REFRACTION: Don't blame Fortnite for parental problems

What healthy, red-blooded North American born after 1975 hasn’t spent a night playing Mario Kart, Golden Eye or Tetris with bloodshot eyes until the sun comes up?

There’s no doubt that the addictive nature of a good video game is not a new concept. The urge to play for hours on end is not confined to the emerging generation of kids who are the newest gamers glued to their controllers, but what is relatively new is a generation of parents who need to blame the time that disappears into the screen on the game itself.

It recently came out in the news that two Quebec parents are attempting to launch a class-action lawsuit against the makers of the popular video game Fortnite. The allegations are that the creators purposely made the game highly addictive and that it has had a lasting impact on their children.

Uhhh ya, folks. I’m surprised to learn that anyone is still unaware that the entire underlying premise of any video game is to intentionally be as involving, engaging and absorbing as possible. Time is money and the more time people spend invested in video games, the more revenue and loyalty gained by the companies that make the product. This isn’t new information or even a complex marketing strategy; it’s just an effective product made by super-geeks with great business sense.

What’s even more surprising to me is the persistent trend of parents who blame external factors within their control, for their kids’ internal problems that are out of control.

Gaming-video(via Shutterstock)

The most obvious answer for parents who are willing to turn their whole world inside out with lawsuits in a desperate effort to kick their kids’ video game habit is, “Just take the bloody game away!” The children involved in the suit are 10 and 15 years old (i.e. still well within the age parameters of parental clout). I mean, come on: who said yes to the video game? Who pays the power bill? Who owns the electronics? Who makes the rules?

If you bought the device, brought it into your home, continue to power it and are too afraid of your children to help them make decisions that will improve their lives, then the culpability seems to fit nicely on your own shoulders. But it’s also important that we also recognize that these parents’ inability to exercise reasonable authority over their children did not start with Fortnite.

From day one, we are teaching our children what will and will not be acceptable in their homes and who will call the shots. This means if you’re planning on having your tiny tyrants turn into well-adjusted adults, you best be prepared to lose household popularity contests on a daily basis.

Will kids lovingly thank their attentive parents for their willingness to make unfavourable decisions today for the sake of their futures tomorrow? Nope! But if you have kids, you should know that there will be inevitable outrage resulting from necessary discipline. That is part of the responsibility of being a parent and we do our families and our society a disservice when we try to pass off “first-world problems” as real-world fault.

We are living in a parental age where far too many of us would prefer to blame outside forces than to get in the dirt and do what needs to be done to teach our kids how to self-regulate. Video games are an ideal candidate to help our children build this critical skill so that when they are faced with even slipperier slopes (alcohol, gambling, online shopping, etc.) they are equipped with a foundation for setting healthy boundaries.

We can blame McDonald's for being too delicious, scratch cards for being too fun, Amazon for being too tempting and video games for being too consuming. But at the end of the day, individuals are responsible for recognizing the line between enjoyment and enslavement, especially when it comes to non-substance-related addictions. Acknowledging that we’ve stepped across that line is much easier if we have been taught the importance of responsibility and accountability in childhood.

Don’t get me wrong, none of this means it’s easy or pleasant to forcibly remove things from our children. Whoever coined the phrase, “Easy as taking candy from a baby” had clearly never done the deed, but it’s necessary to teach our kids the concept of “everything in moderation” because suing our way to absolvement isn’t a very practical path to parental success.

Now is the time to empower our children with the knowledge that they have the capacity and self-control to regulate themselves by taking away what does not serve their lives and replacing it with something that does (get creative: volunteer somewhere, go for a hike, organize a baseball game, sweep the driveway, whatever). Additionally, feel free to give yourself permission to enjoy removing the things that are consuming your children. A little maniacal laughter never hurt anyone and it’s for their own good, so lighten up; take it less seriously and they will too.

We can wail about how the Fortnites of the world are a scourge on the lives of our children, or we can use them as a tool for building simple but life-changing concepts into our kids that will help them regulate their own physical and mental health.

If your kid is playing too many video games then it’s time to make some lifestyle changes, but if you’re unwilling to make those changes then, please, don’t bother blaming it on Fortnite or acting like this problem began with a gaming console.

Get your house in order, and save lawsuits for less easily solvable issues. 

Katie Neustaeter is a professional writer with a background in broadcasting and owner of Refraction Communications. Katie is also a multiple Kamloops Readers Choice award winner in categories including Influencer, Volunteer and Personality. She also really loves candy. As a community advocate who is passionately engaged in her region, Katie explores a wide range of topics in her column Refraction with the purpose of promoting healthy public discourse.

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