recent study put the percentage at .8% of the video game population which is just a tiny fraction,” she said.
Kowert says there is a difference between being engaged and being addicted.
“If Christmas comes around, and you get new video games, and they’re playing them all week that’s engagement. If they are experiencing detrimental negative impacts in all areas of their life because of gaming then we might be starting to talk about addiction.”
A licensed professional therapist in Huntsville sees her point.
“Obviously, if they are doing nothing but video games at that level they’re running away from something, and they’re hiding from something, and digging into those underlying issues is the most important thing. Why are they hiding? What are they running from,” Jessica Penot LPC said.
Jessica Penot treats teens and in her experience what seemed like a gaming addiction was actually something else.
“What it turned out to be was family stressors. They were being bullied at school. They didn’t have friends at school. They were finding people online who they can talk to when they couldn’t talk to anyone at school.”
Kowert also has some news that you might find shocking. “I think a lot of parents aren’t aware of the positive benefits of playing video games.”
Both of these experts say kids don’t go outside and play with other kids as often as they used to so Fortnite can have social benefits since kids play together online. “It’s a chance for them to interact after school and it decreases social anxiety,” Penot said.
Penot says some studies suggest games like Fortnite can even increase IQ scores. “Have been shown to increase cognitive and noncognitive skills on IQ tests so there are games that are good and teach you skills that are useful later on down the line.”
But like with most things in life, balance is everything and taking the time to press pause is the key for healthy gaming habits.
Penot says balance starts with parents since many kids mirror their folks when it comes to how often they use screens.