The Psychological Reason Your Kids Love Fortnite — Plus 7 Tips For Dealing With Video Game 'Addiction'

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How To Deal With Your Kid's Video Game Addiction To Fortnite

With a worldwide online community of 125 Million+ gamers, it’s no secret that Fortnite is one of the world’s most addictive games.

On the one hand, you have a large group of supporters that claim the game teaches problem-solving skills, and keeps children and adults occupied

On the other hand, another group laments that the game threatens our children by encouraging addiction and distraction from real life.

Many of them think that letting their kids play Fortnite is simply bad parenting.

You may have heard the pleas for help: “My kid is obsessed with Fortnite.” “Is my child addicted to Fortnite?” “How do I get my son off of Fortnite?”

RELATED: What You Need To Know Before Letting Your Kids Play Fortnite

Today, there are more than 100 Fortnite Facebook groups for gamers that have thousands of members, 241 K being the largest in the Fortnite Battle Royale Community. There are dozens boasting thousands of members in the remaining groups too.

In contrast, there are 49 Facebook parent groups looking for help and support, and who oppose Fortnite. Of these 49 groups, the majority of actual members in each group is primarily in the single digits. (The highest group member total is 307, followed by 120.)

How did we get here?

Let’s trace back our affinity to play games to 45+ years ago. As kids growing up in the Midwest, all the kids in the neighborhood played outside, all year long.

Outside in the street or neighborhood yards, we played Kickball, Soft Ball, Touch Football, Basketball, Red-Light-Green-Light- and the one that most resembles Fortnite, King of the Mountain.

During this game,  all of the kids in the neighborhood build a five-foot mountain of freshly-packed snow and yanked, pushed, or shoved everyone off so that one person could get to the top—to be King of the Mountain or King of the Hill.

King of the Mountain was our non-virtual Fortnite.

We kept trying to be King of the Mountain, until that awful time, when front doors would open, and moms or dads would call us inside. “But I was so close,” we lamented. “I almost made it to the top.”

What if the Fortnite game resembles many of the games that today’s parents used to play as kids?

In other words, where physicality is a huge advantage in King of the Mountain, any sized kid can play Fortnite and have success.

Yet Fortnite is different than child’s play from decades back, and from other video games.

This is because of the finesse that creator, Epic Games, uses to tap into Fortnite lover’s brains.

Why is Fortnite so popular?

RELATED: 5 Of The Most Common Fortnite Scams — And How To Protect Yourself & Your Family

According to Max Albert in his article, How Fortnite Became the Most Addicting Game in History, Fortnite just happens to be the flavor of the month.

Albert maintains that the psychological rationale behind this is that the gaming industry has tapped into our hard-wired brains—into our reward center of the brain where dopamine is emitted—and has given us this subliminal mantra: “Lose by a little, win by a lot.”

Meaning, you were so doggone close to winning.

Albert explains that there are two factors at play when the game is over:

First, the player thinks they were just a teeny bit away from winning and makes the thought leap that they will succeed in the next game.

Second, if the player wins, they win in a huge fashion, and the ego is stroked big time into sending the message that they should probably play a bit longer.

Win two or three in a row and the dopamine keeps on coming.

This is how the Fortnite addiction gets started.

Ever been to Vegas or on a cruise ship? Watch people play the slots?

The same reward system is triggered when playing addictive games like Fortnite.

When you win at a slot machine, the sensory results are vast: bells and cheery alarms go off, and lights flash, as you, the winner, watch the numbers with bated breath.

“Winner” and “Triple Bonus” flashes above the machine.

RELATED: The World Health Organization Says Playing Video Games Too Long Is Bad For Your Mental Health (& Could Lead To Video Gaming Disorder)

You cannot believe it! You’ve won 1,832,465 points! The dopamine surges and your ticket spits out that you have won $14.35.

But you almost did it.

You have ticket vouchers and don’t really see the money, so you try one more time. And then maybe one more, because, after all—you were so close.

In one of Poppy’s Psychology classes at Ringling College of Art + Design, she taught many of the art and design majors.

They often had lengthy class discussions on why the gaming majors didn’t create compassionate, non-violent games.

Their automatic responses were that they are a hard sell: “No one wants to play those games.”

