Fortnite

The Parents’ Guide to Fortnite

Posted by | Feature, Mobile, PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Tips for Parents, Xbox One | No Comments

Shove over, Minecraft and Pokémon GO, there’s a new gaming phenomenon in town. Over the last year Epic Games’ Battle Royale-style shooter Fortnite has become one of the most popular games on the planet.

Even if you’re not a teen or the parent of a teen, there’s a good chance you’ve at least heard of Fortnite. But what is it exactly? Is it okay for younger kids to play? How much of it is online interaction? What does Battle Royale mean? Read our Parent’s Guide to Fortnite for answers to these questions and more.

What is Fortnite?

Fortnite was developed by Epic Games, the makers of Gears of War, and first launched in Summer 2017 as a paid Early Access title. The plan was to allow people to pay to jump in and play the game in an earlier, beta testing state, while transitioning the game into a free-to-play title supported by paid loot boxes in 2018.

The game was actually much different than the popular version that everyone players today. It was originally a cooperative tower defense and action game. Up to four friends and online players could jump into games together and select a map with an objective. From there everyone ran around collecting loot while building bases and defending against waves of enemies.

The action was light-hearted and reflected the cartoony art style, but the gameplay was mediocre and repetitive. Read our Early Access Preview.

What about Battle Royale?

“Fortnite” technically refers to two separate game modes, which have since evolved into two distinct games: Fortnite: Save the World and Fortnite Battle Royale. The original tower defense game mode became known as Save the World when Fortnite Battle Royale was released.

Last year PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) was heating up as an extremely popular online game, featuring a Battle Royale free-for-all.

fortnite battle royale

Battle Royale is a subgenre of competitive online shooters and action games. It takes its name from the 2000 Japanese film in which a class of teenage students are captured, dropped onto an island, and forced to kill each other to survive. Think government mandated Lord of the Flies. Or The Hunger Games.

In video game terms, Battle Royale games drop their players (both PUBG and Fortnite use 100 per server) onto a large island. Everyone starts empty-handed and must quickly scavenge for weapons and supplies. A shrinking circle keeps everyone close together, and if you die, there’s no respawning. The last player (or team) standing is the winner.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds popularized the concept, but Epic Games applied it to Fortnite, creating an entirely separate free-to-play game mode called Fortnite Battle Royale. Now when anyone refers to Fortnite, they’re most likely talking about Fortnite Battle Royale. Fortnite: Save the World still exists, but lacks the popularity of its PvP sibling.

It’s free to play? Can players spend money?

Yes and yes. Fortnite Battle Royale was launched as a completely free-to-play game, and it’s available on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, as well as mobile devices.

Fortnite is primarily supported by its seasonal Battle Passes (in Battle Royale) and random loot boxes (in Save the World). The Battle Pass allows players to unlock a series of cosmetic loot rewards, such as new outfits and parachutes. Players can then either earn them through playing, or pay more money to unlock them faster. Think of the Battle Pass as an optional subscription service, each one costing about $10. Players can also buy cosmetic items directly from the shop.

Loot Boxes have come under fire in the gaming industry as a controversial form of gambling. In Fortnite’s case, all of the purchasable items and loot are cosmetic only, leading Fortnite to be considered one of the less insidious free-to-play games.

Many consider Fortnite to be an example of free-to-play done right, and players can easily enjoy themselves in the game without spending a dime. That Rangarok outfit sure looks cool, but it confers no actual in-game bonuses or advantages. It just looks cool.

Note that consoles and mobile devices have parental controls allowing you to disable in-app purchases.

fortnite

What about the rating? Is it okay for kids to play? Is it Online only?

Fortnite is rated T for Teen by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. The primary gameplay involves eliminating other players, but the action, like the art, is very cartoony and stylized.

The Battle Royale mode is technically a bit less scary than the original Save the World incarnation, as it lacks the hordes of cartoonish monsters. On the other hand it’s all too easy to be eliminated quickly, through no fault of their own, and be left spectating for the rest of the match. Fortnite is highly competitive, and like any competitive match, can bring out both good and bad qualities.

As an inherently online game, it’s saddled with the typical toxic chat channel that plagues many online games. There’s no voice chat at all in solo mode. Text chat be be turned off in-game, but there’s no parental lock for it. The general consensus is for kids to be at least 13 before venturing into any online game.

Note that the other popular Battle Royale game, PUBG, has a Mature rating and features more realistic visuals and depictions of violence.

Is it okay for my kid to watch others play Fortnite?

