Thursday, April 12, 2018

Fornite is all the rage right now in gaming...it's free, works on many platforms, and can have multiple players for interaction. This is an overview of play according to wikipedia:
"The main gameplay for Fortnite Battle Royale follows the battle royale genre's standard format: up to 100 players airdrop from floating buses onto a consistent map, which includes random distribution of weapons, armor, and other combat support features. The goal is to be the last player (or team, if playing in small squads) alive by killing or avoiding other players. Over time, the game's safe zone (representing the eye of a Storm that is ravaging the world), decreases in size, and players caught outside the zone will take damage, potentially dying. This directs the surviving players into tighter spaces, forcing player encounters. Players can loot defeated enemies for equipment. Random supply drops will occur during a match, providing random weapons and items.
Fortnite Battle Royale's primary distinction from other battle royale games is the building system. Nearly all objects in the environment can be broken down into materials(wood, stone, and metal), which can then be used to build fortifications of limited durability, such as walls, stairs, and ramps. These objects may be used to help traverse the map, protect the player from gunfire, or slow down progression of other players.
The game is free-to-play, supported by microtransactions that allow players to buy "V-Bucks", the game's internal currency. V-Bucks are also shared with the main Fortnite "Save the World" game, which offers players the opportunity to earn V-Bucks by completing missions or daily quests.[1] V-Bucks can then be used to buy cosmetic improvements to the player (heroes, character and weapon skins, and emotes). V-Bucks can also be used to buy Battle Passes which accelerate the rate that a player increases their Tier within the game's "seasons" (each season lasting a few months). By raising their tier, they gain automatic rewards of cosmetic items typically around a theme. Players can still increase tiers without a Battle Pass, albeit at a slower rate.[2]"
With any new, popular game that is sucking our children in, I believe it is wise to think through how you feel about it as a parent and what expectations you want to put in place based on your value system. Here are some key things to consider from my perspective as an educational technologist:
  1. Violence. This game has a teen rating of 13+ for violence. I tend to check Common Sense Media for their reviews of things and on there parents are rating it at 9+. There is consistent matches to defeat other players (it kind of reminds me of a Hunger Games scenario). There is no blood, the adversaries just disappear. One person told me that the game does encourage headshots though because it is an easier kill or elimination. It is very much a critical thinking game so it combines that thought process in the game. Questions for parents to consider-
    • Does this constant "battle" desensitize the concept of killing or death?
    • Is your child ready for this type of play?
    • According to one review there is some creepy imagery, how will your child deal with that?
  2. Consumerism. It is a free game and can be played just fine in free mode but there are some in-game purchase possibilities and the ability to "earn" the V-Bucks needed to buy battle passes to accelerate play or to provide cosmetic improvements to their player (see above). Earning and being offered in-game purchases are tricky. It's a manipulation tactic by the company to pick just the right time to entice you with more to get you hooked. Games like this are striving to keep your child coming back for more. Did you know that addiction to video games is a real thing and a big problem in our country?  Questions for parents to consider and conversations to have with your child-
    • Can your child discern if they are being manipulated or not within the game?
    • Can you child set limits on time of usage well? 
    • Should you and your child set limits on how much time to spend on games like this?
    • Does your child have the ability to be aware of patterns of overuse?     
  3. Educational/positive value. This game really wasn't developed for educational purposes but it    does call for critical thinking, planning skills, collaboration and communication. There is a positive concept of helping humanity survive. I will say some educators that play find no educational value at all because its ability to cause off-task behavior with technology during the school day far outweighs any benefit there might be. 
    • Can you use this game as a catalyst to discuss the importance of the above skills?
    • Do you feel comfortable that your child is mature enough to interact with other players in a positive and safe way?
    • There is no constraints on what kind of language other users might say, should you discuss not turning the sound up or collaborating to use the game?
    • Common Sense Media suggests using this as a catalyst to talk about crisis management. Does your family have an emergency plan?
    • Would the amount of time your child wants to spend on this game allow for a good conversation about unplugging and the value of being intentionally involved in life? 
    • Should you discuss the problems of multitasking in today's world? Can they really get their homework done while playing games, texting etc? 
As a teen, I loved my Atari Pac-man game the most. There were days my sibling and friends all piled into the family den and passed off the controller for hours. I feel a little hypocritical writing this post since I am not a Fortnite gamer myself but it's impact on our students right now can't be denied. What makes this game so appealing is that it is different every time. Different gamers, with different strategies and different locations give this game a sense of newness every time you play. That constant sense of change makes it possible for the "newness" to take a long time to wear off. Technology has the ability to overwhelm us and we know so much more about how technology can influence our endorphins. Some companies prey on this fact and you need to be aware. Take this time to have real discussions as a family about digital gaming and how it can impact your family's goals and dynamics. Also I will share again the fact that educational games are most meaningful and effective if the parent plays with their child. While this is not billed as an educational game, being a part of your child's digital presence shows your willingness to be part of all aspects of their life and everything in their life is open to parenting.