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In April, a PLAYlive Nation lounge in Tracy, Calif., hosted its first Fortnite tournament and sold out. Hundreds of players bought tickets to play against one another and win prizes.
Joost van Dreunen, the CEO of Superdata Research, a video game analytics firm, says most shooter games are serious and simulate violence. Fortnite, he says, is more like a friendly game of tag.
His company estimates the game has made about $223 million across all platforms in March alone. In lifetime sales, it had made about $614 million. The game is free to play, but Epic Games, the company that owns Fortnite, makes money through microtransactions. Players can spend real money to make cosmetic changes to their characters in the game. They can buy things like skins, which are like costumes, for their characters or emotes, which are celebratory dance moves their characters can do after winning or killing another player in the game.
Ninja, the gamer name taken by 26-year-old Tyler Blevins, is now a legend in the Fortnite world. He is a master at the game and rocketed into popularity after playing in an online battle with rap artists Drake and Travis Scott on March 14. That battle has been watched more than 9 million times.
Educators Battle ‘Fortnite’ for Students’ Attention
Many educators want to ban the game from their classrooms, but some are taking the opposite approach, attempting to weave students’ interest in Fortnite into class discussions and assignments.
Nick Fisher, a science teacher at Fort Zumwalt North High School in O’Fallon, Mo., said his students like to take screenshots of gameplay and send them to friends over Snapchat. Teenagers want to broadcast their victories, and because the game is on their phones, it’s easy to post updates to social media, making Fortnite “the perfect concoction of addiction,” said Fisher.
North High blocks all social media and gaming sites on its WiFi, said Fisher, but students tell him how they circumvent the restriction: They use virtual private networks, or VPNs, to establish independent internet connections. (Dozens of YouTube videos provide step-by-step tutorials for students looking to get around school WiFi controls.)
“Kids can’t multitask,” she said. “Even having a digital device within sight can cognitively distract the student enough that they can’t focus on the academics.”
Schools and teachers should be guiding parents when it comes to appropriate limits around screen time, said Kolb. Most parents will appreciate research-based recommendations, such as turning off all screens a set amount of time before bed, she said.
Games like Fortnite can even have social benefits, said John Velez, an assistant professor of journalism and electronic media at Texas Tech University. Velez, who studies the positive effects of video games, has found that playing violent games cooperatively with helpful teammates promotes pro-social behavior.
Chris Aviles, the coordinator of innovation, technology, and 21st century skills for the Fair Haven Public Schools in New Jersey, wrote “A Teacher’s Guide to Surviving Fortnite,” an exploration of ways the game can be used for instructional purposes. The guide, posted to his blog Teched Up Teacher, suggests how to integrate the game into writing prompts, math lessons on probability, and physics.
Aviles doesn’t advocate playing the game at school. There isn’t any educational value in letting students engage in virtual combat during a lesson, he said. Instead, teachers can build a lesson around one aspect of the game, such as having students calculate the best angle of approach as they jump from the “Battle Bus,” the floating bus that drops players onto the map at the beginning of each match.
more on gaming in this IMS blog
more on social media addiction in this IMS blog