That is why, after reading in the press this week two important incidents with dependence on the game, I have decided to investigate to understand how it works, why it hooks both children and adolescents, and how to control it so that it does not become a problem with the back to school.
I do not understand what is going through the head of my son and his friends. Only a few months ago they were happy to play ping pong or soccer in the street when one of them didn’t rain. Now, they prefer to stay in their room and talk on headphones with a microphone, while playing games and more games in this happy game.
It has been arriving in the city after the summer holidays and has been shot at the console “because it was too long since I played with my friends. ” And surprisingly, there were more than two and three at that time playing Fortnite. And I trusting that maybe he had gone out of style!
And this happens only a few days before going back to school. What will happen when I have to get up early, study, do jobs, extracurricular …? I want to tackle the issue now!
Why do Fortnite video games like them so much?
What is Fortnite: Battle Royal? This game, created by Epic Games, involves 100 players who jump from a flying bus to a small island and then fight each other until there is only one left. Hidden around the island are weapons and objects, including rifles, traps and grenade launchers, and players must arm themselves while exploring the landscape and buildings.
As the game progresses, the playable area of the land is continuously reduced, so participants are forced to get closer and closer. The last survivor is the winner.
Jorge Flores Fernández, founder and director of Friendly Screens, explains some of the secrets that make this game a mass phenomenon:
- It brings together two very attractive genres for children and that have triumphed in other video games: construction scenarios (type Minecraft) and action ( Call of Duty ‘lighter’).
- It is online and multiplayer. That means it is possible to team up with a friend or group of friends and compete in pairs or a squad of four. It also allows you to play alone and the game assigns you to other participants.
- Add a social element, as participants can chat while playing using headphones and microphones. Many children now form teams and spend much of their leisure playing together. It also allows to socialize and meet new people.
- Graphically it is very attractive: it is almost like a softened animated game, with very bright graphics, almost cartoon, not as realistic as other battle games.
- It is fun, with a very basic sense of humor. Many ridiculous items and costumes (like spacesuits and dinosaurs). The child can also perform different dance moves during the game. The one of ‘The Floss’, for example, inspired by the viral video of the boy dancing with Katy Perry during his appearance on ‘Saturday Night Live’, became a phenomenon among children. Even soccer players like Griezmann use them to celebrate their goals!
- The games are limited in time, which allows the player to rectify as many times as he wants. It becomes more enjoyable because it has a beginning and an end, the games are not eternalized.
- Many reference streamers and YouTubers talk about the game and show how they play. If there is someone relevant who likes it, it will make you more hobbies. Fortnite is the most-watched game on the specialized Twitch gaming channel.
- It is free and crosses platform. That is, you can connect at any time “to play a game. ” It is available for game consoles, computer, tablet, and smartphone.
- The game developer adds new elements, functions and game modes every week. That means there is always a new reason to come back and play. You have to brag among friends to have the latest version!
Also, being a fun game to watch “makes the audience of these content creators, which is usually a fairly young audience, you can easily get on the Fortnite Battle Royale car, being free”.
Also, the fact that the objects that can be bought, are purely cosmetic, that do not give playable advantages. If that were the case, the game would be broken: if I know that someone is going to beat me because they have paid more than me, I will not return. ”
Is it a dangerous game?
After listing the reasons why this game attracts our children, it seems that even I have felt like playing. But it is not our intention to attract new followers, much less. We want to understand why they like to remedy a possible addiction. And we know what we are talking about!
The National Police has published in its Twitter account, just over a month ago, recommendations for use for security reasons.
The risks of misuse of the game
Unjustified money expenses. In the last week alone, we have known at least two problematic cases of children and adolescents addicted to Fortnite. On Sunday, a Welsh mother, Cleo Duckett, denounced in the United Kingdom Metro edition, that her 10-year-old son spent more than 1,000 pounds (about 1,115 euros) in Fortnite, not knowing that it was real money. The game, like all apps, allows you to buy virtual products just by linking a card.
And that, taking into account that the game is free and that new elements can be unlocked as the game progresses without paying anything. So … What do our children buy? What is the money spent on?
The purchase of a ‘Premium Combat Pass’ with the currency of the game (“turkeys”) allows you to access exclusive clothing and items or make weekly challenges to earn more points and access more items. It is also possible to buy new levels to be able to play them immediately, without having unlocked them while playing. None of the paid items provide an advantage in the game; they are purely aesthetic. However, it ‘sells a lot’ to have the latest outfit and children will want to continue playing to unlock those items or buy them. Explains the psychologist Eparquio Delgado, of the Rayuela Psychological Center, that:
“It’s the same as before wanting to have the latest fashion shoes, only now in a virtual way. But not getting it, it will not cause any trauma, just as it did not cause us before to those of us who are parents now. You just have to explain it to him. ”
Aggression. Another Australian mother told the Mirror that her 14-year-old son gave him a header for confiscating his Playstation, as a measure to control his Fornite addiction. According to the mother, Britta Hodge, the teenager spends day and night in front of the screen.
