Philadelphia Fusion and London Spitfire compete in the Overwatch League Grand Finals' first night of competition, July 27, 2018, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. (AP/Terrin Waack)

Parents' ultimate guide to "Fortnite"

Are your kids caught up in the Fortnite frenzy? Here's everything you need to know about this popular video game


Frannie Ucciferri
October 20, 2018 12:30AM (UTC)
This post originally appeared on Common Sense Media.
Common Sense Media

The Fortnite frenzy seemed to come out of — almost as if it dropped from a party bus in the sky. And now many parents are taking notice of this rollicking game where players fight to the death. With "Fortnite"'s millions of players and sudden success, you might be wondering: What's it all — and is it OK for my kids?

This survival-action game is a bit like what you'd get if you combined a sandbox-building game like "Minecraft" with an action shooter like "Call of Duty." On one hand, it's getting major points with kids and parents alike for building teamwork and thoughtful collaboration. On the other hand, it's a combat-based game with tons of guns and violence.

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Read Common Sense Media's full review of "Fortnite," and learn more about how it works. Then find answers below to parents' most frequently asked questions about the game and how to use it safely.

What is "Fortnite"?
What is "Fortnite: Battle Royale"?
Do you play by yourself or with a team in "Fortnite: Battle Royale"?
What if I’m not ready for the action of "Battle Royale"?
What is "Save the World"?
Why is my kid so interested in playing "Fortnite"?
Is "Fortnite" appropriate for kids?
What age should kids be to play "Fortnite"?
How much does "Fortnite" cost?
Are there microtransactions in "Fortnite"?
What are "Fortnite Seasons"?

What platforms can you play "Fortnite" on?
How is "Fortnite" related to Twitch?
Can players chat with each other in "Fortnite: Battle Royale"?
How do you turn off voice chat in "Fortnite: Battle Royale"?

How long is a match of "Fortnite: Battle Royale"?
How do I manage screen time for my kids when they're playing "Fortnite"?

* * *

What is "Fortnite"?
Fortnite is a video game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Mac, and mobile that takes elements from sandbox-building games and adds the fast-paced action of a third-person shooter. There are two modes to the game: a solo version called Save the World and the hugely popular multiplayer version called "Battle Royale."

What is "Fortnite: Battle Royale"? 
If your kids say they're playing "Fortnite," they're probably talking about "Battle Royale," the free-to-play multiplayer offshoot of "Fortnite." In this version, up to 100 people participate in a match together. Players are dropped onto the game map and must compete to be the last one standing by killing every other player in the game. During the game, players collect weapons, build safe structures, and try to avoid the Storm that damages all players outside of a safe zone. Unlike the "Save the World" version, there aren't any zombies to kill, which makes it a less scary version to play. However, players can buy items to make themselves look like a zombie or another creepy character.

Do you play by yourself or with a team in "Fortnite: Battle Royale"?
There are three modes of play in "Battle Royale": Solo, Duo, and Squad. In Solo mode, you're dropped into the game alone. In Duo, you're dropped in with a partner. In Squad mode, you play on a team of four. Duos and Squads can either be friends choosing to play together or randomly matched players. All players in a match are playing in the same mode.

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"What if I'm not ready for the action of Battle Royale?">What if I'm not ready for the action of Battle Royale? 
Don't worry if you’ve never played "Fortnite" or a "Battle Royale" game before. Playground mode lets players get used to the mechanics of the game without the pressure of fighting other gamers. So, if you’re rusty with a particular gun, need to practice building structures, or even want to try out the vehicles like golf carts or shopping carts without being shot, this is the mode for you. Playground sessions are limited to a maximum of four players, and you can even put everyone on the same team to eliminate the possibility of friendly fire.

What is "Save the World"?
"Save the World" is the traditional solo campaign in the game "Fortnite." Unlike in "Battle Royale," where players compete against each other, players in the "Save the World" mode are survivors of an apocalyptic storm where the few remaining humans must band together to defeat creepy zombie-like creatures called husks.