As a highly competitive, tense game, Fortnite is increasingly popular as a spectator sport. In the growing age of YouTube, Twitch, and constant live streaming, Fortnite’s popularity for streamers is undeniable.

But this question is more about YouTube and Twitch culture than it is about Fortnite specifically. Find out which streamers your kids are watching and do a bit of research into their personality and their video content. Most streamers are charismatic and entertaining for young people (and quite skilled at the game), but some have unsettling videos or toxic beliefs that they readily impart on impressionable viewers.

Currently the most popular Fortnite streamer is Ninja (neé Richard Tyler Blevins), who has risen in popularity along with Fortnite itself, becoming the most popular streamer on Twitch with nine million followers. Ninja is sponsored by Red Bull and has helped raise money for charity, as well hosted celebrities on his Fortnite stream.

Fortnite Battle Royale

Are my kids playing too much?

The primary concern about Fortnite isn’t tied to the game itself, but how much time kids and teens are devoting to it. To much of any activity, to the exclusion of anything else, is a bad thing, and that can include gaming.

With Fortnite it may be easier to set limits on matches rather than a set time. An average Fortnite match takes about twenty minutes, and players aren’t going to want to stop playing in the middle if they’re still alive. Thus “one more match,” may be easier to dictate than “10 more minutes” when setting time limits.

Fortnite continues to grow in popularity, recently surpassing an astonishing 100 million downloads on mobile devices. It’s not going away anytime soon, but with a little understanding it needn’t be so worrying.

nickelodeon kart racers

Race with Spongebob and Ninja Turtles in Nickelodeon Kart Racers

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The stars of classic Nickelodeon cartoons like Hey Arnold!, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Rugrats are getting their own game. Publisher GameMill has announced Nickelodeon Kart Racers, and it’s coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch on October 23.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Nickelodeon to bring all of these amazing characters into one fun, competitive video game for fans of all ages to enjoy,” said Mark Meadows, Partner of GameMill Entertainment. “Nickelodeon has created characters and stories that are loved around the world and we specialize in transforming treasured characters and stories into playable entertainment for the die-hard fans and casual gamers alike.”

The kart racer is modeled after the incredibly popular Mario Kart series. Racers can enjoy team-based co-op as well as free-for-all multiplayer and a battle mode. Nickelodeon Kart Racers will support up to four players locally.

Racers, karts, and tracks are all drawn from Nickelodeon’s many beloved cartoon series. Confirmed characters include SpongeBob and Patrick, Tommy and Angelica from Rugrats, and all four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Tracks will also draw inspiration from the cartoons, such as the turtles’ sewer home, Tommy Pickle’s house, and Bikini Bottom, for a total of 24 tracks.

A total of 12 different Nickelodeon series will be highlighted in the game, though only a handful have been announced so far.

Nicekelodeon Kart Racers will arrive October 23 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch. It’s rated E for Everyone.

no man's sky next

With No Man’s Sky NEXT, Hello Games Pledges Free, Weekly Content

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No Man’s Sky has been updated this week with its fourth major content update. Dubbed No Man’s Sky NEXT, it finally, officially adds multiplayer support, as well as the ability to play in third-person. The update is free to existing PC and PlayStation 4 owners, and No Man’s Sky is also now available on Xbox One.

With the release of No Man’s Sky NEXT, indie developer Hello Games is pledging to become more involved with the community. This will be reflected in the new website, the Galactic Atlas. More importantly, they are pledging to provide “weekly content and community events.”

Sean Murray, No Man’s Sky lead designer and co-founder at Hello Games, admitted to making mistakes when it came to communication surrounding the game’s initial launch back in 2016.

“Whilst I couldn’t be prouder of the team, I personally made mistakes,” writes Murray. “I could talk all day about things I personally would change. Certainly one regret is that the intensity and drama of launch left no room for communication with the community.”

The hype surrounding the game reached a fever pitch, even as many consumers and critics were confused about No Man’s Sky’s gameplay and features, especially multiplayer. Murray himself was harassed and sent death threats. The small indie team went radio silent following the game’s launch, leading to more confusion and drama.

Yet over the years the game has been clawing its way back. Hello Games has released three large content updates: Foundation, Pathfinder, and Atlas Rises, each adding significant features such as vehicles, base-building, and huge chunks of story content.

No Man’s Sky NEXT is the latest free content update, with real multiplayer being a hugely requested feature. Is it too little too late, or admirable that the developers continue to produce free, quality updates? No matter where you land, Hello Games has committed to supporting No Man’s Sky.

The first season of weekly content is coming soon. No Man’s Sky NEXT is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. It’s rated T for Teen.