If you have a teenager, chances are you've heard of Fortnite Battle Royale, a free survival shooting game on multiple platforms which has amassed more than 45 million players as of January. But by offering the game for iOS on March 15, user numbers are undoubtedly much higher, considering people who don't own a computer, PlayStation or Xbox can now join in. In fact, since then the mobile version has already earned more than $15 million, beating big names like Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans, by selling skins (costumes), dance animations and a $10 subscription called Battle Pass which gives a player access to exclusive in-game rewards.
As a parent familiar with the phenomenon, you've certainly heard shouts of "No!" or "She got me!" or "Look out, he's right behind you!" as well as countless other loud vociferations emanating throughout your environs. You've probably tried to set limits, eliciting pleas such as "Just five (or 10 or 15) more minutes" because a to-the-death battle of 100 players takes at least 20 minutes and if a player abandons teammates it means points lost. And likely, you've worried that Fortnite is addictive. That certainly can't be a good thing, or can it?
Fortnite isn't addictive, it's just superbly designed.
At least that's the stance Andrew Reid, a doctoral researcher of serious games at Glasgow Caledonian University, is taking. When analyzing the game using the academically developed Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics (MDA) Framework he says five factors are shown to entice players to keep on playing in what he calls a "superlative gaming experience."
Fortnite's feel allows for lack of precision in shooting and rewards players who excel at building forts and walls to protect themselves. It also provides breathing space for strategy formation and uses cartoon-like imagery, as opposed to the gory realism used in mature-rated games such as Call of Duty.
Each battle is unique in terms of its story, which is created by players. Creating new narratives is enjoyable, incentivizing people to play again and again.
Getting good at playing Fortnite takes time and effort as a player learns how to move, shoot and manage resources, all while interacting with others during a tense session. As competence rises, a player is rewarded with skins which reflect a higher social stature.
Players talk to each other while playing and can team up with friends in duos or squads. A sense of community persists as players consume videos and livestreams curated for fans.
The amount of time and effort people expend on the franchise exemplifies the term "pastime." Fans also give their attention to external media, such as blogs and forums to get better at the game.
Research shows that playing video games can actually be good for kids.
Reid says a growing body of research indicates gaming can have positive effects. While it might be hard to believe it about a multiplayer shooter game, Fortnight is cartoonish, fun, and swaps dance moves for the bloody violence of mature-rated games.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Play, action video games are particularly good for learning because they promote perception, attention and cognition. Another published in Molecular Psychiatry found that playing video games increases gray matter in brain areas responsible for spatial navigation, strategic planning, working memory and motor performance. And according to research published in The Journal of Neuroscience, playing a complex 3D video game can stimulate the brain's hippocampus, resulting in improved memory.
In addition to considering research that shows gaming can have positive ramifications, Reid suggests that parents play Fortnite themselves to get a feel for why kids like it so much, and to be able to have a dialogue around the game.