Fortnite is quickly becoming one of the most popular games of modern times, and is now available on almost every console imaginable, from PC to smartphones to Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch. With over 40 million players of all shapes, sizes and ages worldwide, this game is a phenomenon that’s sweeping the nation.
But the game’s addictive appeal has proved dangerous, according to reports from Scottish Paper Daily Record. A nine-year-old schoolgirl has been placed into intensive psychological therapy after becoming so hooked on the game that she would rather wet herself than pause to take bathroom breaks.
The girl’s parents, Carol and Richard, have stepped forward to share more details about their situation. They have chosen to keep their last names private in order to protect the identities of them and their daughter.
The couple bought their daughter an Xbox, who soon downloaded Fortnite for free off of the console’s store. Quickly afterwards, the roots of the addiction began to set in. The young girl used physical force to keep from being taken away from the game, reportedly hitting her father in the face after he attempted to confiscate the game. At the time, the unsuspecting parents attributed these rash behaviors to a growing girl’s hormones, but these events would only get worse.
Her mother said:“We got called in by her head teacher asking if everything was OK. She had fallen asleep twice in lessons and her grades were slipping.”
Later, the previously physically active and sports-loving girl regularly became “too tired” to go the the gym, began missing ballet classes, and skipped regular family church visits.
After a while, they began to notice regular additional payments to the Xbox Store popping up on their credit card, totaling about $50 each month. When they asked their daughter if she had anything to do with these purchases, she admitted to taking their credit card to purchase extra cosmetic items on Fortnite.
Furious, the parents took control of the situation, limiting their daughter’s playtime to one hour during weekdays and two hours during weekends.
But their suspicions didn’t end there, nor did their daughter’s addiction. Carol reported that her husband would discover the girl had snuck onto the game at night and had been playing until dawn:
“My husband saw her light on in the night and found her sitting on a urine-soaked cushion playing the game. I found her backside was red-raw. She was so hooked to the game she wouldn’t even go to the toilet.”
The next morning, they began to look at the problem in a much more serious light. They sat their daughter down and asked her to tell them the truth about her gaming habits.
In tears, the youngster confessed that she had waited until her parents were asleep to sneak on the game during the night, and sometimes ended up playing until as early as 5am the next day.
“We worked out that she could have been playing for up to ten hours a day, and we’d had no idea”, her mom said.
The parents reached out to Addiction Counselor Steve Pope, who reported that he had been contacted in the past few weeks by dozens of parents, all with children exhibiting similar symptoms.
“I’ve been working in this field for three decades and never seen anything like it, how widespread and potentially damaging this is”, says Mr. Pope.
Reports say that the young girl is doing quite well in therapy, slowly coming to grips with her addiction and working to get her grades back on track.
Fortnite and similar titles are for many a fantastic way to blow off steam, but for others, the line between a fun pastime and an addictive behavior are more difficult to recognize. This event should not call for a full-on ban of Fortnite and similar services, rather an effort to recognize the seriousness of a gaming addiction and put in place warnings targeted at both unwary parents and mature gamers.
For parents, the products might contain warnings or messages that are present during the game’s commercials and are shown after the company logos when the game starts up, warning that it may bring out addictive tenancies in certain individuals, and providing a link to a website that lists signature behaviors of one with a budding gaming addiction. For gamers, a game might display a warning or notification after a player has been playing for a certain amount of time, displaying their local time if the game is online, and advising the player to take a break or read more about gaming addictions.
Simple warnings that a game or product has been shown to expose addictive tenancies in some users, similar to warnings placed on cigarettes, would go a long way to mitigating this issue.
These systems should never forcibly lockout or censor a player’s access to a game (Unless a gamer wants them to, using systems like parental locks or play timers). They should focus on making information about gaming addictions more available to those in need.
As a testament to how much of a gaming icon Fortnite has become, the three “Related Stories” on another reporting of this issue by Newsweek all advertised Fortnite.
Featured Image Via Flickr / steamXO