Violence in Video Game Propaganda Turns Sights to Fortnite Battle Royale
After seeing the recent events transpiring around the world regarding the incredibly popular Fortnite Battle Royale, and seeing concerned parents voice their opinions on social media, I thought it would be smart to offer a bit of much needed sanity into a conversation that is quickly getting out of hand. Some of the news bits I’ve been seeing about this game border on outright propaganda. If you are merely a parent watching from the sidelines, you probably don’t know what to believe and only want what’s best for your kid, naturally. You hear the fear and madness coming from talking heads on TV and might even buy into what they’re selling. I’m here to clear the water, because things are getting a bit too muddy.
So this guide goes out to all the concerned parents who are overwhelmed with the popularity and addictive nature of Fortnite and just want to know what’s going on. It’s time to get past the prime time news drama and talk facts.
Video Game Violence is a Media Pet Subject
Every once and a while it seems like media personnel and political pundits lose their minds and opt to use video games as a scapegoat for why America has rampant gun violence, school bullying, and other serious issues. While some of these fears arise because of the voices of concerned parents, there doesn’t really seem to be any logic to these arguments. I never saw anyone try to capture and hoard wild animals after playing hours of Pokemon, and nor have the gamers who enjoyed millions of collective hours on the Farmville series ever decided to up and start a real farm just because they love their digital one. No kid ever burned down a house trying to cook a feast after being addicted to the massively popular Cooking Mama series, nor has there been an up-swell in kids wielding swords and stealing their neighbors blind after the mega success of Skyrim, a medieval-style fantasy epic where both activities are common and expected parts of the gameplay.
Are there rare instances of immature people taking concepts they see in video games a bit too far? Of course. As with anything in life, digital media or not, impressionable people are going to do stupid things. This has been a rule of life since the start of recorded history. After all, look at our elected officials and look at the state of most countries around the world. Adults, themselves immature and idiotic, vote idiots into power who then go on to do more idiotic things, which in turn makes the idiots who voted them even more disgruntled and likely to make even worse decisions in the future.
This is the harsh reality of living in a society that doesn’t exactly pride itself in personal responsibility and wisdom. Let’s be honest here.
You might remember the controversy surrounding the video game Grand Theft Auto 3, which was a huge success around a decade ago. It was one of the most popular video games of all time in those days, and parents were losing their minds. There was gun fighting, cursing, drug references, and even a scene that could be accessed with a hack that involved sex. The game was everywhere, you couldn’t escape the news about it, and there was even one sordid story that sought to prove that the crimes of one kid that led to a murder were directly linked to the game.
Sounds horrible, right? Well, what people forget is, that game was rated M, for Mature. Meaning on the package, it recommends only people who are adults should play it. One has to wonder, where is the parenting in this situation? Yes, you can’t monitor your kid 24/7, but you can control what they do in your house, and you can firmly tell them that certain media isn’t recommended for them. Yet millions of underage kids played that game, much to the dismay of their parents.
Grand Theft Auto is an extreme example of one end of the video game spectrum however. There is certainly content in that game that I personally, as a gamer, wouldn’t allow my children to see. Naturally. Would you let your 10-year-old watch some gangsta thriller movie with cursing, turf wars, drug sales, and sexual encounters? Of course not.
So why would it be any different for a video game?
The point is, not every game is as hardcore as Grand Theft Auto – not even remotely close in fact. The truth is, many video games today encourage cooperative working, train hand-eye-coordination, reading comprehension skills, puzzle solving, and more. Most video games today are so long and complex, and filled with so much content, they could be compared to miniature worlds that you can spend hours, even days in, learning and exploring. And no, there aren’t gangs, drugs, and blood in most of them.
At the end of the day, the media is out for one thing: ratings. Every story I’ve heard regarding Fortnite so far has been a sensationalist piece that has very little to do with reality and everything to do with ratings. That’s it. They do not, in any way, have you or your child’s interests at heart.
