Tech & Media
I Want My Son To Have Fun In His Life So I Let Him Play Fortnite in the Basement
By Natalie Romero
Photo © LumineImages/Getty Images
Mar 22, 2019
“He’s a hacker!!”
My son’s shouts echo up from the basement where he’s playing Fortnite online with his friends. His headset allows him to communicate with his friends who have joined his party and prevent him from hearing me. It’s a win/win for him.
It’s OK if you judge me for letting him play. I judged myself a little when I finally agreed to let him download the free game to his video game console.
But I didn’t go in blindly. I didn’t give in just because all his friends were playing and he felt left out, although he did play the I’m-the-only-one card.
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Fortnite: Battle Royale is a fight for survival game made by Epic Games where players are dropped into a modern-day world where most of humanity has been killed off and players take each other out in an attempt to be the last one standing. Along the way they collect items that help protect themselves — oh, and they participate in the occasional dance battle.
It’s estimated that approximately 125 million people are playing Fortnite. That is an astounding number of people.
Video games are fairly new to us. My 10-year-old son only got his first video game system a year ago. We never went through the Minecraft phase or the Mario phase. It’s not that he didn’t like video games; we just didn’t have any, so he didn’t play them, and when he did start showing an interest in video games it was purely the sports games.
I was concerned with the violence involved, but after doing some research, I found that it was really quite tame. The cartoonish graphics take away from the reality and while there are guns — I mean the point of the game is to shoot each other — when you die you simply disappear. No blood, no gore, just poof and you’re gone.
I decided to give it a shot.
He always plays in an open area so nothing is a secret. We all can see and hear everything that’s happening.
Listening in to him playing with his friends has made me hyper-aware that my son is growing up in a completely different world than I did. To be honest, I’m not entirely comfortable with this world. I know nothing about it. Being present while he is playing gives me just a little bit of insight. It makes me feel like I belong.
I can hear only one side of the conversation between my son and his friends, but it makes me feel as though I’m being allowed in to his secret world. He’s using terminology that I don’t understand but whoever it is that he’s playing with knows exactly what he means.
'Being present while he is playing gives me just a little bit of insight. It makes me feel like I belong.'
And this is how they hang out.
They laugh and razz each other. They argue about whether they should drop in places called tilted or dusty.
I love that he can play with his friends from his soccer team that go to a school on the other side of the city or kids from his own class. He exchanges Fortnite handles with new friends the way we used to exchange phone numbers.
I know we "old folks" don’t get it. This is a different generation. My parents didn’t understand when I came home from school and spent all night with the phone cord wrapped around me talking to the same people I had just spent all day with. We don’t have a landline at home and my kids don’t own cellphones; this is how they connect with each other.
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Is he gaining anything from this game? No, unless you count the dance moves my rhythmically challenged child is picking up. But does everything our kids do have to give them some new skill to take forward in life? Can’t some things just be about fun? He’s having fun.
I do take violence very seriously. My kids live in a world in which they experience their first lockdown drill where they learn to hide quietly under their desks in kindergarten. I’m just not convinced that games such as Fortnite make the world more dangerous. There are first-person shooter games out there that do make me cringe, they don’t mesh with our values and they aren’t allowed in our house. He knows that and doesn’t ask to play them. I don’t think Fortnite: Battle Royale is in the same category.
I know there are many parents who decide not to allow their kids to play Fortnite and I understand their reasoning. We have decided that this is one battle not worth fighting — for our family.
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