They were talking about an intervention. They needed one, they said, for their kids. One mom noticed a negative, somewhat angry, shift in her son’s personality. Another said she had seen her son cry when she suggested he do something else for a bit.
These smart women were grappling with how to manage their sons’ gaming habits. They were lamenting the hold that Fortnite, a wildly popular video game, had on their boys, who are otherwise active kids. I overheard their frustrations while at a sports practice, and kept quiet because I was beginning to think we were the only people on the planet who didn’t engage with the game.
They needed time limits, one mom considered. The other one just got rid of it, she said. That’s what I need to do, the first woman said.
Fortnite is addictive. We don’t know how, really. Meaning, I don’t know why it’s more alluring than Minecraft or Call of Duty or any other video game. But, it is.
Fortune reported that “Fortnite addiction” has been cited as a cause for divorce, and gaming sites are offering tips on how parents can help their kids detox from the game. Experts have declared that Fortnite is as addictive as heroin, adding that it impedes healthy brain development. And, a third-grader actually entered rehab for her Fortnite addiction.
What the actual hell? We’re talking about a video game here. That’s like a drug. Lordy.
The game, which challenges players to be the last one alive, was played by nearly 80 million users in August. It absolutely dominates the gaming world, and to our annoyance, it dominates dance moves, too.
If you aren’t familiar, the game includes a number of dances that, in our opinion, are kind of lame and give “the floss” a run for its money. And to make matters worse, the kids can’t stop doing the dances in the store, during dinner, at school I’m sure, and just while standing. They can’t just be. They can’t just, like, stand.
They feel compelled to do some absurdly mindless dance move, arms flailing everywhere. And, that’s a problem. Stories have been written about the dances alone, where some equally-as-annoyed parents have expressed a sort of consolation-prize happiness that their kids were at least moving.
Is this what our digitally-dependent society has devolved to? We’re happy the kids are at least moving? Are we that sedentary?
We don’t have the game at our house, but that doesn’t mean our kids aren’t exposed to it elsewhere. It’s just a hard rule for us that we won’t get a game that actually inspires tears if we were to tell them to do something else. We’d much rather dry tears after they fall from their bikes or biff on a sweet skateboard maneuver.
And, we’re not too keen on letting a console babysit our kids, particularly when experts are warning that the game leaves them “revved up, stressed out and primed for a meltdown.” There are plenty of other ways to reach that unwelcome outcome – a level of hangriness being one of those options.
Fortnite’s addictive quality also feeds into what Outside Magazine so eloquently described as a migration of today’s youth indoors. That word “migration” is scary and so perfectly descriptive of what is happening to an always-connected generation.
Fortnite is a death match, with one player left standing in the end. It is pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars and it is consuming our kids (and adults, apparently). The result? Kids who are stressed, revved, angry, and nearing a meltdown in a zombie-like, addicted state.
And in the end, they have nothing to show for it. Except fake money or fake rankings or fake costumes in a fake world. Millions of dollars are being spent on fake things. That just blows our minds. There are so many other real things to do and talk about and be concerned with. What if, crazy thought here, those 80 million users unplugged and gave their energy to something productive?
What if those millions of virtually-transfixed kids went outside? That’s where they learn life lessons. Touch real things. Comprehensively think about cause and effect. It’s where they get lost and found again. It’s where their textbooks come to life, where they problem solve and work together. It’s where they test their limits.
It’s where they learn it’s okay to wander. To make their own trail. To get a better view. It is a limitless landscape of possibility, with tangible takeaways. It’s where they learn their real place in a real world. It’s exactly why we’d rather be in the minority on Fortnite. Because, we don’t know of any studies that suggest limits on fresh air and sunsets.
And, we just prefer that they feel comfortable in, and actually crave, reality. That’s an addiction we can support. Call us crazy.