As a TELUS Wise Ambassador, I host many workshops with youth and usually kick-off by asking them what they do online. Minecraft used to be a popular answer; however, over the last three months Fortnite Battle Royale is taking its place. Just mentioning the game results in excited chatter and increased interest. I also hear parents and adults talking about the wildly popular game, and often parents and kids report playing together as a family.
The battle-themed game requires strategic thinking, forward planning, creativity and collaboration with the ultimate objective of being the last player alive. I wanted to see what the hype was all about so downloaded the game for first-hand experience.
I learned that there are three modes of play in Battle Royale, Solo, Duo, and Squad. In Solo mode, you’re dropped into the game alone. In Duo, you’re dropped in with a partner. In Squad mode, you play on a team of four. You can choose your duo and/or squad (i.e. friends/family) or you can choose to be randomly matched with players.
Things to consider as parents
Violence, inappropriate content and cyberbullying – given the nature of the game, violence is central and although graphics are cartoon-like, players use guns and weapons to eliminate other players. Additionally, sound is a key part of the experience. For example, you can hear the footprints of other players and talk to them in real-time. With the audio chat feature your child could be exposed to profane language and/or cyberbullying, and it isn’t easy to record these experiences like it would be capturing a screenshot of a mean message sent via chat or instant message.
If you are going to allow your children to play this game, then consider playing as a family and/or linking the sound to your entertainment system so you can hear what’s going on and monitor the language and behaviours of other players. You could also simply agree to mute sound altogether (or at minimum, turn off voice chat with just a couple of clicks in the settings menu).
In app purchases – while the app is ‘free’ to download, users can make in-app purchases and buy things like outfits, weapons, and even dance moves for their characters. If you want to avoid unexpected bills, turn off in-app purchases on your device and set rules for your children, requiring them to ask before downloading or buying anything online.
Managing expectations – a match in Battle Royale lasts about 15-20 minutes, although players who are eliminated early do play for less time. There isn’t a pause button either – due to the multi-player nature of the game – so it’s easy to play longer than you intended and the scoring can make you want to play over and over. Even I placed 68/100 the first time I played and I instantly wanted to play again to improve my score.
You may want to consider setting a time limit per day or week, or set a limit on the number of rounds played in each sitting.
Follow your instincts – if you find that your child is not acting the way they normally act, developing anxiety, or perhaps they simply can’t tear themselves away from the game, have a conversation with your child and discuss what it means to have access to technology – that it’s a privilege and not a right and screen time needs to be balanced with other activities. Mutually agree on limits and provide other activities for your child to engage in as an alternative.
Remember, the best way to learn more about what your kids are doing online, like the games they play and the apps they use, is to keep the lines of communication open, and when you’re able, join in the fun!