Dear Fortnite, Satan Wants his Game Back

I consider myself an A minus parent. I’m not winning any mom trophies for Instagram-worthy dinners or chaperone sign-ups, but think I’ve scored a good balance of sheltering my kids without actually keeping them in a bubble, and so far, and they’re all seemingly well-adjusted, respectful little men.

But anyone birthing at least one offspring has experienced epic fails along this wild adventure we call parenthood, and some are just more egregious than others. I’ve admittedly sent my kids to “wear your pj’s to school day” on the wrong day (read the school newsletters, ever since!) missed a few crucial enrollment deadlines spurring desperate “one more student, for Robotics Club!? emails, and my oldest might still be afraid of Walmart because I told him that’s where the crazy people shop. He’s 18.

However, a recent decision amidst the typical parental distraction, business and ignorance to yet another unscrupulous media company’s agenda, might just be the worst yet. Even in this moment, as I type the word ‘Fortnight’ I can sense the collective sighs from other regretful parents also waiting since like, last Wednesday for their child to turn off this horrid game and come to the dinner table…or get ready for school….or do anything, really. Anything at all that requires prying their hands from the controls.

Any parent out there managing to avoid knowledge of this gaming epidemic- a quick download: Fortnight is an interactive game where each player depends on their “teammates” to get to the next level, therefore causing Tsunami-grade meltdowns when having to stop before finishing the round.  It’s not so violent, and they incorporate these cute little dances throughout the game that I’ve highly enjoyed watching my son emulate every day, but parents have complained how the fiendish difficulty of staying alive to the bitter end, leaves their children feeling tired and withdrawn.

This nightmare could easily have been avoided if I had simply paid more attention a few months ago, when my 9-year-old ever so casually asked to download a game called ‘fort’ something on his Switch, and then a couple days later asked for a headset. I should have joined the masses of good parents researching every digitized request made in the hurricane of school drop offs and lunch making, but we all have our excuses. My ‘out’ was that I knew all my other good church-going friends’ kids were playing the game, and surely these homeschoolers had done their research. Send me the Cliff Notes, ladies…

But within days I knew I had a problem. I first noticed it on vacation this summer, when Kenai was begging to stay on his Switch in the hotel room instead of body surfing in Palm Beach waves. And when he begged to keep playing instead of  hitting up the the waffle bar buffet, which aside from butt jokes, is his favorite thing on this planet.

What. Is happening.

So, in the highly-strategic way I approach most problems after it’s likely too late, I took to Google and then started asking around to others managing the pain of Fortnite. An actual text between a mom and myself:

“Hey. Is Tyler on fortnight? What kind of crack are they peddling on this thing?!”

Mom friend: “YES, and it’s AWFUL. He has headset indentations on his ears as we speak. ”

I’m still considering taking away the game altogether and substituting a huge guilt-laden bribe, but honestly, I’m just fearing the two-year-old in a candy store level of protest I know will ensue, and also feeling guilty for not preventing this cyber- withdrawal in the first place. I’ve gone down a very dark rabbit hole of mommy shame thanks to Fortnite, questioning how I could let this happen to begin with. My first born was limited to a media diet of Disney movies and PBS Kids programming ‘til 10 and I barely let him get a Wii. I also made my first-born homemade baby food for a year and I’m pretty sure poor Kenai left with a Poptart this morning, so I realize digression of parenting standards are common… but this seems to sting extra.

I’d love to blame it on the chaos of single parenthood, and the holy grail of self-soothing lies that “these are just the times we live in,” but really, I feel I have failed even worse than the time he swallowed a Reese’s wrapper after a rushed batch of peanut butter brownies. #WhattaSurvivor.

So until I get out of the kiddie pool and muster the fortitude to ban this devil’s game from my house, I continue to manage the addiction by banning play before school, giving constant ten-minute warnings to his cyber “team” before he has to quit, and checking his backpack for the Switch like a max security prison guard before leaving the house… “sorry bud, game stays home, the team will live.”

I realize this rant synonymizes me to that lady complaining about her thighs after daily visits to the cupcake truck, but I think this Fortnite phenomena has really taken the parenting community by surprise, and by sharing our mutual shock at the power of this game, we can at least feel empowered to either limit use, ban it, or save some other innocent about to approve a download that’ll leave her yelling “Did you not hear me say turn that off?!” for all eternity.

And to the genius creators of Fortnite: Karma is real. And when it finds you, I have a dance, just for that.  …  : )

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