Every generation has a technology challenge that causes parental anxiety and threatens their relationship with their kids. For boys today the challenge is the video game Fortnite: Battle Royale.
When I was a kid in the 1950s, the technology challenge was television. I remember seeing my first television. When the wealthy neighbors got a color TV, my parents complained that I was gone all the time to watch their color TV. When shows came on that seemed risqué to my parents, there was a crisis. I wanted to watch rock and roll which my parents felt was a “tool of the devil,” even though they were atheists. There was also the development of games. Every store had a pinball machine, and as kids, we found ways to win free games. I missed one whole afternoon of school because I hit the jackpot during my lunch hour that gave me 50 free games.
Todays’ new technology is computers, and the challenge they present is video games. The game getting the most attention now is Fortnite: Battle Royale which is produced by a North Carolina company called Epic and partially owned by Disney. It’s an attractive mix of game design with a persuasive technology designed to shape the behavior of its users. This is mass-market gaming, and it has been the most watched game on Amazon.com’s Twitch network for the past year. Last November people spent 108.9 million hours watching other people play Fortnite. The company makes money by selling costumes called skins and dances called emotes for their avatars to perform. Embellishments sell from $2 to $20. Players buy them with virtual currency called V-Bucks which are sold in packages priced from $9.99 to $99.99.
Since its launch in July of 2017 Fortnite has made more than $2 billion from the sales of virtual goods. Fortnite: Battle Royale is a killing game that is hair raising but earns a “T” rating (meaning okay for Teens) by not showing visible spilled blood or dismembered body parts. Psychologists have identified some 200 persuasive design tricks to make a game addictive. Fortnite: Battle Royale uses a high percentage of those elements in combinations. We old folks may remember how addictive the games were in the past. Games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, or Frogger did not compare with the far more addictive techniques in the toolbag of Fortnite: Battle Royale.
Scientists are researching whether involvement with video games is connected to substance abuse or compulsive behavior. Gunfights constitute a significant part of Fortnite, and the heavy use of violence concerns many scientists. Parents should be aware of the game and its potential risks. Restricting playing time, and having activities the child likes that pulls him or her away from the game are essential.
Challenges to parenting aren’t new. Parents have always had to be careful about how they react to the difficulties of raising a child. The Bible’s instructions for parents are more needed than ever before. You can’t “train up a child in the way he should go” if the actual chief trainer is a violent video game.
–John N. Clayton © 2019