“In the 80s, when we started playing video games, the big fear was that a violent game made us violent people,” says the psychologist.
“And now we know that this is not the case: we have not all been killing in the street. They are just games. The difference is in how they are managed. If we see that the effect of the game on our children is positive, they have fun, we should not worry. The warning signal appears if the effects they cause on them are negative: it makes them angry, cranky and even aggressive. ”
Also, unlike other similar games such as The Call of Duty (for over 18 years) and as we have said before, Fortnite has a friendly visual style without representing bloody violence. There are shots, but in a world not real, not threatening.
Addiction. Like any activity that generates a reward, it can lead to abusive use. In fact, “the first category defined as addictive on the Internet is the multiplayer online game, to which Fornite belongs,” comments Jorge Flores.
But the concept of video game addiction is very controversial within the medical community and, although the World Health Organization has recognized game disorder as a disease, some researchers and scientists disagree with this decision, according to a BBC article. Fortnite, for example, does not contain unique game systems, which makes it more addictive than other action video games.
Security How can we know who our son talks to or plays with? “Playing, when they are young (the game only authorizes from 12 years, although there are children of all ages) or little maturity, they end up relaxing, talking with other unknown players, and that’s where the problems begin,” explains Jorge Flowers. And he adds that “control in this regard is difficult.”
Side effects. And there are also the dangers associated with those three hours spent playing: sedentary, obesity, poor posture or visual effort.
Socialization. You can only play one on each platform, so friends are getting used to staying at home to be in the same game and talk on the headphones. Non-digital, direct contact between children suffers to group other leisure activities.
How can we control its use
According to Jorge Flores Fernández, director of Friendly Screens, there are some keys to manage it with common sense and head:
- Limit leisure hours with game consoles, offering other non-digital alternatives, helping them discover other possibilities. Of course, there are non-negotiable limits: family food, study and night rest, trying to avoid using the screens one hour before going to bed. It has been shown that using them makes it difficult to fall asleep. The maximum time depends on age and whether or not they carry out more activities with screens. Maybe on weekends, they ask to play more, and we should look for leisure alternatives. On the Xbox, PlayStation or Switch you can use parental controls to limit the duration of game sessions (or ban them altogether at some point). What can be done is to reach a consensus, such as letting you finish the game (they usually last an average of 20 minutes) if instead you leave the console without protesting, or do not take it the next day … So you will see that we understand, because leaving the game in the middle of one, means leaving their teammates in the lurch and they will lose all the points they have won during that match. That will make the son very angry, so we better schedule time to warn him that “that game will be the last of the day.” And we all win.
- Ensure your safety. A really difficult task, because there is no way to control who they play or talk to if the other players are random. The best we can do is let them know that we are there if they ‘notice’ something strange, that they understand that they can talk to us about anything. And explain the dangers of sharing any type of data with those unknown players that the game associates when it is not in a team with friends. It can become an apology to unite players of different ages and you mustn’t give any information of yours during the game. Also, as recommended by the National Police: “Activate double account authentication, password, and security”. So watch your conversations in case you notice something weird because they usually speak loudly when they get excited playing! I like to look at the screen and ask what friends he plays with, since many times with the nicknames they put we don’t know how to identify them.
- Avoid unwanted purchases.
“On consoles and mobiles, you have to configure security in purchases so that minors cannot access without permission. Because the game does not put barriers. If you have an active credit card and no security restrictions on the console or mobile, the purchase is no problem, “explains Álex Cánovas.
In this regard, the National Police recommends that:
- Do not pay for the download, because it is free.
- Do not believe bargains “turkeys” cheaper than in the official Epic store.
Provide benefits, in moderation
In the word, ‘moderation’ seems to be the secret of use of any video game. And this is by no means an exception. Comment the director of Friendly Screens, that Fornite develops certain capabilities: spatial orientation, resource planning, creativity, companionship (teamwork), visual function (being action) … Therefore, “There is no reason to eliminate the game of ‘your diet’ as long as it is eaten in moderation and combination with other foods (leisure activities or even other video games). That is, if our child is going to play an hour and a half, let’s try more than one videogame, to develop different skills. “
The key, according to this expert and the psychologist Eparquio Delgado, is to talk with our children and reach a consensus.
“If they can play a perfect time, but if we don’t think they play well, it’s also perfect. They will not be more unhappy nor will they feel displaced from their friends for not sharing this activity with them. They may not understand it now, but they will do it when they grow up, just as we have come to understand that our parents did not buy us that fashion polo worn by all our partners and we have not ended up traumatized. ”
Delgado also adds that parents should think wisely:
“If the game were so negative and bad, nobody would play. So for the next course, let’s agree with the rules of use, negotiate the time of use, agree on a schedule for study time, looking for a consensus among the whole family, talking about the advantages and disadvantages of the game ”.