Now that it’s the school holidays, kids are freer to ratchet up the hours gaming than during the busy school year. And while video games for kids have been menacing parents since at least the 1980s, the game Fortnite is proving to be a different kind of beast than anything that has preceded it.
Kids, teenagers and young adults (although certainly not limited to these groups) are clocking up 12 hours or more a day playing the addictive game and turning violent when forced to put their device down.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation designated "gaming disorder" as a disease for the first time. Unhealthy in the extreme, the designation might lead to the need for psychological support for gaming addiction which may end up attracting funding for individuals in need.
"This game is like heroin," said Lorrine Marer, a British behavioural specialist who works with kids battling game addiction. "Once you are hooked, it's hard to get unhooked," Bloomberg reported.
Fortnite, first released in its popular “battle royale” mode in September 2017, isn’t just causing problems for kids. An online U.K. divorce service says 200 petitions cited Fortnite and other video games this year as the reason for the breakup of marriages, Bloomberg cited.
So how does it work and what makes it so compulsive?
According to the Bloomberg report, Fortnite players compete in 100-person fights until the last one is standing, matches that make it difficult to quit once they’re started, because if they do, they lose the fight against their friends.
And while the game is free, there are many in-game purchases possible which can cause havoc for any parent whose credit card is accessible.
“Parents have lost substantial amounts of money by not paying attention to whether their credit card is tied to the game console,” said Marer told Bloomberg.
And while the current advice is to keep kids under 10 years old away from gaming, it’s easier said than done for many parents living in the real world. But monitoring kids’ psychological behaviour and gaming practices together with ensuring moderation may be all we can do in our ubiquitous screen-obsessed world.