Fortnite play ‘obsessive’ as popularity grows in Sask.
Nine-year-old Alex Lax started playing Fortnite exactly six months ago. In that time, he said he’s won 40 times: 19 in solo play, 15 in squad play and five times in duo play.
But the amount of time Lax spends playing Fortnite, isn’t something he keeps track of.
“The main reason I did start playing it was because everybody was playing it, and it was a really cool and fun game,” Lax said.
Fortnite is sweeping the globe, now one of the most popular games among kids and adults since its release in 2017.
Some describe Fortnite as a cross between the Hunger Games and Minecraft. A player drops into a virtual world with 100 other players, and battles to be the last one standing. However, the cartoon-like graphics set it apart from other games.
“It's not super violent or anything. There's no blood,” Lax said.
But the video game can be too much fun, and some parents are having a hard time pulling their children away.
“Absolutely. Every day,” said Reena Lemon, Lax’s mom. “Every day it's kind of a battle back and forth.”
“I've dealt with lots and lots of kids who have been very obsessive about their Fortnite play,” said addictions counselor Rand Teed. “It's been interfering with sleep cycle and interfering with motivation to do other things.”
Teed said video game addiction is real condition. He added that, while the recovery time for gaming addiction is much shorter than substance addiction, both alter your brain chemistry.
“The problems that it can create can be equally as bad, because you get disconnected with family (and) you get disconnected with friends,” Teed said.
And it's not just children. Teed has heard of cases of adults playing Fortnite to the point where it negatively affects their lives.
“People terminating relationships because their partner was so involved in Fortnite, that they weren't able to interact in any other way,” Teed said.
Some professional sports teams are actually concerned about how often athletes are playing the game. The Vancouver Canucks recently banning Fortnite on road trips.
“We don't need any guys sitting in the room, just playing Fortnite all night,” said Jake Virtanen, right-wing with the Vancouver Canucks.
There's even websites where people can watch celebrities - like Drake - play the game.
“I think that's one of the other appealing things about this game. It's everywhere. It's part of our pop culture,” said Alec Couros, University of Regina educational technology professor.
For parents concerned about video game play, Couros suggested using parental controls on gaming consoles, outlining when and where children can play, and communicating those boundaries.
“I have a contract with my son that he can play Fortnite if all of the other things that are important are done first,” Couros said.
Still, limiting game play can be a challenge for many parents, including Lemon, whose son and husband both play Fortnite.
“Just make sure the schoolwork is staying on top of,” Lemon said. “Make sure your husband doesn't stay up all night. Text him if you have to, to say, ‘Get off the game console and go to bed.’”
And it likely won't be long before Fortnite's competition levels up.
“Two years ago, it was Pokémon, and we were talking about that and watching people walk around like zombies and run into buses and stuff,” said Couros. “This is part of a trend, an ever growing media landscape that affects everyone in it.”