Anyone who has a school-aged son has heard of the video game Fortnite. It’s the latest obsession among gamers.
As a mother of a teen boy, I witness first-hand how the game hooks boys’ attention.
In a quest to provide a safe and balanced life at home for my son, and to understand the greater effects of another video game that’s literally taken over, I contacted Dan Rooney to get his perspective.
We had an interesting conversation about Fortnite. Dan offered his provocative thoughts about the benefits and concerns surrounding the game, and some suggestions for parents about ways to manage their gamers.
Many captivating video games came before Fortnite: Minecraft, Overwatch, and Call of Duty, to name a few.
So what’s the big deal about this one?
Fornite is different.
For one thing, it’s free. Anyone with access to the internet can join in the action.
And, it’s mobile. In March 2018, Fortnite invited its players to go mobile. Participants can play on smart phones during recess and lunch, using school wifi. If they’re close to winning, kids can sneak discreetly using phones during class, so they don’t lose the game.
Dan identified some things he likes about gaming.
Fortnite is social, says Dan.
The kids can connect with each other online. In a time when there is an “over-involvement of parents and over-planning of schedules, kids can unleash and unravel so their parents are not in their face all the time.”
He explained, “parents are not there during the game. They are not welcome. There is exclusivity involved.”
Dan compared it to playing outside in days gone by, with the neighbourhood gang, until the street lights turned on.
Fortnite has benefits.
Dan highlighted aspects of the game that appeal to boys: the pursuit of superiority, mastery, and social organization.
It involves higher-level thinking.
He pointed out that it’s a “low-language activity, and for boys who are late bloomers,” this is a good thing.
Using a headset with a mouthpiece, it’s easier to communicate with others online than in real-life situations. The boys “talk without having to look at the other person, and they can hear themselves talk.”
Addiction and productivity loss.
I typed “Fortnite” in an internet search, and found dozens of posts by concerned parents on the topic.
One parent admitted, “our son started secretly playing and his real life crumbled. The deception is horrible.”
Another mother vented, “instead of socializing and doing homework, all my son does is play Fortnite.”
The word “addiction” came up many times.
I asked Dan Rooney about addiction to gaming. Should parents be concerned about their kids getting addicted to Fortnite?
His answer was simple: the “extreme-case”of addicted gamers is in fact a very small part of the population: 2-5%. There are some kids who “are non-functioning because of this game” and need intervention, but it is not the norm.
He said, in general, kids have “grabbed onto it more than they have been seduced into it.”
Dan explained that while online gaming is social, it’s different from real-life socializing. Kids may have a conflict with peers during the game, but “it’s not the same as having a fight in the sandbox.”
He elaborated that exclusion is a problem. There is no “normal” inclusion or exclusion in this context.
As a player, if you get “blocked,” it can be a very severe and final action. He explained, “you can’t get back in the game, or the group. There is no discussion about inclusion, unlike in the real world. There are only four kids in the universe.”
This can be devastating and isolating for the excluded player.
Strategies for Parents.
Dan said many parents think there is something wrong with gaming, and they “want their kids participating with family life in an ideal way.” When the kids don’t, parents often “go into panic mode.”
Dan explained that some parents “want kids to be more mature than they are, and are affronted by gaming.”
Dan continued, “controlling gaming is not going to increase sleep and studying and so on. Gaming is not the reason for problems with a teen.”
Monitor the gaming thoughtfully.
Don’t cut off the game when the players are in the middle of it. That’s like interrupting a conversation with another kid! When you cut off your child’s game, “you have invaded their space, and you have no boundaries.”
Dan encourages parents to understand “what we are monitoring here. There’s a lot going on. Respect your child’s privacy, ability to be a kid, and relationships with other kids.”
Look through a different lens.
Dan doesn’t “buy” that kids are better off without gaming, and that it’s the reason for problems with a teenager, such as “not sleeping, not studying, not socializing, and no manners at the dinner table.”
He said these issues are developmental hurdles, and by controlling gaming, it’s not going to improve these things.
Set up a plan in advance.
Ask your children to set up a video gaming schedule ahead of time. For example, decide “not to play Fortnite at lunch, and, get your homework done before playing the video game.”
Practice good time management, and disciplined, delayed gratification. It’s is hard to do, but it’s a good strategy to implement for life in general.
You try it!
Dan dared me (a parent) to “try to get through part of the day without your cell phone” if I want to monitor my son’s gaming life.
Because (we) parents love technology too! We use our phones all day, day in and day out.
He pointed out that we created the technology! This is our reality.
We role model to our children our need for and use of technology, 24/7.
In summary, Dan Rooney sees gaming as a way for a kid to be a kid in the society we have created.
He said, gaming “is an inheritance of what we’ve created. We have a responsibility to understand this.”
Finally, for parents dealing with gaming or any other parenting matter, Dan Rooney urged parents, when it comes to their children, to:
“Stay vigilant, stay focussed, stay worried, and stay connected.”
What do you think of Dan’s ideas?
He’s got me thinking.
To get the full scoop on this trendy obsession, check out “Parenting the Fortnite Addict,” in The New York Times, which outlines its pros, cons, and objectives.
To comment on Dan Rooney’s ideas about gaming, please contact him directly at (416) 985-7331, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
He welcomes any comments. If you disagree or agree, please tell him why. Dan acknowledges this is a point of contention, frustration, and worry, and any counter points should not be silenced.