It’s been called Hunger Games meets Call of Duty. So it’s little wonder that, upon its release as a free download in 2018, Fortnite: Battle Royale has blown away its competitors to become one of the most popular games on earth - praised and criticised in equal measure for its addictive qualities by both kids and adults.
But is it right for your child?
The Guardian describes Battle Royale this way:
It’s a mass online brawl where 100 players leap out of a plane on to a small island and then fight each other until only one is left. Hidden around the island are weapons and items, including crossbows, rifles and grenade launchers, and players must arm themselves while exploring the landscape and buildings. It’s also possible to collect resources that allow you to build structures where you can hide or defend yourself. As the match progresses, the playable area of land is continually reduced, so participants are forced closer and closer together. The last survivor is the winner.
Users can play by themselves or in a group of up to three other users. Live chat with teammates is a central part of the game on certain platforms (see below). Winners are rewarded with 'V-coins' that can be used to update weapon skins and other cosmetics. Users can also purchase the coins using real money.
Free and unverified
To create an account, all kids need is an email address. Because Battle Royale is a free game within the larger, pay-wall-protected Fortnite ‘world’, no payment is required - but players are prodded to make in-game purchases for extensions, bonuses and weapons.
Although there is no age-verification procedure, Fortnite: Battle Royale has been variously rated 12+ or 13+ (depending on the rating agency and country) on the basis of “mild violence.” And the simulated killing is indeed relatively lo-fi: no blood, no gore, no screams of agony. When characters are blown away by gun violence, they simply disappear.
What about chat?
Online chat on Battle Royale means your child can be exposed to chatter from strangers of all ages. The mobile version wasn’t designed for chat but if your child has an XBox app, he will be able to access that risky function. There is a chat feature for the Xbox, Playstation, PC, and Mac versions, which make the game more problematic on those platforms.
Fortnite: Battle Royale has spawned a substantial online pornography presence, and has recently claimed the dubious rank of the number-one most-searched game on Pornhub.
To be clear, Fortnite porn is not embedded within the game itself, and in fact violates the game’s code of conduct, but has been created and is being shared widely by players on sites like Pornhub and Twitch.
This process of pornification is not unique to Fortnite. Characters from many popular games - and even shapes from Minecraft, if you can believe it - have been co-opted by pornographers, both of the DIY and the professional variety.
Will your child encounter porn if he or she stays within the confines of the game? No. But then again, staying within the confines of the game is not what gamers necessarily do in today’s infinitely tentacled online world.
On the plus side
Fortnite: Battle Royale is not without redeeming features. Playing the game well requires strategic thinking and creativity, as Minecraft-like functionality invites players to design and build fortifications (hence the “fort” in Fortnite).
But is it true, as some parents have maintained, that Battle Royale is the 2018 version of Minecraft - i.e., really just a digital version of playing Lego?
Experts agree that would be a stretch.
The game certainly shares Minecraft’s addictive qualities. And that means it’s super-fun to play. But that very quality can also spell trouble.
“This game is keeping some teens up all night,” notes one frustrated high school teacher. “Make sure you have time restraints and kids who can put it down. There are kids turning the corner towards an unhealthy addiction for Fortnite.”
So what do the experts recommend?
“Fortnite is an unequivocal NO for primary-school-aged children and should be played with care and a good dose of parental supervision for older teens,” advises Family Zone Cyber Expert Susan McLean.
“Any game with a chat function is a worry and has the potential to link your child with random strangers. The potential for abuse and exploitation - not to mention exposure to offensive language - cannot be overstated.”
In the words of another reviewer, “The game might be clean, but the gamers might not.”
If you’re unsure whether to allow your child to play Fortnite: Battle Royale, why not start with a conversation - and ask for a demonstration? Family Zone cyber experts agree: The very best way to protect your child is to be involved in his or her online world.
If you do decide to put controls in place, remember that Family Zone can help.
The Family Zone Box can block apps and games like Fortnite: Battle Royale on any connected device in your home network - whether PC, mobile device, laptop or gaming console. And with Mobile Zone, your child’s devices can be protected anywhere.
To learn more, or to start a free trial, click here