Let’s explore Fortnite Battle Royale and demystify it for the parents who have no idea what it is and see it simply as some vicious “shooting game.”
Fortnite Battle Royale: A New Cultural Phenomenon
There’s no question that over the past few months, Fortnite has come out of nowhere and has likely taken over you or your child’s life. It is at the moment one of the most popular video games of all time, enjoying over 46 million players worldwide. To call it a phenomenon at this point is an understatement. Even celebrities are getting in on it. The popular rapper Drake recently played the game live on stream at Twitch.tv with the hugely popular Fortnite player who goes by the name Ninja, to an audience of over half a million people at once not too long ago. Other celebs routinely post about their misadventures in the game on social media like Twitter and Instagram. It’s everywhere you go, even in classrooms, as teacher’s use references to the game to connect with their students.
So what makes the game so popular?
If you believed the sensationalist media hype, you would think it’s because it’s a cutthroat game of ruthless killing that is somehow playing to kids’ base desires and turning them into addicted killing machines. This of course is absolute nonsense. There are plenty of “shooting games” out there that have solid mechanics and are a lot more visceral and “hardcore.” The game Fortnite is loosely based off of, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, is much more gritty and realistic, with blood and more detail in weapons and certain military concepts, yet that game with its widespread success (most downloaded game on Steam for PC all time), has never been blamed for shootings or school violence.
No, Fortnite is addicting because it’s just plain fun. It seamlessly combines some of the best elements of popular video games and just makes them work. You run around and control like you’re in some cartoony mid-2000’s action game, you collect glowing treasure chests like something out of a 90’s pirate adventure, gunplay is pure arcade style with hardly any realism whatsoever, there’s teamwork involved when you play with friends, you can sneak around in a cute wearable bush to surprise foes, and make opponents disco dance with the hilarious “boogie bomb” grenade. You can salute, blow kisses, and do the “Worm” with dances and emotes, you can jump on top of rockets and ride them through the sky, and build forts out of thin air with wood and brick that you collect from trees and rocks you find in the playing field so you can protect yourself from enemy fire and get the high ground on them.
It is both a child’s dream come true and an adult video gamer’s paradise. You see, the elements of Fortnite have combined in such a way that it appeals to literally every demographic. People that don’t even play shooters or online PvP (player versus player) games, are into this thing.
I’m a prime example. Traditionally, I never played shooting games, war games, or online PvP at all. Literally ever. But I discovered Fortnite and became addicted in a matter of weeks. It just brings everything you could ever want in a fun video game experience together in such a perfect way, that you get lost in the good time you’re having. Where else can you use a grenade launcher that shoots Easter Eggs and explode a silly-looking fast food restaurant where you think your enemy is hiding? And mind you, your enemy is wearing a Gingerbread Man costume he bought from the shop. It’s all absolutely ridiculous fun.
Here’s Why Fortnite is Probably the Tamest Game Your Kid Will Play This Year
- No voices. Characters don’t grunt, yell, cry, or curse when shot or shooting. There’s no screams, no dialogue with references to drugs. Nothing. Players don’t even make a sound when shot.
- There’s absolutely no blood. Players have health and shields, and when hit with bullets, red and blue “markers” appear to tell you where the bullet came from. There’s no puncturing, no blood at all, not even an “impact” (getting shot doesn’t knock you down or keep you from moving, it’s like getting hit in laser tag).
- You don’t kill players, you “eliminate” them. When a player loses all health, they fall over and get teleported by a little robot out of the playing field. They also lose all their weapons and items, so an “eliminated” player looks like they pop with multi-colored shining treasure. All guns and items in the game look like glowing toys. Literally.
- There’s no story. You don’t have to worry about your kid getting “ideas” from characters in the game. There is a “Save the World” version which Fortnite originally was based on, that involves a bunch of “heroes” trying to save the world from zombies, but everything is the same cartoon art and it’s actually all really warm and fuzzy. Despite this, the Battle Royale game which your kid is obsessed with has no story. You just jump in and play to win!