Why is my kid so interested in playing "Fortnite"?
There are many reasons why "Fortnite" has taken off with kids. One is that it combines two other genres that are big winners with young gamers. Another is that it has a more cartoonish look than some other more gory video games, so younger gamers are drawn to it. Kids can play with friends in Duos and Squads, creating a more social element. And popular YouTube and Twitch gamers like DanTDM have also taken to playing the game on streaming sites. Plus, in the case of "Battle Royale," it's free (although it does have in-app — more on that below).

Is "Fortnite" appropriate for kids?
For some parents, the cartoonish, bloodless style of the action in "Fortnite" makes the violence less problematic than the aggressive gore in other popular shooter games. But the game's online chat feature — especially in "Battle — could expose younger players to offensive language or mature content from random strangers. Common Sense doesn't recommend games with open chat for kids under 13, but with the right controls and parental guidance, this can be a tween-friendly alternative to violent first-person shooters.

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What age should kids be to play "Fortnite"?
Common Sense recommends "Fortnite" for teens 13 and up, primarily because of the open chat and action violence.

How much does "Fortnite" cost?
Players can currently download "Fortnite: Battle Royale" for free. The current cost of the full Fortnite is $39.99, although the developer, Epic Games, has suggested it will make that version of the game free-to-play sometime in 2018 as well.

Are there microtransactions in "Fortnite"?
There are frequent opportunities for players to spend real money on items in the game. Fortnite encourages purchases such as upgrades to editions such as Deluxe and Super Deluxe, as well as in-game currency to buy bonus items. There's also the Premium Battle Pass, a $10 subscription that lets players compete on more levels and win exclusive game skins/costumes.

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What are "Fortnite Seasons"?
Unlike other multiplayer games, "Battle Royale" has a storyline, which results in frequent additions of new content to the game. Many of these new elements, such as skins and costumes for characters, simply serve to keep the game fresh and exciting. But others introduce completely game-changing features. You might see a brand-new game map (without major features you're used to playing with), new teleportation rifts (to let you travel to new places), and new ways you can appear to other players (such as the ability to become invisible). Seasons seems to update approximately every 10 weeks and you'll begin to see clues to the updates during the current season.

What platforms can you play "Fortnite" on?
Fortnite is available on Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, and Mac. Users need an internet connection to play. A mobile version is also available for iOS and Android. Players can play "cross-platform," which means a Windows player can be on a team with a console player, for example. Gamers can also create an account on any device and carry over their progress in a game to another system. For example, you could start on a cell phone, then pick up a game on a computer or console later in the day and continue where you left off.

How is "Fortnite" connected to Twitch?
Some kids aren't only playing "Fortnite" — they're watching other people, including celebrities like Drake, play it on Twitch. Twitch is a social media platform for gamers where they can livestream themselves playing popular video games, including "Fortnite." Livestreaming can be unpredictable, so make sure to check out which gamers kids are watching, and if kids say they want to livestream themselves, carefully consider the risks.

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Can players chat with each other in "Fortnite: Battle Royale"?
There is live, unmoderated chat possible between users in the console and PC versions of "Fortnite: Battle Royale." Both voice chat and on-screen text chat are options. This exposes players to random strangers and the likelihood of profanity. Chat is currently unavailable in the mobile version of the game.

How do you turn off voice chat in "Fortnite: Battle Royale"?
Open the Settings menu in the top right of the main "Fortnite" page by selecting the three bars, then the cog icon. Choose the Audio tab at the top of the screen. From there, you can adjust several audio features, including voice chat. Turn the setting from on to off by tapping the arrows.

How long is a match of "Fortnite: Battle Royale"?
Each match in "Battle Royale" lasts about 20 minutes, although players who are killed early play for less time.

How do I manage screen time for my kids when they're playing "Fortnite"?
When each match only takes 20 minutes, it's easy to fall into the trap of "just one more" — sort of how you end up binge-watching an entire season of "Stranger Things." But you can take advantage of the quick matches by using them as a natural stopping point in gameplay. Some kids benefit from using a timer, limiting themselves to a certain number of matches per day, or using one of these tips for finding a balance between gaming and other activities.

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Jeff Haynes, Senior Editor, Web and Video Games, contributed to this story.


Frannie Ucciferri

MORE FROM Frannie Ucciferri

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