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UK Politicians Say Fortnite Harms Children; Forget Role of Parents

Gaming article by Anson Chan on May 5, 2018 at 1:00 PM
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The rise of video games in culture and society has inevitably meant that children would get their hands on them. In an unsurprising repeat of history, influential public figures have noticed this fact and are doing their best to question whether or not this relatively new hobby is turning children into monsters and or lowlifes. The latest politician to bring up this discussion is the UK Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock, who, in a statement to The Daily Telegraph, warns that games like Fortnite: Battle Royale might be damaging the lives of children. Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, stated that game developers should ensure that their products are not too addicting to children. The UK's National Crime Agency took such statements a bit further and warned that pedophiles might be present in Fortnite.

This new wave of official statements targeting Fortnite: Battle Royale came after a number of parents went to the press to make their concerns about the game public. As one may expect, the complaints were quite varied, usually revolving around how their children were developing poor habits (increased aggression, reckless spending, etc.) from playing Fortnite. There were also some more colorful grievances, including claims that other players tried to coerce sexual acts from their children in exchange for money. If one were to assume that such statements were in no way exaggerated or muddled by other factors, it would certainly give the impression that games are the harbinger of a new age of digital drugs.

 

If we are to be completely fair, it's not as if there isn't some small amount of truth to the claims that games can lead to the development of deviant behaviors among children. After all, even the most seasoned gamers can fall victim to the potential negative psychological effects of things like loot boxes. Blatant and inexcusable toxic behavior among players is a problem that persists to this day. From a purely statistical standpoint, it's entirely possible that kids have ran into pedophiles in Fortnite: Battle Royale. However, one should also keep in mind that human memory tends to be a funny thing, quite susceptible to the plagues of exaggeration and sensationalism when recounting negative experiences. In fact, despite all the talk of how some small percentage of players are toxic, sexist, cheaters, addicted to loot boxes, etc., it would be safe to say that games play a huge part in bringing modern people together purely because they are a shared, popular hobby that often inspires reasonable discussion and interactions.

Realistically, while some small, perhaps microscopic percentage of children are indeed affected negatively by games, the vast majority treat gaming as another relatively mundane hobby. As countless studies (including one by the American Psychological Association no less) and discussions have proven, games don't create mass shooters, games don't turn kids into the drug addicts of the future, and online games certainly aren't riddled with pedophiles. Sure, emotions may flare and you may discover an ugly side of yourself when playing games, but this is no different from what can happen in any hobby where the participants are constantly exposed to extremely tense situations (i.e. sports). For what it's worth, game developers aren't entirely innocent either, as their mad rush for profits led to the creation of exploitative microtransactions, but that is more of a symptom of capitalism than anything else.

 

Junkrat Lootbox
Obligatory mention of how the mere existence of loot boxes is indicative of how little self control some people have.

Of course, part of the problem also lies with parents and authority figures. It is simply the responsibility of parents and guardians to regulate how kids play, just like with any other activity. If anything, treating games like they are some kind of danger to society is quite counterproductive—the persecution of comicbooks, rock and roll, and Elvis' hips is evidence enough of this. Instead of regarding Fortnite as the boogeyman, perhaps parents should get more involved with their children's gaming habits. No one is suggesting that parents have to play the game, or any game for that matter, but they should at least try to understand why kids play the games they play. Show some reasonable amount of feigned interest in what they're doing rather than shunning it. Understand that even kids seek some form of escapism from reality, and that games are merely the latest means to do so. To their credit, the various aforementioned UK politicians have acknowledged the fact that parents are ultimately responsible for their children's gaming habits, though they still point fingers at game developers as if such companies should have some kind of overriding moral obligation to make sure that kids are playing responsibly.

At the end of the day, this discussion, and many others like it, can be circumvented by a deeper understanding of games. As stated before, there are countless studies that examine the relationship between games and behavior. Unfortunately, the situation as it stands now (in a very broad and generalized sense) is that a generation of clueless public figures are leading a generation of parents who don't know any better, raising a generation that is experiencing the most awe-inspiring age of mankind. Meanwhile, the generation that grew up during the rise of this new era either cannot afford to care about the qualms of others or are simply being ignored by those who are blinded by a mixture of hubris and ignorance. The problem extends beyond Fortnite: Battle Royale and is indeed an issue that we as a society must address unless we want to have this discussion ad infinitum.

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Anson Chan

Staff Writer

You ever wonder why we're here? It's one of life's greatest mysteries, isn't it?