- Guns are very stylized and not close to realistic, unlike most modern day shooting games. Though some of the weapons are loosely based off of real weapons (there is a six-shooter revolver, a hunting rifle, a pump shotgun, etc.) these weapons look like they are from a cartoon from the 90’s. They also have cartoon sound effects and muzzle fire, etc. Last Halloween, the rocket launcher shot exploding pumpkins, which tells you everything you need to know about the seriousness of this game. To really put the point home, over Christmas the grenade launcher shot snowballs with cute faces, and every time you shot them, the snowball would squeak like a toy. Yeah, it’s really gruesome and violent, isn’t it?
- Characters don’t show signs of distress. There aren’t dramatic scenes of characters in anguish here. Every character has stoic facial expressions with a slight smile, even if getting shot. There’s no clutching wounds, no limping, no heavy breathing when tired, nothing. Characters are simply cosmetic and funny.
- Combat is extremely cartoonish and not like real life at all, which is opposite of how other games are trending. When you hit your opponents, “damage numbers” pop out of them to let you know how much “hit points” you took away, there are no bodies anywhere or blood to be seen. The shooting is like a classic arcade game, and you can close distance with opponents by building wooden ramps over them to get the advantage. Many fights dissolve into close-range hop-a-thons where you dodge opponent shotgun shots by hopping up and down at the right times. Real life it is not. Any episode of something in prime time television has far more realistic scenes of violence and drama than any Fortnite battle ever will.
- There are jokes, memes, and gimmicks built right into the game. You can use an “impulse grenade” to launch an opponent off a hill, you can play soccer in the middle of fighting at the sports complex located on the Western side of the map, and the scoreboard will actually keep track of your goals, there are pop culture references in many of the locations, purchasable outfits, and concepts found in the game, and the developers have even introduced “tasks” last month with the start of Season 3 that really add to the fun. One task will have you dancing at “forbidden locations”, another will ask you to get eliminations with only a simple pistol, and still others will force you to go land at different “bullseye” landing zones in the middle of nowhere all for the laughs and a chance to earn progress on the “Battle Pass.”
- Other hilarious secrets in the game include a bathroom with a toilet that faces a giant window, a spooky forest with a kid’s tree house fort built in the middle of it, a new guided missile that’s literally controlled with a video game joystick, and a restaurant chain with the perfect name: “noms.”
In other words, if this game has the capacity to drive anyone to violence, I would hazard a guess that there was already something severely wrong with that person before they ever played a single game of Fortnite. It’s easy to place blame on an addictive video game, especially one that has grown in popularity in a short amount of time, but bar none, Fortnite is one of the most endearing, kid-friendly, “great for all ages” kinds of video games to come out in a long, long time. Especially considering that it’s technically a shooter, and shooters tend to be gritty military simulators these days.
Any kid could do a lot worse than being addicted to a game like this. It’s wholesome and silly almost to the point of being considered “corny” by some older players of games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and other shooters, because the game doesn’t have any blood or realistic shooting mechanics. Overwhelmingly however, both kids and adults are picking up the game and enjoying it because it doesn’t take itself seriously and it’s an absolute blast to play.
Don’t Fall For Sensationalist Media
This goes for anything, not just with video games or other popular cultural phenomena. In the Australia “hit piece” on Fortnite that was ran in the sensationalist outlet A Current Affair, dark foreboding music was being played in the background the entire time, and a child’s excited scream was played right as a player was eliminating, giving the viewer the impression that players scream or cry out when they are shot at in the game, which is demonstrably false. It’s all to one end or goal: to push an agenda.
