Why I stopped my son playing Fortnite – Readers Feature
A reader details his sons worrying experiences with Fortnite and explains why he had to have the game taken away from him.
You are on a gaming news website so you know all about Fortnite and so do all the children in playgrounds across the UK who are vigorously flossing because of it.
Now, I like a game and dont mind shooters (despite my dwindling eye sight and ageing reflexes) so a few weeks ago I downloaded it, created an account and jumped in.
OK, I thought, I didnt see where that came from, lets try again.
Walk around, break a wall, get some guns, walk towards another building, get another gun, fail to see or hear anyone, notice the storm closing in, run for the eye of the storm, bang, dead.
I gave it two more goes and they went along the same lines. This clearly wasnt a game for me. The ramp/wall building mechanic seemed clumsy, the guns are unimaginative and unsatisfying to shoot and, more significantly, I was god awful at it. I mentioned this to someone I know who loves it and his pointed reply was I needed to git gud. Maybe, but there wasnt enough going on to hook me so I ended my ramp-building career then and there.
My eight-year-old had heard of the game (again, who hasnt?) and wanted to give it a go. I said yes because although it has a PEGI age rating of 12 the graphics are very unrealistic; theres no blood and I never let him voice chat online. The VSC rating board describes it as having frequent scenes of mild violence which consists of you using whatever weapons you can find or make to fend off the monsters of the Storm and save the survivors. Damage is dealt by numbers and life bars and monsters disappear in a purple flash when defeated.
Doesnt sound too harrowing so off he went. He wasnt deterred by the simple rinse and repeat gameplay loop, he didnt mind that he only kept the weapons he found for the round he was on, he didnt even seem to resent regularly dying. This last point was new for him so I thought this game might actually be good for working on his sore-loser-itus.
Pretty soon it became apparent that something was up though. The game is primarily famous for its free-to-play, always online, Battle Royale mode. Being online only, this meant he could never pause it because if he did he would just be left standing still and vulnerable to attack whilst the game carried on around him. He couldnt/wouldnt pause for any reason – conversation, dinner, toilet trips, anything. For him, everything in the real world had to wait until he was between rounds in the game. This created a very tense atmosphere in our home, with lots of frustrated shouting and sulking. He didnt cope too well either.
Nothing out of the ordinary so far as weve had plenty of run-ins in the past when his screen time has ended. However, I was watching him play one day and I noticed things that troubled me. He was not just engaged with the game, he was as tense as hell. He would jump up and down with excitement when doing well to the point that he was dripping with sweat. Ive seen him do this before and I can remember doing it myself when I was a kid, jumping along with Mario in a Southend arcade. But more worrying was that when his character was under fire he would hold his breath until the situation was resolved. If you spoke to him at times like these he would get very aggressive as hed lost all sense of perspective.
We spoke about it and I told him games can make us tense and that they are made to leave us always wanting one more go. More importantly I talked about how games are not real but the things we say and do to other people are. We kept coming back to this conversation over the course of a week but he continued to struggle with advanced emotional restraint and basic breathing.
In the end I decided the gameplay loop in Fortnite was just not right for him. For now he can go back to the Star Wars universe of Battlefront II and the neon paint of Splatoon 2 until he is ready for something a little more fraught. I guess in this case the PEGI age rating of 12 may well be spot on and the VSC rating board could add a warning about gameplay that creates repeated and sustained tension?
By reader Rob
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