Guidance re: Fortnite video game

As a preview of the forthcoming MCDS Parent Tech Survey results, we offer you the following guidance around Fortnite, the video game sweeping the nation since its release this past July:

  • Data representing 43% of our MCDS Upper School student population indicates a >2:1 ratio of students not playing Fortnite, to those who are playing it:
  • Data representing 49% of Lower School students indicates one 1st grader currently playing Fortnite; one 2nd grader; three 3rd graders; and “sort of” three 4th graders. 94% of Lower Schoolers fell in the “No” or “N/A” categories:  
  • Common Sense Media recommends a minimum age of 13 for Fortnite. The closest word on age requirements from the Fortnite makers themselves is this fairly useless public forum page.  
  • Often explained as “The Hunger Games, but as a video game,” Fortnite pits 100 avatars against each other for survival in a multiplayer, battle-royale style “sandbox.”  
  • Depending on how long you survive, a game might take less than a minute or up to an hour. If you’re the 1/100 who wins the session, you’ve usually done that in an hour or less. You can’t leave a session and come back later to rejoin. If you leave, you “die.” 
  • Even though you’re battling for survival, there’s not a lot of gory content. There’s no blood. The graphics are cartoonish, but there is violence. Players are shooting each other with guns and using other violent means for survival. A player who “dies” may not bleed, but s/he may fall to her/his knees and collapse when shot and killed. 
  • You can play Fortnite on pretty much any device--gaming consoles, desktop or laptop computers, and mobile devices alike (but not Android mobile devices, for now). Students report it works best on gaming consoles and not that well on mobile. 
  • Fortnite pricing is based on the Freemium model--free to start, with deluxe upgrade packages available for purchase along the way.  
  • In determining whether it’s ok for your child to play Fortnite, we recommend a balanced, holistic approach. Visit our tech parenting resource page for support in that interest. 
  • Use particular caution around Fortnite if your child demonstrates a propensity toward imbalance when it comes to tech or video games. Left to her/his own devices, does your child spend too much time on screens? Is your child often moody coming off screens, and/or is it difficult to get your child to disengage? Does your child lie about and/or sneak technology access? Does s/he panic when tech privileges are removed or revoked?  
  • Fortnite is particularly compelling because it is social, interactive, and competitive. You can team up with up to 3 real-life friends and join a room full of other competitors. You never know--you could even end up playing against celebrities like Drake, Chance the Rapper, Joe Jonas, and Roseanne Barr. If you win, chances are you’ll want to play again, and win again. If you lose, you’ll probably want to play again, and hopefully win. Fortnite has become such a phenomenon, people even spend hours watching others play the game, using platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitch.  
  • Fortnite has all the markings of a fad whose tide is sure to ebb swiftly (already some MCDS Upper Schoolers proclaim they are “over it”). We saw this happen in recent memory with Pokemon Go, and even The Hunger Games books/movies.  
  • If your child expresses interest in playing Fortnite, seize that as an opportunity to engage her/him in conversation around technology. As you gauge the right boundaries around Fortnite for your family, also be aware of The Streisand Effect--making people want something even more, as a result of your trying to ignore or conceal it. Technology is tricky for all of us--students and adults alike--and it’s in all our best interests to build mindful awareness and vocabulary around our tech choices.

Stay tuned to this site for full Tech Survey results!