Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Sept. 13, 2018

Fortnite Battle Royale: Everything Parents Need to Know

* Chairman of the FOSI Board; President, Entertainment Software Rating Board

If you’re a parent of a school age child, it’s likely that you’ve heard about the latest craze in video games, “Fortnite.” From dedicated gaming devices to smartphones and tablets, Fortnite’s fun gameplay and accessibility have catapulted its popularity among gamers of all ages in recent months. But as a parent you may be wondering:

“What do I need to know about Fortnite and similar “battle royale” games, and are they suitable for my children?”

What’s in the Game?

Fortnite Battle Royale is rated T for Teen by the ESRB for Violence. The game’s rating information also includes a notice about the existence of player-to-player interactions which may include inappropriate language.

Fortnite can be enjoyed single-player, but the online multiplayer “Battle Royale” mode is the real draw for most.  In each match 100 players are dropped “unarmed” into a large virtual map with the sole mission of being the last player standing. Gamers take out other players and defend themselves by gathering items, including guns and other weapons, and building structures on the fly, until only one player is left, earning them the coveted “Victory Royale.” The depictions of guns and violence are cartoon-like and there’s no blood or gore, so the game comes across as whimsical and even absurd.  Most competitions last approximately 20 minutes, but it can be as little as a few seconds if you’re not careful. So, when trying to pry your child away from the game, you might want to wait until the round is over.

Being an online multiplayer game, most Fortnite players choose to interact. Chat (both text and audio) can help your kids strategize with their teammates. Teams can consist of friends and/or strangers. As with most online games, your child may encounter other players who (to be perfectly frank) may not set the greatest examples in terms of sportsmanship.

Where Can You Play Fortnite?

The game is available for download on pretty much every gaming platform you can think of. PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android are all supported. In some cases the game even allows players on one device to play with friends and other players using a different one (called “cross-platform” playability), a feature that is pretty unusual in the world of gaming.

How Much Does It Cost?

Anyone can access Fortnite for free. However, the game has its own in-game currency – called V-Bucks – which can be bought with real money (1000 V-Bucks costs around $10). Players can use V-Bucks to buy in-game items like clothing, equipment or the ever-popular “dance moves” to customize your character. You can also buy a Battle Pass using 950 V-Bucks, adding an extra layer of unlockable gadgets and bonuses for each gameplay “season,” which typically lasts for about three months.

For the record, purchasing V-Bucks is not required to enjoy Fortnite or give any competitive advantage, and players are not penalized for sticking with the free option. On top of that, players can also earn V-Bucks by completing certain in-game tasks, making additional purchases entirely optional.

Setting Limits

There are numerous steps that parents can take to manage how and with whom your child plays all video games, not just Fortnite. Regardless of the game or where it’s played, you can consult ParentalTools.org to review the parental controls available by platform or device.

All platforms have parental controls that can be activated to manage things like in-game purchases, the types of games your kids can play by age rating, with whom they can play online, amount of screen time, and more. Some parental controls even let you set spending allowances or allot a certain amount of video game time for every day of the week. Another step some parents take is to not allow their kids to use a headset and set the audio to play through the TV or monitor so they can hear what everyone is saying. Of course, you can also just turn off the chat entirely, but that may diminish the fun.

Mobile devices can be a little more complicated since your kids have access to them all the time, but both iOS and Android devices offer effective tools like Apple’s Screen Time and Google’s Family Link that offer similar controls.

More than 125 million people across the world play Fortnite, according to its developer Epic Games, and the player base continues to grow with every new season. Many parents may wonder how a game can gain such broad popularity, but Fortnite’s strategic depth makes it compelling, and its exuberant schoolyard simplicity makes it easy to pick up and enjoy, regardless of a player’s skill level.