Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Truth about Fortnite - A Parents Guide

The Truth about Fortnite - A Parents Guide with a screenshot from game
There has been an awful lot of noise in the press recently about a free multi-platform video game that children have gone absolutely crazy about. The press have not been kind, and many parents are concerned about potential harmful effects from this gun-toting war game on their enthusiastic offspring. I'm talking about Fortnite - Battle Royale and this Parents Guide is here to bring you the facts behind the headlines. What it's all about, what I've learned from watching it and how you can help your children play it safely, or not, if that's your choice after reading these facts about the game.

Some of the reports I've read haven't been very factual and seem to have been written by people who haven't had a lot to do with the game, but like to produce dramatic headlines. I wanted to produce a non-scaremongering, accurate review of the game, based on lengthy observations and with the help of my son, who is 12 and has been playing for about six months. Firstly, let's breakdown some of the assertions made in the press about Fortnite - Battle Royale. 

It's Violent

Yes, it is, there is no escaping that. The idea of being dropped in, effectively, a war zone, with 99 other people and having to fight for survival is certainly a violent concept, but it is presented in such a way that the violence isn't the focus of the game. There are lots of other aspects, such as finding loot and resources, hiding, building, dancing (?) and outsmarting other players. There is no blood, no pain-related sounds, such as bones breaking or screaming. Yes, you have to shoot people, but it's not realistic, it's 'bang, bang, you're dead', like old-fashioned cops and robbers, it doesn't have the same detail that, say, Call of Duty would have. It's more like a target practice game. It is violent in the same way that a 12a film would be violent, less so, in many cases. Read my Avengers reviews, for far more violent content. I have watched many hours of Fortnite and in my opinion it is no worse than TV shows such as Lab Rats or Mech X4.

A screenshot showing two players fighting in Fortnite - Battle Royale

It's Addictive

I would like to start this paragraph with a quote from L, who is 12. "Games are designed to be fun, if you're not going to set boundaries, then children will want to carry on having fun". Anything that a person enjoys doing can potentially be addictive, but in my experience, it is no different to any other game, such as Minecraft, or Spyro. If I let him, he would play it indefinitely, and happily have his meals brought to his controller, but I don't. We are always advised as parents to be careful with our children's gameplay and this is no different. You should always remain in control. Get involved, find out about the game for yourself, watch the gameplay, ask questions. Limits are very important. so decide between you and your child how long is appropriate to play for and stick to it. It's really no different to any other game, it's all down to how much you allow and what rules and limitations are in place.

A screenshot from a player's perspective in Fortnite Battle Royale

It's Expensive

As with most free-to-play games, there are in-app purchases available. These are all purely cosmetic and do not affect your progress or ability within the game. The main purchases you can make are skins, pickaxes, gliders and dances. They all change the appearance of the player and provide comedic value, but the main point is that they add new versions periodically, so they become 'collectable' and it all gets a bit competitive amongst friends. In order to buy anything, you have to have V-bucks, which you can buy from the store, using your credit or debit card, in increments of at least £10. At the start of each season, lasting 70 days, you can also purchase the Battle Pass, which costs 950 V-bucks (£8) and gives you an exclusive skin and access to various challenges. As you complete the challenges, you get rewards for reaching certain thresholds. If you don't manage to complete the challenges you will just end up with a really expensive skin, or you can spend more money to buy your way through the tiers without completing the challenges. Two points to note; you can play the game just as well without buying anything and you have complete control over in-app purchases, provided you don't have a credit or debit card permanently linked to the account the game is played from.

Screenshot of the burglar skin from Fortnite

It's Dangerous 

There are three primary game modes: Solos, Duos and Squads.  Solos is self-explanatory, you are one individual player, playing against 99 other random players who you don't know. In solos, it is not possible to communicate with those other players. This is the safest mode for young people to play in, as it is very much like playing against the computer, you are not involved with the other players on a personal level.  In Duos you are paired up with another player and this could be a friend who your child knows personally, or it could be a stranger. There is no way to block matchmaking with other random players, but many young people add their real life friends and only play with them. This is something you may need to monitor, and make sure your child understands. If there is a headset connected, you can speak to whoever you are paired with. It is obviously very important that you are aware who your child is speaking to. You can remove the headset, or mute the game, if you don't want communication to be possible. In Squads you are paired with three other people. The set up is exactly the same as duos, but with three others, instead of one. If your child has three real life friends to play with, this could be an option, if not, they will be playing with strangers. This isn't necessarily a problem, provided they don't have a means of communication, such as a headset, enabled. There is no other way to communicate within the game, such as chat rooms or messaging.

A screenshot of the Love Ranger skin in Fortnite - Battle Royale


There have been some positive aspects to the game that are worth mentioning. Obviously, we would all prefer our children to be outside frolicking in the sunshine with actual other small people, but that isn't always possible, so this game does at least mean they are 'playing' with their friends to a point. Fortnite has provided L with an opportunity to play alongside friends who live far away, who he doesn't get to see very often, as well as introducing him to the his friends' friends, widening his friendship circle and improving his social skills. The game offers opportunities for problem solving, when you are trying to outwit other players, and also teamwork, when you are working with your friends to try to survive as a team. This is something that I have not found to be a factor in other video games and feel it is a useful skill to learn. When L is communicating via headset with his friends, they have to listen to each other and make decisions as a group, it's very much a team-building experience. In view of everything I have personally seen and heard in relation to this game, I can't see how it's any worse than any other video game. It's easy to grasp, making it appealing to children, it's entertaining and fun, giving it potential for over-playing and it has potential for progression, making it prone to addiction. However, as parents, we have the ability to monitor and control the extent to which our children play on their devices and how much they are allowed to spend and so there is no reason why they can't play this game as safely as any other. The game is recommended for over 12s, so if they are younger than that, play with them, or at least be in the same room to ensure they are playing safely. Exactly as is recommended for younger children playing any online game.



  1. Finally! An article with common sense! I've been so angered with the news reports that I've read, slating this game. One 9 year old in rehab? Seriously? It's a game, a fun game at that. We all play it in my house. It's no more addictive than anything else.

    My son's school sent out an email recently asking parents to stop their kids playing it. And yet at the school disco, the teachers were actively doing the 'floss' Ironic right?

    Instead of parents moaning about this game, perhaps they could actively show interest in it and join in with their children. If your child is showing adverse affects, then stop them playing it. As a parent YOU are in control. Stop blaming the game and look at your parenting skills!

    Rant over :-D

    But seriously, fantastic article x x x

    1. I agree, it is just a game. Playing it together is always the best defence if you are worried about a game as a parent, and it's fun, too!


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