BY ADAM CAILLER
COMPUTER games have often been an issue for parents, be it games focusing on war and violence, to those which are highly-addictive.
But for parents Matt Phillips, Hayley Lawson and Ray Tammam, Fornite poses all of those problems . . . and more.
Fortnite — a last-man-standing shooting game — has taken the world by storm since it’s launch in July, 2017.
But there have been some unwanted side effects for families.
Like any game with a competitive online mode, younger players can find that Fortnite makes them lose their temper when they ‘die’.
Mr Phillips, father of King David Primary School pupil Leo, agrees.
He said: “I limit Leo to an hour, because he used to sit on it for hours on end. I tell him to come off and he snaps.
“He’ll have a semi-screaming fit and, anything he does after playing it, is overly exaggerated and full of shouting.”
When the game launched, Mr Phillips, of Whitefield, felt it was basic enough to not cause issues. For the part-time actor would play computer games when he was a child.
He recalled: “I was playing games like this when I was his age. I used to play Green Beret or Operation Wolf on the Commodore 64 and Sega Mega Drive.
“I think I’m a good judge of what is suitable to play on, as I won’t let him play Grand Theft Auto.
“It is basically just running around and shooting stuff, but it is the addictive side which is problematic.
“I have previously had to ban him from his Xbox, but that didn’t go down too well.”
Leo’s behaviour has been “dreadful”, with his dad admitting to not even seeing him some days after school, as he would spend it playing Fortnite.
He said: “Leo is aware of the behaviour change. He actually said to me that he thinks he’s going to start playing it less — if he feels he can do it, then good luck to him.
“He’s a kid, and I don’t regret letting him play it. Maybe I’m more relaxed than some others, but some of his friends are on it until 5am — that’s something I would never allow.”
Architectural designer Mrs Lawson has seen a dramatic change in the behaviour of her two sons — aged 12 and 14.
The 42-year-old has kept the names of her King David High School pupil sons anonymous.
At first, she did not want her sons to play the game.
She explained: “I was sceptical about it, but it got to a point where everyone was playing it.
“I saw images of all the shooting and I am very against that. I told them that they could play it, but they had to tell me who they were talking to on it.
“They mainly used to play FIFA, Minecraft and Lego games beforehand, but they’ve all taken a back-seat to this.”
One of the biggest issues for parents is the inability to pause the game.
Mrs Lawson continued: “I hate the fact that you can’t pause it.
“It’s not like FIFA where it’s a short game. It’s a real battle in itself and it is very frustrating because there is always an argument and a fight when I’m trying to get them off it.
“There’s also no countdown, so you never know when it will finish.”
The game has caused a change in the behaviour of her children, including an increase in anger.
They are also “fixated” with the game. She added: “It’s like taking a drug.
“We’ve put restrictions on it, and there is a group of parents who have come together to make a collective decision to restrict the times.
“Homework and revision is a priority, but it is still very stressful because it is so addictive and they want to be on it all the time.
“We’ve told them that it changes their behaviour and that they are addicted to it.
“They also fight with each other because they want to take turns and chat to their own friends. They asked me for another Xbox, but it doesn’t work like that.
“It’s also not in their own rooms, so I can see them at all times.”
But like Mr Phillips, she does not regret letting her children play it. For her, moderation is the key.
“It’s bad enough that you’re saying ‘no’ to so many other things,” she explained.
“I’ve heard of parents not being able to control it, and that is their problem.
“There is also a lot of peer pressure, as I’ve had to say no to them playing an 18-rated game, despite them thinking it is similar to Fortnite.”
In response to much of the criticism, creators Epic Games introduced a ‘Playground Mode’ recently.
It was supposed to serve as a practice arena, but would be a limited-time sandbox-style mode that allows players to take a break from the formula by roaming through the island with up to three of their friends, without any opponents to shoot at or hide from.
But that quickly went by the wayside when the system crashed. It has now been shelved indefinitely.
Bucking the trend, Mr Tammam has seen no changes to his son Jack’s behaviour.
But that could be down to the 11-year-old Bury and Whitefield Jewish Primary School pupil being on the autism spectrum.
He said: “My wife, Vicky, and I discussed all the the reports on the game and haven’t noticed any changes in Jack’s behaviour.
“He’s quite sensible, and with him being on the autism spectrum, he hyper-focuses on things.
“So when he finishes playing, that’s it — he moves on to the next thing.
“It’s always been sensible to tell him that we’re giving him 20 minutes or half-an-hour to play.
“I agree that to just turn it off is not clever. It’s a more sensible option to give them a warning.”
And for Mr Tammam, the game is not as bad as others feel, because it is better than spending time playing a game in a solitary environment.
He explained: “He enjoys playing it and talking to his friends — the chat feature is like socialising.
“I’ve also read a couple of studies that say the game is good for hand-eye co-ordination and reflexes.”
* Do you play Fortnite and want to have your say? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0161-741 2631.