Maddie Wallace has had to put restrictions on her sons’ playing of the multiplayer shoot ’em up game Fortnite. Here she explains why.
In our house, Fortnite was causing excessive levels of shouting, whining, arguing, swearing, an inability to decipher basic instructions like dinner’s ready or it’s bed time, and the incapacitation of players for several hours.
What is wrong with climbing trees? When did that stop being a thing? If I didn’t have the beginnings of osteoporosis (cheers cancer) I’d be up all the fricking trees.
And what about riding bikes? Why isn’t anyone out in the woods building dens anymore and fighting each other with sticks? When did that stop?
Why is it that all my ten and twelve-year-old sons want to do, all day every day, is play Fortnite?
Just before the new law was effected they were getting up at 6am to play it before school. They regularly woke me and their three-year-old sister up when it was still dark by shouting instructions to each other FROM DIFFERENT FLOORS OF THE HOUSE. Then they’d be playing it when they came in from school. They reluctantly stopped to eat dinner, but only when I went all the way up to their room and pressed that big white X to turn to console off, and you better believe that any glorious satisfaction I took in doing it was far outweighed by the screaming and crying that followed about how I’d ruined their lives. Actual true story. It had several sequels too.
So I had enough. Rather than throw the Xbox out of the window – which I was very close to doing – I set a boundary around gameplay. I hate it. I would much rather ban it completely. I really don’t think it’s healthy for two young boys to be sat staring at a game for hours on end, and existing in a perpetual state of rage which, in an instant, can erupt into violent shouting and the throwing of controllers.
My brother (who is a gamer) told me it’s OK for them to be shouting at the Xbox, as it releases their pent-up frustrations. Well, no. They shouldn’t be getting that angry about a game in the first place. Having such high levels of adrenaline and cortisol coursing through your veins on a permanent basis is not healthy. Those chemicals are the body’s way of dealing with extreme danger: the fight or flight response. And lads of ten and twelve are far more likely to fight each other than they are to start flying around their room. (It’s OK, I know kids can’t really fly. Even if they could, they’d still prefer to play Fortnite instead.)
This is the boundary on school nights: No playing of Fortnite at all until Ava is asleep. Zaki gets an hour from 8-9 pm and Sami gets an hour from 9-10 pm. Weekends and school holidays are more flexible, but I will be monitoring the situation and outbursts of extreme anger will be met with a zero tolerance response.
They took it well. Or so I thought. But then came the Campaign To Change Mum’s Mind. And like all good wars of attrition, their attempts to wear me down have been consistent and sustained, accompanied by language propaganda referring to the boundary as a ‘ban’.
First there was the appeal to my better nature. They tried reasoning, explained calmly why they thought it was unfair and buttered me up with some platitudes about good behaviour. I stood my ground.
Then came the shouting, which was apparently an attempt to demonstrate that shouting can happen outside of the playing of Fortnite, so therefore it doesn’t matter if they’re playing it or not. I stood my ground.
Then came cause and effect. They only did this thing or that thing because they were bored and if they were allowed to play Fortnite it wouldn’t have happened. I stood my ground.
Then came pitiful pleas, with Fortnite being compared to nicotine and heroin addiction. (Again, true story.) I stood my ground.
Lately they have tried to circumvent the boundary (it’s a boundary NOT a ban) with subterfuge. The old ‘we’re just going to our room to watch a film’. With the door shut. (Because I’m stupid, right, and was never a child once myself?) They have also started watching You Tube videos of people playing Fortnite, and that has now led to being on the game but not actually playing – just watching their friends play. ‘Honest. No really. I’m just in the party, I’m not actually playing.’ Which in my mind is exactly like me saying at twelve: I was just at the party, but I didn’t drink, I just watched other people drink. No that’s not a love bite.
I’m this close to throwing the Xbox out the window again. I do, however, admire their chutzpah in their ongoing campaign, and they have been nothing if not inventive. I also champion the common cause bringing them together to problem-solve ways they might get around me.
I risked hellfire and damnation tonight by telling them they’re not allowed on the Xbox at all after school tomorrow until it is their allocated playing time. No sitting watching You Tube videos of people playing Fortnite, no hanging out in parties with their mates watching them play – and sneaking in a game or two when they think I’m busy cooking dinner. No.
No, no, no.
If you’re a parent and have lost your kids to this game, you have my utmost sympathy. And I suspect that you – like me – were gleefully overjoyed when the whole game crashed for an entire blissful day in the Easter holidays. The initial despair and whining, to which I responded with appropriate maternal affection even though I wanted to do a victory dance and crack open champagne, was soon replaced with activities. Playing of real games. Drawing. Helping me. Walking the dog. General day to day stuff that gets lost in the obsession to sit in front of the Xbox with a head set on and shout ‘GET IN THE BUSH’. I’ve tried really hard to find something positive about it, but I just can’t. Fortnite sucks.