Certain “Puritanical” segments of our society have had it out for video games for a long time. Ever since the recent string of school shootings has occurred, the rhetoric has been ramped up once again, as the Trump administration has made it clear that they think “video games” are responsible for gun violence in society. In all actuality, as many studies have shown, there is no real link between video games and shootings. An obsession with guns is actually more of an indicator of violence, as domestic abusers, those who commit suicide, and people with a history of assault are also often gun owners and even members of the NRA.
It’s obvious, like many like-minded conservatives before them, that the Trump administration wants to shift the blame away from guns, the gun lobby, and parents, to a scapegoat in video games. This kind of rhetoric falls squarely in the category of propaganda: it exists to make you believe something that is contrary to reality. While I wouldn’t let your 8-year-old kid play a game like Call of Duty, which is a military-based shooting simulator that often depicts graphic violence, Fortnite is nothing but fun and cartoony entertainment. The likelihood that jumping around and building forts with your friends to protect from cartoon-style weapons is going to turn them into a school shooter is most certainly slim. There are a hundred other factors in society: such as violent movies, getting bullied, poor parenting, presence of guns in the home, domestic violence, child abuse, and peer pressure, to name a few, that are far and away more likely to lead to a child exhibiting violence. Fortnite, if anything, encourages friendship and fun, not violence and hate.
There comes a point where parents and the media have to start taking responsibility for their own actions and those of their own children. No one can blame a video game for the actions their children take, especially ones that are harmless.
Because of the degenerate nature of Trump and the people in his administration, expect more rhetoric to come down the pipe over the next few months, especially if there is another major school shooting. No one wants to face the real issues with gun violence in this country, so video games will always be there as an easy target for imbeciles who don’t grasp the nuances of the situation. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Fortnite takes the national stage and a controversy erupts because of someone in the Trump administration declaring that the game is directly causing the violence. Don’t fall for the sensationalism and don’t let your mind get warped. Right now the amount of disinformation that comes out of Washington daily might as well be something from a George Orwell novel, so don’t expect them to tell you the truth about video games. It’s just not going to happen.
Embrace Fortnite by Learning More About It
The best way to make something not scary is to learn it in and out. Be proactive in your child’s Fortnite adventures. Sit and watch them, encourage them to tell you about the game, foster their interests. Maybe even pick up the game and play it for yourself. You never know, you might get happily addicted to. It’s that kind of game. Think Pokemon Go combined with Farmville times Minecraft. It’s that big, and only getting bigger. There’s a reason why so many people are falling in love with the zany world of Fortnite: it’s just that good.
Plus, the only way you can truly understand it is to really take the time out of your day to learn about it. You’re not going to get the whole picture by listening to a hit piece on the morning news. Until you see a dude in an astronaut suit and a revolver run around and get picked off by a kid in a self-made treehouse sniper tower with a Disney-esque hunting rifle, you haven’t seen Fortnite in action. This is the kind of silly fun that goes on every minute as kids and adults everywhere play the game.
And to be sure, this is not just a “kid” game or craze. Yes, very respectable, awesome adults are playing this game. Why? It has the same appeal as any universal form of entertainment. It’s like a Disney cartoon or Harry Potter book, it can be enjoyed and appreciated at any age, because it is quality. Epic Games, the producers of Fortnite Battle Royale, have put together what is quickly being lauded as a masterpiece of entertainment. Don’t let a few media hit pieces and fearmongering keep you or your kid from enjoying what in all likelihood will be the next Harry Potter, because that’s the way Fortnite is trending.
In a couple months, once Fortnite’s Season 3 ends and summer begins, and school lets out (which means more kids will have time to play), the game is easily going to go over 50 million players, and it is going to become cemented as a cultural phenomena. It didn’t get to that point by being offensive or in poor taste. So if you are a concerned parent and are seriously looking out for your child’s well-being but are skeptical of Fortnite just because it is fast-paced, addictive, or has “guns” in it, don’t cast it aside without doing your due diligence on it. Trust me, you might even want to jump into the game yourself. It’s just that good!