By David R. Lee Jr., Special to the AFRO

Every year, there appears to be a gaming phenomenon that sweeps the globe. Last year, Pokémon Go dominated the markets. This year, Fortnite is the game that has taken a hold of the public’s attention.

Fortnite is a battle royale game with hints of Minecraft; no other game comes close. Players drop into a zone, collect supplies, and protect themselves against opposing players.

(Courtesy Graphic)

Fortnite is an innovative game, but it is not entirely unique. Before the fanciful shooter, H1Z1, an early access game on Windows (initial early access release on Jan. 15, 2015), was the first popular battle royale game in the style of Fortnite, with an enveloping storm. With third-person gameplay, blood, vehicles, and a realistic atmosphere, H1Z1 is more alike to its next rival, Player Unknown Battlegrounds than Fortnite. A PC and Xbox exclusive, this game costs $30. This game is considered the grandfather of the battle royale genre, starting as an Arma 3 mood before H1Z1, but it wasn’t quite stand-alone before its competitor.

PUBG is very similar to H1Z1, but has way more gun choices, making gameplay more varied and tactical than H1Z1. When PUBG was released, it slowly leeched players away from H1Z1. First person realistic gameplay appealed to military-sim gamers. In addition, H1Z1 enables those you kill to talk to you, and the game has a reputation for toxic, rude players.

Fortnite is now the undisputed titan of the genre. The two giants, PUBG and Fortnite, were neck and neck in December 2017 at 30 million players each. However, the latter is now at 45 million users, due to it being free, available on nearly every platform and being so much more publicized when compared to PUBG.

The simple weapons system and cartoonish graphics draw new players, and the best of the best have broken records across video streaming platforms YouTube and Twitch. On YouTube, Fortnite holds the record for the most videos uploaded in a month, and holds the highest concurrent viewership of any live gaming stream ever at 1.1 million. On Twitch, the biggest Fortnite player of all, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins played the game with Drake—yes, the rapper Drake—and over 600,000 people watched (he broke his own record at his own E-League Tournament). Fortnite has become so widely watched that its view count has passed Minecraft, an amazing achievement that represents perfectly just how beloved this game is.

Despite the benefits of Fortnite (ability to play with friends, building a competitive spirit, communication skills and strategic thinking etc.), many parent blogs and media review organizations identified Fortnite as a debilitating factor on kids. They cite the many hours kids play the game or describe it as “a combat-based game with tons of guns and violence” (Common Sense Media).

Fortnite is, without a doubt, a shooter game. However, it’s childish environments and costumes (known as skins) make this game a much less violent alternative to any other shooter. There is no blood in this game and no cries of pain in the Battle Royal mode. It is rated “Teen,” but the whimsical environment and vibrant skins draw kids, and the absence of blood and gruesome scenes should be tolerated by parents.

While these are legitimate concerns, I believe there is only one aspect of the game that warrants parental supervision of Fortnite. Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode is free to play, but there are numerous in-app purchases that are very attractive to kids. The game skins available to purchase are colorful and very appealing to young players. For me, it is sometimes hard to resist the temptation of purchasing skins, I even broke down and purchased some I found particularly appealing.

How does Fortnite convince its players to buy costumes that have absolutely no in-game advantage? These skins are comparable to new fashion trends. People have an innate desire to differentiate themselves from others, and in-game skins are a way for them to stick out. In addition, Fortnite has timers on the items in the Item Shop, which forces kids’ hands. They may worry they’ll never see it again. This sort of exploitation is not unique to Fortnite, but with the game being free, this is the only way revenue is generated regardless of the exploitation tactics.

Fortnite encourages bettering your skills, instead of purchasing them, and that is what makes this game reign supreme over pay-to-dominate games such as GTA 5, and NBA2K18.

David R. Lee Jr. is a sophomore at Maynard Holbrook Jackson High School in Atlanta, Ga.  His many hobbies include basketball, gaming, reading, and listening to music. His new column is seeking submissions from teens across America on all sorts of topics ranging from sports to politics to music. Opinions, questions, and creative writing is all welcome to [email protected]