'Fortnite' Holds Powerful Sway Over Children

June 13, 2018

By Max Godnick

Some child psychologists are starting to see young patients struggling with the effects of playing too much Fortnite, the apocalyptic survival video game played by more than 125 million people since it launched last summer.

"They are seeing kids who are coming in, their parents are concerned, they're having a lot of trouble putting the game down," Sara Miller, the health editor at Live Science, said in an interview with Cheddar about some anecdotal reports from mental health professionals.

Miller said some of the child psychologists who spoke to Live Science described children developing an addiction to the battle royale-style game from Epic Games. One psychologist told Live Science that parents should cap their children's Fortnite gameplay at no more than six hours a week.

Children obsessively playing video games is not a new phenomenon, but there may be some aspects of Fortnite that have a particularly strong pull on young gamers. The game's colorful cartoonish aesthetic obscures its violent goal ー kill everyone. It's relatively short rounds (about 20 minutes) keep gamers coming back for more. "It's like pulling a slot machine," said Miller.

Fortnite's popularity can also be attributed to its accessibility: It is available on XBox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, iOS, and Nintendo's Switch. It's also free.

"That makes the barrier of entry really, really low," said Miller.

Some Fortnite proponents said the game is potentially beneficial to young gamers' development by helping them figure out how to construct solutions to unexpected problems. Users can build walls and other structures for cover during firefights. Microsoft leveraged similar world-building tactics for learning purposes when it launched Minecraft: Education Edition in 2016.

Miller says constructing barriers to protect from grenade launchers is no substitute for actual social interaction.

"Nothing really beats going out and making eye contact with people and interacting with them in person," she said.

For the full interview, click here.

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