Well, we resisted as long as we could but our older two kids are well into Fortnite. It’s pretty much all they talk about nowadays and it has been quite an eye-opening experience. Before we go on, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone who knew me when I was their age. Especially those who didn’t actually ask me about Tottenham Hotspur.
I know that many parents have been through the debate about whether allowing Fortnite is a good or terrible idea, so here’s my take.
There’s no getting away from the fact that this game is about running around an island shooting at people. The idea of it being a tooled-up take on Lord of the Flies was what initially stopped us from allowing it.
But I played the likes of Wolfenstein and Doom when I wasn’t much older than they are now and the violence was much worse. There’s no blood or gore in Fortnite – players only ‘bleed’ numbers, so it’s very conscious of being a game and nothing more. This extends to the characters – their current favourites include a unicorn, a frozen banana and a humanoid fish.
Even so, I sat them down and lectured them about how violence is completely unacceptable in real life and that any aggression towards each other – or anyone else, of course – would result in immediate deletion of the game before we even let them play.
Then there’s the can of worms of online play. I have to admit that I find it unnerving enough when I play FIFA or Red Dead Redemption and the voice of a stranger suddenly blares through my telly. Usually to tell me I’m not very good. It’s kind of them, but I knew that already.
Anyway, there don’t seem to be any issues on this front with Fortnite so far. They only play against friends and family and respect our strict instructions to let us know when anyone tries to add them as friends. So it’s all good, right? Well, almost.
There’s something of a generational language barrier. When they’re playing, I hear them shouting the most random things to each other. That they shout it instead of speaking is an issue in itself. Especially as they both have headsets.
But I’m usually too preoccupied with trying to decipher what they’re banging on about to intervene. “My chug splash is running out” was one recent example. Another was: “Don’t you have tattered spirit?” Well, I do but that’s largely down to two years of pandemic and they weren’t asking me anyway.
Most of the words they yell make sense individually, but the sentences are as coherent as those in phishing emails. They also keep talking about people being ‘sweats’ and ‘tryhards’ in a semi-disgusted tone.
The only thing for it was for me to give it a try. You know – to see whether it’s definitely okay for them to be playing it now that the beast has well and truly bolted. So far, I’ve played in six games with them – including some with my brother-in-law – and we’ve won them all.
I’m under no illusions that this is down to me being a natural at it. I mostly ran around aimlessly, bewildered by it all while they did the hard work. But I’m pleased to report that it confirmed for me that I don’t have any issues with them playing it.
In fact, there are quite a few benefits. They enjoy it and it keeps them in touch with family who we can’t currently see due to the pandemic. Then there’s the music. For some reason, Fortnite allows you to do little victory dances known as emotes.
Thanks to this game, they’re into such belters as Boney M’s Rasputin and Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. It all just about outweighs the fact that I’m now seen as a V-Bucks cashpoint. So, even though it has made me lighter of pocket, confused and feeling older than ever, Fortnite can stay.