Fortnite attacked by UK newspapers

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Various newspapers have run negative stories about Fortnite, following comments about children’s screen time by Culture Secretary Matt Hancock.

Yesterday, The Daily Telegraph ran a story entitled: “Fortnite and other video games risk ‘damaging’ children’s lives, Culture Secretary warns.” The article is held behind a paywall, but describes Fortnite as: “Highly addictive,” and says it risks having a “Damaging” impact on children’s lives. Never to be outdone, The Daily Mail weighed in with an article headlined: “Addictive online shooter games such as Fortnite have ‘damaging impact’ on the lives of children, warns Culture Secretary.” The Sun, meanwhile, chipped in with an article headed: “FORTNITE MONSTERS: These mums are footing the bill for highly addictive online game Fortnite Battle Royale”.

The rash of negative stories about Fortnite was prompted by quotes from Culture Secretary Matt Hancock who, when quizzed by parents concerned about Fortnite, said: “Too much screen time could have a damaging impact on our children’s lives. Whether it’s social media or video games, children should enjoy them safely and as part of a lifestyle that includes exercise and socialising in the real world.”

Eurogamer spoke to Ukie CEO Dr Jo Twist, who said she was: “Disappointed to see some of the mainstream press crassly linking games to a wider comment made by the Culture Secretary Matt Hancock on excessive screen time. The enjoyment of playing with friends online, in a balanced and safe way, is part of 21st century life. There is no conclusive evidence linking games to addiction, and it is right that we encourage families and carers to understand how they can balance screen time generally instead of demonising games.”

Even the comment thread below the Daily Telegraph article predominantly stuck up for Fortnite, with, for example, Odd Cod saying: “If you replace the headline with Pong, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros. etc, this story has been rehashed for 40 years!” Phil Page added: “As expected this article shows a complete lack of understanding on the matter.  It seems the problem stated is this game is really really fun to play. And parents are really really weak when setting rules for their children.”

The Sun’s article managed to dig up some horror stories from parents of Fortnite-obsessed kids. For example, Shirley McKenzie from Wimbledon was quoted as saying: “Fortnite is just awful. Both my boys are completely obsessed. When the boys play nicely it can be lovely to see them get on and help each other out. But if they start fighting then all hell breaks loose. Their behaviour changes straight away when it comes to Fortnite. They even smashed the TV last month because they were fighting over the controller. I was furious and refused to buy a new television.”

Clearly, there’s a lot of noise in the media and among parents about the much-loved Fortnite. But surely the game, and the games industry as a whole, shouldn’t be blamed for an activity that’s enjoyable for the vast majority? Concerned parents should consider making sure their children play games in moderation, in the same way they may feel about them eating too many sweets or watching too much TV.

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Steve Boxer
Steve Boxer has been writing about videogames since the early 1990s. His first console was an Atari VCS, and he misspent most of his youth in the 1980s in the arcades. As well as for Green Man Gaming, he can be found writing for The Guardian, Empire, TechRadar and Pocket-Lint. He’s currently having trouble deciding whether his favourite console is his Xbox One X or his Switch, and plays a wide range of games, but especially RPGs (he loves a good JRPG) action-adventure titles, shooters of all descriptions and driving games. Follow him here.