There is much parental hand-wringing over the phenomenon that is Fortnite. It’s not just a social game of survival that kids can play for free from a slew of devices (computer, mobile phone, PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo Switch).
Fortnite: Battle Royale is also getting a reputation for being somewhat addicting (depending on who you ask).
But maybe we’re thinking about this all wrong. What we see as a shoot-em-up game that teens and tweens play obsessively online for hours on end, thus rotting their brains, they may simply see as a way to “hang out” with friends.
At least that’s writer Owen Williams’ take:
We get on to play, but we’re really just hanging out. Fortnite has built-in voice chat so it’s seamless to just jump on voice, talk about the day, life, whatever is going on, without even really realising it. We’re playing the game together, dropping from the Battle Bus every ten minutes to start a new round, but what keeps us there is that we’re all spending time together.
I’ve probably spent more time talking to my friends on the other side of the world in Fortnite’s voice chat than I have calling them in the last four years since I moved overseas. Even for friends that live close, in the same city, we catch up far more often through the game, popping on for a quick few rounds and talking about what’s new at the same time.
And Williams isn’t the only one who thinks the inherent value in Fortnite is the ability to connect regularly with friends. His piece on the tech blog Charged was inspired by this tweet from @anoopr:
It's not that they're that good... they're not. It's that for them, the game is background noise. Fortnite isn't a game, it's a place.
— Anoop Ranganath (@anoopr) December 10, 2018
Journalist Keith Stuart also wrote on Medium about the benefits he sees to the social interaction for both himself and his sons. And he points out that hanging out via a video game is a natural consequence of the helicopter-parenting times:
People who don’t play Fortnite, or video games in general, often say it’s sad that modern teens aren’t going to skateparks and roller discos and that they’re getting these formative experiences online instead. In some ways, I guess it is, but kids aren’t necessarily to blame here. Teenagers are caught in a crappy sociocultural Catch-22: Adults are worried their kids are spending too much time on smartphones and consoles, but at the same time they’re constantly policing and restricting access to physical environments.
Our advice? Before you decide whether Fortnite has true social value or is just another way to turn a person into a game-obsessed zombie, try playing it with your kids.