That’s Inappropriate mom blogger Meredith Masony recently expressed deep frustration with the creators of Fortnite, even going so far as to ask them to call her. Since we here at Love Thy Nerd have a heart for both nerd kids and their moms, we commissioned our resident Fortnite Dad to write a letter of encouragement to Meredith (and parents like her).
Dear Done With Fortnite,
I want to help your son stop driving you crazy. I don’t have the influence to petition Epic Games to bring reform to Fortnite, but you’ve summed up the same frustration I see plastered across my social medias from other parents of kids that play Fortnite. As a parent who plays Fortnite myself, I want to help. “Ask and you shall receive.”
First off, mad props for knowing how much time your son spends playing, and what game. That’s the kind of stuff I want to see from parents of gamers. You’re involved. You care. You’re doing your job.
Even though he still has things to learn when it comes to context, I want to commend your son on trying to apply scripture to his everyday life. He’s listening in church; he’ll get there.
I understand your frustration with your son continually asking you for money for digital goods. There aren’t any teenagers at my house—my oldest son is six years old—but, as you described your son begging you for money, I couldn’t help but think of my son. He loves Legos and is constantly asking my wife and I to buy him more. Like you said in your video, you’re definitely not the only parent in the world having to deal with this. It’s not even limited to Fortnite.
Fortnite Battle Royale is free to download and play, but it makes money through microtransactions
—especially the skins that your son constantly asks you to fund. Epic creates the illusion of scarcity of demand because their store only has those skins for a day or two. Then they are gone (they will come back eventually… and usually for less… you just have to wait a long time). The combination of Fortnite’s popularity, the limited availability of the items in its store, and the limited amount of v-Bucks players can earn by merely playing the game is a sure fire recipe for young people to beg their parents for money.
The thing your son is feeling we call FOMO—fear of missing out—and it can be as dangerous as it is motivational. I can’t say I am 100% behind Epic’s marketing strategy here. Given the vast numbers of children playing Fortnite, I do wish Epic would acknowledge the compulsive behavior the game’s systems and marketplace potentially encourages. At the very least, this potential is one every parent needs to be aware of and help their child navigate.
None of that solves your problem, but I thought it might be helpful for you and anyone else who reads this letter to know how Fortnite’s marketplace works. It will help you understand what I’m about to say. Here’s the help part:
Have you heard your son talk about a “Battle Pass?”
Unlike a skin or emote, the money spent on a Battle Pass isn’t gone forever. Fortnite sells Battle Passes in-game for $10 in v-Bucks to act as a sort of game enhance. When a player purchases a Battle Pass, they can unlock different skins, pickaxes, etc. as they play during the Fortnite season (usually about 80 days). Furthermore, if your son were to play enough to unlock the required levels, he could earn enough v-Bucks to be able to purchase the next season’s Battle Pass solely with in-game credit—no asking you for money. This isn’t a guarantee, as it depends on how long your son would need to play to unlock those levels. You might rather pay $10 for the next pass than have him be adding another 10 hours to his monthly playtime. This is a catch-22. The Matrix has you, Neo. It’s worth noting, however, that none of the items purchased in Fortnite’s marketplace are required to play and enjoy the game. Your son can keep playing with his friends without that sweet Skull Trooper skin just like you can send him to school without those Air Jordan IIIs.
Many parents use Fortnite as a motivator
I also wanted to suggest a way in which Fortnite might become a tool for growth for your son rather than cause strife in your family. Those parents I was talking about earlier? Lots of them use Fortnite as a motivator. If your son wants money for a Fortnite skin, then perhaps he should be willing to do something to earn it. Maybe you already do this, but I figured I’d share my approach.
I did this with my six-year-old son. We told him that if he wants a new Lego set, he can do things to earn money to be able to buy one. He gets it. This week he finally saved up enough to buy a Lego set. I had a Proud Dad moment when he almost bought something at a yard sale with his own money that he earned—and then decided not to. He said, “I didn’t want to spend my money because there might be something better later.” If your son works for the money he spends in Fortnite, I bet he learns the value of it.
Microtransactions are hard on families with kids playing video games. Because of this, the ESRB, who rates video games for appropriate ages are looking into creating a label that will make parents aware of games that have microtransactions. They even created a website to help parents manage the money kids spend on these kind of games.
I can’t make changes to Fortnite, but I hope this can help you change your relationship with the game and improve your relationship with your son.
Thank you for being a good parent.