Are we all conditioned to expect games to be aggressive, violent, and deadly?

Consider the renowned psychologists: Pavlov, Skinner, and Maslow—who the gaming creators have definitely studied—Classical conditioning from Pavlov, Operant Behavior from Skinner, and the desire to belong from Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, and you have a psychological trifecta of human behavior.

Brain conditioning is the result of the hours and hours kids (and adults) will spend gaming.

In his 2017 scholarly article, Daniel Vu shares that after instant gratification (dopamine) is received in the brain, it lays the foundation for the desired neural circuitry: (feeling confident and wanting to play again and again.)

Dopamine is a neural transmitter, released in the brain in response to a perceived reward.

The more challenging the objective for the player, the greater the increase in dopamine.

Once the gamer reaches a new level, another dopamine hit occurs each time.

And then, the inevitable happens: the brain’s neural circuitry stops getting the same satisfaction from the dopamine hits.

This leveling off of dopamine increases the gamer’s need to purchase more V-bucks, or even Fortnite tutors.

Yes, tutors. Whom you pay.

The ever-present, “lose by a little, win by a lot,” is still highly activated in this addictive game.

And, the dopamine-reward cycle continues to escalate, to an unbelievable extreme: in the UK, a school-aged girl wet herself to continue playing Fortnite.

Now that’s a serious Fortnite addiction.

So if we know what is happening to us in our brains and that we are choosing to be manipulated, influenced, or inspired by games, why would we blame the game makers?

Perhaps we should consider cultural, societal and parental decisions as to why Fortnite has a stranglehold on our families?

If you want to stop your kid’s video game addiction in its tracks, here are some parenting tips to help.

RELATED: Authorities Warn That Predators Are Targeting Children On Fortnite — Here's How Parents Can Keep Kids Safe

1. All parental figures should enforce the video game rules

Parents living in the same household agree to usage and video game limits. No good cop/bad cop. If you’re separated from your partner, you can ask them to respect your gaming constraints.

If they refuse to follow, calmly communicate with your child, letting them know that the video game rules in your home are set in stone.

2. Use Parental controls on phones and devices

You create these controls and monitor the usage. If your child lashes out at you, just reduce their gaming time as punishment.

3. Create a real-time parent support group

All parents are figuratively on the same page with one voice. Even if a parent is working, brainstorm with other parents on how to build healthy video game habits for your children.

Befriend other parents in your child’s school or outside social network and collectively develop healthy boundaries to prevent a gaming addiction.

4. Don’t give them too many options

“But all my friends are playing Fortnite and no one will play outside with me.” Have a substitute activity in place, that does not tap into the “lose by a little, win by a lot” premise.

Give A or B choices: You can either shoot hoops outside or do a scavenger hunt in the basement. Teach them healthy coping mechanisms for not always getting their way.

5. Hit the same reward system that the Fortnite game is tapping into

“Lose by a little, win by a lot. “Every hour your child does an activity that is healthy, (or chore) he gets rewarded with a half hour of Fortnite.

6. Say “no”

Establishing a pattern and habit for setting healthy boundaries is essential. If your energy is completely zapped, your child has worn you down (we totally have been there!), and you just don’t have the energy to argue for the seventeenth time, say:

“For only an hour now, and when you’re finished, and I’m finished with my personal time, we are going to set up a schedule.”

“Do you understand that after an hour of Fortnite playtime, whether you win or lose, that you will follow the gaming schedule I set up?”

7. If you really think your child has a Fortnite addiction, have them evaluated by a professional

There may be a real video game addiction going on.

You don’t have to have a Battle Royale at home to reclaim your child’s mindshare.

Do not bargain with your 12-year-old; re-empower yourself—right now, and recondition your whole family without ever using a device.

Lose by a little, win by a lot.

RELATED: Screen Time Is Making Your Kids Moody And Insane

Poppy and Geoff Spencer, M.S., CPC, are certified counselors, nationally syndicated writers, relationship and parenting experts, dually certified in Myers Briggs (personality.) They’ve been interviewed on NBC, ABC, CBS, Bustle, and Popsugar, and their relationship expertise. Follow them on Twitter for more relationship advice.

This article was originally published at Poppy and Geoff Spencer blog post on their website. Reprinted with permission from the author.