In a story that’s becoming familiar, one parent in Michigan, Debbie Vitany, is quickly losing her battle against Fortnite. After gaming sessions lasting up to 12 hours each day, her 17-year-old son, Carson, has seen his grades suffer and some teachers have complained at his inability to stay awake during class. Unfortunately, this is now a familiar story not only in the US but all over the world.
According to Vitany, the game has control over the minds of kids and it’s hard to manage their playing time. With 200 million registered Fortnite players, Epic Games, the creator of the game, has captured the imagination of all gamer but it has also led to some parents sending their kids to rehab.
One behavioral specialist in the UK believes gaming has similar effects to heroin, in that it’s hard to stop playing once hooked. Of course, this isn’t exactly a new problem and parents have had issues with excessive video game time ever since the likes of Pac-Man. However, with social media and the increased use of smartphones, experts believe there’s a reason to be concerned.
Marriage and Sporting Issues
After the release of ‘Battle Royale’ mode back in September 2017, it seems Fortnite is also causing problems for relationships. This year, in the UK, Fortnite has been cited 200 times as the reason for divorce. In addition to this, the game has even entered the sporting world with David Price, Red Sox starter, being removed from a start in May after experiencing wrist troubles (something the organization believes was made worse by video games).
Therapists and child behavior experts are growing in concern for many children; one said a 13-year-old claimed to have 300 wins which would have required dozens of hours (maybe hundreds depending on how many times the child didn’t win!).
For one camp in California, they said around 60% of 120 children that attended last year were playing Fortnite too frequently. In terms of treatment, the main idea is to re-introduce healthy habits including diet and sleep. From here, devices can be taken away and many can benefit from group therapy. In the time ahead, Michael Jacobus, who ran one camp last summer, is planning to open more camps across Indiana, Texas, and New York.
Why the Problem?
One important question to ask is why Fortnite is the game to finally tip the industry over the edge; for one thing, the ‘Battle Royale’ mode is free across a number of platforms. Essentially, 100 players enter a generated world and compete against each other to be the last one standing. For one ex-student, this is all too familiar. Cam Adair left school when he was 15-years-old and now tours schools around the country to talk to students about the dangers of excessive gaming. Adair believes parents risk causing war and fights in the home if they remove consoles or stop their children from playing.
Although the game is free, Epic Games has introduced plenty of add-ons for a small charge. After the success of the platform, the developers recently raised over $1.25 billion from investors; this means the company is now worth an estimated $15 billion.
Grand Theft Auto
In recent years, other games have attracted similar attention and perhaps the most common story comes with the Grand Theft Auto series. This is more to do with the content within the game, and some titles have actually been banned in certain countries. Some experts believe there’s a link between violent video games and violent actions in real life.
For one psychiatrist, Paul Weigle, the solution is to stop those under 10 from playing these types of games. Furthermore, it’s important to recognize the problem when it exists. An area concerning many, Fortnite also has a ‘loot box’ system where the rewards are unknown which has raised connections with gambling. For Weigle, gaming addiction is only going to get worse if parents don’t set limits and more steps aren’t taken to prevent addiction.