Your Fortnite cheat sheet: The low-down on this year's top game craze (plus new warnings from the NSPCC)

What is Fortnite, the new game kids are going crazy for? [Photo: Getty]

Scooch over fidget spinners this year’s craze is a new computer game called Fortnite, and kids can’t get enough of it.

According to PC Gamer the game is currently pulling in 3.4 million players at any time throughout the day across the world and it is the most watched game on Twitch.

Meanwhile a quick scroll of YouTube will throw up thousands of videos dedicated to the virtual game, last month Drake released a video of himself playing it online which has been viewed a whopping 600,000 times.

The game has even spawned its own version of the floss dance, which characters often carry out as a celebration.

The game has had such an impact that the NSPCC have issued advice to parents (which you can read about in further detail below), saying: “In light of emerging concerns about the risks children could be exposed to, we are urging parents to be aware of Fortnite’s features. It’s vital parents have regular conversations with their children about the games they are playing, and how to stay safe online.”

But what exactly is Fortnite and should parents be concerned about it? Here’s your must-know guide to this year’s biggest gaming trend.

What exactly is Fortnite?

Described as a cross between Minecraft and the Hunger Games, the interactive survival game, which is free to download and available on Xbos and IOS, sees players compete against each other on a dystopian island.

Though the game actually launched last July as a console and PC game, the Fortnite franchise has been causing quite the buzz of late thanks mainly to its most popular mode Battle Royale.  

Each ‘battle’ begins with 100 players who have to out-survive the other contestants in order to win the game – hence the Hunger Games comparisons.

Players can roam the virtual island and pick up weapons to defend themselves. They can even team up with their friends to create a “squad” adding a social element to the game.

Kids are going mad for Fortnite [Photo: Epic]

Why is it so popular?

The three Fs. Free, Fun and Floss – the dance move kids can’t stop doing and which players can pull off during the game.

That also makes it great for sharing clips on social media, and making memes and gifs, all of which also appeal to the younger generation.

When it comes to the look of it, the colour pop-colours and almost cartoon-like graphics coupled with over-the-top costumes, tap into kids’ love of dressing up.

Plus everyone from YouTubers to footballers seem to be playing it right now, which has meant the game has taken on cult like appeal in playgrounds around the world.

Is it suitable for children to play?

According to Epic Games – the company which develops the game – Fortnite: Battle Royale has been rated 12 by PEGI (Pan European Game Information).

Fortnite: Battle Royale was identified as having frequent scenes of mild violence and PEGI says it is not suitable for anyone under the age of 12.

But that doesn’t mean under 12s aren’t playing it.

Earlier this month the game was the focus of a phone-in on ITV’s This Morning with parents called in to explain that they were finding it increasingly difficult to get their kids to step away from their consoles.

One mum explained that her son’s attitude changed every time she tried to stop him playing the game.

“I had to tell him you’re not acting the way you normally act,” she said. “The game is so full of energy and adrenaline that when you pull them off they are screaming at the television; they’re hiding, they’re calling each other, they are living in it with their friends.”

Should parents be concerned?

Although the ultimate aim of Fortnite is to be the last man, woman or group standing it has a sort of friendly visual style and it does not depict actual bloody violence.

That being said some experts are concerned about not only the addictiveness of the game, but also something known as competitive angst.

“Like any game with a fiercely competitive online mode, younger players can find that Fortnite makes them cross or angry when they lose,” explains family technology expert Andy Robertson who also runs a parent community site advising mums and dads about games like Fortnite.

“This is common in games like FIFA and Rocket League, but even more in Fortnite because you only have one life and then you are out the game.”

Andy advises parents to ensure their children take regular breaks from the game, as well as playing with parents nearby, or in shared family rooms.

Online safety is another concern.

Earlier this year the National Crime Agency, warned parents that the popular game could be putting children at risk from online paedophiles and now the NSPCC and O2 have issued their own advice for parents of children playing the game.

The advice comes after concerns over a function within the game which automatically allows users to speak to other players through voice and text chats, meaning that parents could be unaware that their children are chatting to strangers online.

Though voice chat can be disabled in the setting menu, the text chat function cannot be turned off.

Worryingly, research from NSPCC and O2 has revealed that that one in four children have been contacted online by someone they don’t know.

The research is based on reviews by children and parents of popular apps, sites and games featured on the Net Aware app and website.

Now the NSPCC has spoken out in a bid to inform mums and dads of the dangers.

“Apps, sites, and games such as Fortnite: Battle Royale can be great opportunities for young people to play and engage online,” Laura Randall, NSPCC’s associate head of child safety online said. 

“However in light of emerging concerns about the risks children could be exposed to, we are urging parents to be aware of Fortnite’s features. It’s vital parents have regular conversations with their children about the games they are playing, and how to stay safe online. 

“Anyone looking for further online safety advice can contact the O2 NSPCC online safety helpline on 0808 800 5002 or pop into an O2 store where an O2 Guru can help.”

Kids are going mad for Fortnite [Photo: Epic]

Are there any plus points?

According to Andy Robertson, there’s a lot more to Fortnite than just shooting people. “Players will develop strategic thinking, forward planning and creative approaches to combat,” he says. “It also teaches a deep amount of collaboration and working together and saving team mates,” he adds. 

Child psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer, founder of Fundamentally Children, the UK’s leading source of expert, independent advice on child development and play has some words of advice for parents’ to ensure their children stay safe while playing Fortnite.

“It’s vital that parents keep openly communicating with their children and take an interest in their digital activities just as they would in the physical world,” she says.

“And it’s imperative that game developers tighten up their safety features, especially on products being accessed by children.”

Dr Gummer has some recommendations to ensure children’s online experiences are as safe as possible:-
– Don’t let children have internet connected tech in their bedrooms with the doors shut
– Make sure they know that they have people to talk to about anything that disturbs them online
– Take an interest in the games they engage with so you can talk to your children reasonably – they’re more likely to listen if they think you understand at least the basics of their online world
– Encourage children to have face-to-face time with their friends and family to give them plenty of screen-free time

Meanwhile the NSPCC and O2 are offering parents the following advice:

– Talk to your child regularly about what they are doing online and how to stay safe. Let them know they can come to you or another trusted adult if they’re feeling worried or upset by anything they have seen.

– Explore your child’s online activities together. Understand why they like using certain apps, games or websites and make sure they know what they can do to keep themselves safe.

– Agree your own rules as a family when using sites, apps and games.

– Manage your technology and use the privacy and parental control settings available to keep your child safe.

Still worried? The good news is, as with any craze, the obsession will eventually pass.

Where are last years fidget spinners now eh?

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