Fortnite is a multiplayer video game that has become a pop culture phenomenon. Popular among younger children it is causing parents and teachers a lot of concern, with reports of a number of children being sent to rehab for addiction.

Fortnite Battle Royale is a multiplayer game where individuals or teams battle it out in an ‘open world arena’, to be the ‘last man standing’ over a limited time. It is free-to-play, brightly colored and sports cartoonish characters, weapons and violence. Its rapid growth can be attributed to the fact that it is cross-platform and available for every device out there. A new trend of players is gaining popularity in the community by streaming their games live for thousands of others to watch in real-time.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal profiled parents that hired professional Fortnite tutors to help their children improve their gaming skills. They hoped their children would gain the necessary skills to become professional Esports gamers, now a global billion-dollar competitive gaming industry. A few universities have started offering Esports/gaming courses and scholarships for highly skilled players.

It was also reported that a nine-year-old girl was sent to rehab after her parents found that she had a serious Fortnite addiction. They realized something was wrong when her grades began slipping and she was falling asleep in class. She used to love playing sports and taking ballet classes but now complained of being too tired for any of that. When they realized that she was using their credit card to make regular payments for the game, they took her Xbox away. She lashed out and hit her father in the face.

They tried limiting her gaming time to an hour a day, but despite the rule, they found her late one night sitting on a urine-soaked cushion. On confronting her, she revealed that she was up every night, often playing the game for up to ten hours. Seeing that she was becoming withdrawn and disturbed, they finally put her in psychotherapy with an addictions counsellor.

A recent report by Bloomberg revealed that there has been an increase in the number of children being sent to special camps for therapy and detox from the game. The therapy involves removing gaming devices and encouraging children to focus on healthy food, sleep and group therapy.

In the report, British child behavioral specialist Lorrine Marer said, “This game is like heroin. Once you are hooked, it’s hard to get unhooked.”

Video game addiction is certainly not new and has always been a source of contention. With Fortnite recently crossing over 200 million registered players, concerns have reached an all-time high. Apart from addiction issues, parents are losing money as children are using their credit cards to make in-app purchases while playing the game. Despite the game being free, there are cosmetic items like clothing and accessories which can be purchased.

While primarily a problem for children, it is also affecting adults. A recent report by a UK based divorce service claims that since January this year (2018), two hundred petitions were made blaming Fortnite as the reason for the break-up.

In June this year, the World Health Organization recognized ‘gaming disorder’ as a diagnosable mental health condition, where increased priority is given to gaming over other interests and activities. Experts recommend that parents monitor their children’s activities, set limits for game time and keep children under 10 away from video games.

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* Article Sources: The Wall Street Journal, The Mirror, Bloomberg, Divorce Online

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