Any parent with a Fortnite fiend in the house knows the struggle: How do I keep up with the game's ever-changing features, customs, and lingo? And - even more important - how do I keep kids safe when scammers and bad actors sneak into the game?
If you're one of the many parents who's never played Fortnite (or just one of the ones who doesn't get the hype), you might be missing out on some of the "secrets" that only hardcore fans of the game know.
Most of these secrets are totally harmless and simply help make the game more fun and competitive. But some of the other activities that are part of Fortnite culture can lead kids down a dark rabbit hole - and could get them kicked out of the game. The good news is that just being in the know can help you bond with your kids and guide them toward safe and smart gaming.
Here are the secrets your kids aren't telling you:
They might be playing with their favourite celebs
The Fortnite phenomenon was jump-started when rapper Drake played with Twitch streamer Ninja, but he's not the only celebrity who's obsessed with the game. Musicians and actors like Chance the Rapper, Finn Wolfhard and Joe Jonas are also active players (Jonas even tweeted his handle so he could play with fans).
What's the big deal? While it's a major selling point for a lot of kids, the chances of your kid actually playing with a celebrity are probably slim. However, seeing their favourite celebs play Fortnite at all hours of the day and night could make it harder for them to manage their screen time. It's also a reminder that there are millions of people playing Fortnite - and most of them are strangers.
What to say: Ask your kid if they know any famous people playing Fortnite. Discuss how celebs balance the game with their creative or athletic pursuits. Depending on your kid's age, help them set up privacy settings and parental controls.
Kids will do almost anything for exclusive items
Many costumes and characters (known as "skins") and well as other items, are available in the game for only a limited time. For example, the Skull Trooper and Bunny Brawler skins were 2018 holiday offerings.
Others, like the Black Knight skin and the Reaper (also known as John Wick), are available only when players reach a certain tier level on a specific season's Battle Pass (a time-bound subscription that offers players additional challenges and rewards). Players with these exclusive, rare items from earlier seasons are often idolised for being early adopters of the game.
What's the big deal? Most items don't really affect the outcomes of the games. A memorable skin is mainly a way to set yourself apart. However, these items cost real money (by way of Fortnite's in-game currency, V-Bucks), and you might not realise that your kid is racking up a serious credit card charge to attain the latest and greatest characters.
What to say: Ask which skins your kid prefers to play with and the rarest one they've seen. Discuss why people have high opinions of those who've played the game since the beginning. Is there any benefit to having played that long? Does being the first make you the best?
Those popular dances are based on real people
If you leave a kid standing long enough, they'll start doing the floss, but that's not the only dance craze that makes an appearance in Fortnite. Players can unlock or buy hundreds of different dances (called "emotes"). And many of these signature moves have origins in popular movies, TV shows, and viral videos. Kids might recognise the Ride the Pony emote from the song "Gangnam Style," but parents might recognise Jubilation from Seinfeld or the Original Dance from Scrubs.
What's the big deal? Emotes are one of the most appealing features of Fortnite and for the most part pretty harmless. But they could introduce kids to media that might not be appropriate for them yet.
What to say: Ask which dances they recognise and where they originated. And if you're really brave, ask them to teach you to floss.
Kids are training with Fortnite coaches
Though the premise of Fortnite is simple (be the last one standing), the controls can be challenging. And the game has become so big, kids' Fortnite abilities could affect their social status with peers - or even the potential to go pro.
Some parents shell out money for their kids to learn from experts. Gamers are offering coaching services online and on social media sites. And it's not just kids who are getting schooled. Some parents hire coaches for themselves to help them play alongside their kids.
What's the big deal? It may be hard to believe that kids are training to become better video gamers instead of, say, signing up for piano lessons or soccer clinics. Advanced players can make a few extra bucks by sharing their skills, especially since esports are hitting the mainstream and gaming programs are becoming more popular at high schools and colleges.
What to say: Discuss whether video games are comparable to sports like soccer or basketball or to skilled pursuits like playing a musical instrument. What is the benefit of having a coach or tutor? Ask if your kid has ever helped a friend become better at the game or benefited from the help of someone else.
You can pay someone to win games for you
Battle Royale is a winner-takes-all game, so it's no surprise that the main bragging right in Fortnite is how many wins you have. An advanced player might get several a day. Your kid may have only a few, even after weeks of play. To boost this number, some players are turning to gaming forums, as well as sites like EBay and Craigslist, to pay people to win for them.
What's the big deal? Not only is this cheating, but it also opens up kids to scams and privacy breaches. The only way for someone else to play for you is for them to log in with your username and password, which leaves you at risk of identity theft. And then there's no way to guarantee that the person with your information will actually win a match.
What to say: Discuss the importance of protecting your personal data and passwords. Talk about cheating and sporting conduct. Ask your kid if they think buying wins is worth it.
People are buying and selling their accounts
The underground Fortnite economy isn't limited to buying wins or hiring coaches. Some players are even selling their entire accounts. Because Epic Games doesn't allow the trading of skins or items in the game, if you miss out on something rare, there's a chance you'll never get the opportunity again.
Some gamers are capitalising on the high demand for these items by listing their accounts on EBay, Craigslist, and other online marketplaces. And depending on how advanced the player is and how rare the items are, people are spending hundreds and thousands of dollars.
What's the big deal? Buying and selling accounts goes against Epic Games' terms of service, which means you can be blocked from the game if you're caught. If that doesn't deter kids, buying accounts is also a major way to get scammed. There's no guarantee that sellers are telling the truth about the items or that they even own the accounts themselves. Some scammers are selling hacked or stolen accounts from other players - who are usually quick to take them back.
But kids aren't just the buyers on these marketplaces; they're also the sellers. Depending on their time spent and skill level, kids are learning that their accounts have real value. And some parents might have a problem if the money they've allowed their kids to spend on V-Bucks is being turned into cash from random folks online.
What to say: Ask if your kid has considered buying or selling accounts. Discuss the dangers and benefits of online marketplaces, as well as safety rules for interacting online. Talk about the importance of honouring terms of service (and ask how often they agree to them without reading them).
Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organisation offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org.
Common Sense Media