Beware of Freebies – a Warning to Parents

If your child is a console/PC owner you’ll know only too well that games for them can prove extremely expensive, with the newest releases commanding prices of £40 up.   I saw a special edition one for the bargain price of £80 yesterday!

So when my children asked to download a free game called Fortnite onto their Xbox I didn’t hesitate to say yes.  Free?  Wow.  What a bonus!

That was the start of our Fortnite-Mare.

That, my friends, was the last time I saw my four youngest children properly.  Ha ha!

That comment is definitely tongue-in-cheek, but unless you are a parent with children of a certain age, you really won’t understand how big an impact this game has had on youngsters.  They absolutely love it.  I read that over 125 million worldwide play Fortnite – mainly teens and tweens –  so there’s probably the same number of parents worldwide lamenting the fact that they let this game into their homes.

Right now my children, would, I reckon, consider selling either one or both of us to play on that game.  (They’d be even more likely to sell a sibling to play on it, because that’d be one less sibling to have to share Xbox time with!)  Mr FU and I have joked that we could probably go out for the day, and provided the Xbox had power and internet and there was food and running water in the house they’d be so busy in Tilted Towers or Dusty Divot (two of the game’s locations) that they mightn’t notice we weren’t there.

I’m joking of course.  And don’t get me wrong,  I really get why my kids care about the game.  It clearly is so much fun to play.  Plus there are some extremely positive aspects to the game.

  • It is (mainly) free. Players can spend £7.99 for 1000 V-Bucks – the game’s currency – to buy a Premium Battle Pass.  This buys exclusive clothing and items but players unlock new items for free as they progress, anyway.  And the great thing is, you don’t need expensive add-ons to win.
  • There’s no blood and gore in the game. At all.  Definitely a good thing.
  • The graphics are amazing.  They’re cartoon-like and funny.
  • It has a silly and quirky feel.   Characters ride in shopping trolleys and learn new emotes (fun dances to celebrate victories.  The Floss is one of them, which is why you seeing flossing everywhere on tv.  My kids were never really into dancing until this game but now they’re wiggling all over the house!  Little FU#4 is one of the fastest flossers, ever, I reckon.)
  • It is collaborative.  Children work together to plan strategies, protect each other (also heal each other when they get injured) and team up to attack people.  My children don’t live near their school friends but they can play the game with them via headsets and microphones on Fortnite.  They also play with children they might not have played with ordinarily in school, too.
  • You can’t get bored because it is an ever-evolving story, with the makers (Epic Games) uploading new updates to the current ‘season’ on a weekly basis, making Tuesday (update day) the new Friday in kids’ eyes – The Update is a great topic of debate and my children get quite animated about it.  In addition, every solution to the current ‘mystery’ opens up a new one and new things appear on the map all the time.
  • It encourages problem-solving skills. I’ve heard them talking about what impact the impending meteor that they’ve seen in the sky for days will have and what the creature that emerged from the mystery pod was.  They love to discuss the possibilities with their siblings and friends – and me, too.  I’ve no clue what they’re talking about most of the time but I do my best.
  • There are so many facets to the game.  The landscape is multi-dimensional.  Building requires skill and you can discover hidden rooms.


But I’m not kidding, the game is quite addictive.  It’s tricky to win, but it’s wholly possible and at the end of a game I think it’s hugely tempting to try again, to get a better win or be successful.  It was recently reported in the news that one girl urinated on a cushion rather than leave the game to use the toilet.  I’m doubtful of the facts of that story but it does irritate me that my children do sometimes come to the dinner table late or eat at lightning speed so they can return to their game as soon as possible.  Their beds are unmade (and let’s face it, they just need to throw the quilt back on the bed to achieve that) and sometimes school bags/shoes/coats are dumped in the middle of the hall the minute they land home so as not to waste gameplay time.    If we persuade the kids to come out for a walk somewhere Mr FU and I are completely out of the conversation as they ponder the merits of the various weapons and strategies, and we have to make our own conversation!  I’m surprised that the boys have shown only a little interest in the World Cup, whereas we had to endure the pain of updating several wall charts and swapsies for the much-hated Panini sticker book for Euro 2016.  ( Ugh!  The thought of those sticker books just made me go cold. They are definitely not FI-friendly!)

It’s not as if they’ve nothing else to do because we’ve lots of space both inside and out, a huge Astroturfed garden with goalposts at either end,  a big trampoline and tons of games, toys and books…

…and four boys who prefer to be connected to Fortnite!  It’s enough to drive a parent crazy!

There is a little bit of me that knows if all my children did was read books I might not be as worried about that sort of obsession.  Maybe I’m just too old to ‘get it’ but I know I’m not alone because our friends are experiencing the same problems as us – there’s plenty of whingeing about Fortnite at the school gates.

I’d just like my children to balance their game-time with other things a bit more, so I’ve made a stand.  Today they woke up to no controls, no laptops, no iPads and this message stuck to the TV in the playroom, telling them that whenever this sign is up there’s no Fortnite allowed and they must do other things until we let them back on.  I’ve told the children if the worst comes to the worst I’ll list the XBox on eBay and buy them something else instead.  I’m sure it won’t come to that, though.  There are improvements already.  I’ve already seen them reading, two of them have had a giggly pillow fight and one even had the vacuum out! Result!


I’ve taken a photo of the notice because I suspect it’ll mysteriously get ripped/disappear at some point (!!!) but I have to try to involve them in managing their time a little better.  Wish me luck!

Meanwhile, I’ll be more wary of freebies, and their potential ‘costs’ in other areas.

Have you ever found a free thing to be a bad thing?








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