Even The ABC Is Having A Crack At Fortnite

fortnite abc 702Image: Epic Games

Prize pools of a few million dollars are always going to turn heads, especially in the mainstream media. And while it's no surprise to see breakfast TV having a crack at video games and the people who play them, it's new territory for the national broadcaster.

A program aired on ABC's PM radio show "Parents, experts battle Fortnite phenomenon" spoke to parent Cassie Aldridge, whose child spends three hours a day playing Fortnite, and child psychologist Philip Tam. The program mentions the addictiveness of Fortnite, saying the game has "many parents at wits' end trying to control their children's gaming habits".

It starts by mentioning Bugha's win at the Fortnite World Cup, before briefly mentioning that "Fortnite can be addictive" and Aldridge saying the game was initially "a second free babysitter" for her 11-year-old son Harrison.

The program leads by classifying Fortnite as addictive, although Dr Tam clearly states in the segment that he doesn't "like to use the word addictive". The program also notes that parents are struggling with how much their children play Fortnite, but it doesn't suggest the use of any of the in-built parental controls for consoles or computers, nor does it include recommendations from Dr Tam or other psychologists on what parents can do.

In the segment, Dr Tam also notes that children are missing classes and dropping out of school altogether, but the circumstances on why students are being allowed to drop out of school in the first place is never addressed.

It's an alarmist angle, one you'd expect from traditional media. The PM story completely overlooks not only the questions raised in its own piece, but it also doesn't address how the vast majority of users play video games, the different ways in which people play Fortnite and even the non-competitive elements of the game, like the in-game Marshmello concert that aired through Fortnite's Creative Mode in February.

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Epic Games was not sought for comment over the course of the three minute story, nor were other representatives of the video game industry, or other dissenting psychologists like the University of Oxford's Andrew Przybylski, or Dr. Chris Ferguson.

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The PM report mentions the World Health Organisation's classification of gaming disorder, but it doesn't offer any context around the disorder — even though the ABC, with Dr Tam's assistance, did just that in an report for Radio National in late June.

"For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months," the definition of gaming disorder says.

The WHO added that "gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital or video gaming activities," but the ABC report quotes Dr Tam as saying that five to 10 percent of "regular gamers" have "some kind of clinically significant problem".

Dr Tam has been a regular feature in media reports over the last few months, with Australian outlets frequently seeking him out for quotes on Fortnite, video game addiction and the impact of video games on society. Dr Tan has previously recommended parents restrict console and computer usage to shared social spaces (like living rooms), encourage physical activities, and limit how much children can play video games. Restrictions have already been implemented by the video game industry in China, with League of Legends publisher Tencent implementing restrictions in-game that limits access to one hour a day for kids 12 or younger, and up to two hours for kids ages between 13 and 18.

The ABC report ends with parent Cassie Aldridge saying she's grateful that her son is more interesting in editing videos, but she'd like "to stop my son from playing the amount of Fortnite he does without causing World War 3 in the house, that would be an amazing thing".

Given that solutions exist on all platforms for this — parental controls — you'd think, of anyone, the national broadcaster might have pointed those out.


    The stuff about parents being at their wits end is stupid. You are a parent. You can control what your kids have access to at your house.

    Not so much when they go to a friends house. I used to do this to watch The Simpsons all the time, haha.

      Yup. We were forbidden to use the word 'sucks' in our household, and The Simpsons were banned for their prolific use of it. So... we'd naturally do everything we could to watch it, up to and including taping episodes in secret and visiting friends.

    For me the most irresponsible and disgusting thing in this whole article was the parent wanting to use fortnite as a ”free babysitting service”. Seriously, fuck you, lady. Show some goddamn accountability for your actions. Reap what you sow.

      Imagine having a fucking child and then complaining about having to look after it.

        Sadly this is a common occurrence, because apparently people haven't heard of contraception.

    My coworker's son is obsessed with Fortnite – and I've seen him using Microsoft's web-based tools to limit his son's time on the Xbox. They're pretty impressive! He can set limits for certain days or between certain times and issue an unlock code or an extension if the kid has been good.

    Parental controls across platforms and some basic guidelines on how to use them and what a reasonable limit on screen time might be could make a good Kotaku article. Or we could wait for mainstream media to publish one.

    Jesus christ. Imagine taking responsibility for your children?
    This is some of the laziest reporting I've ever seen. They legitimately just couldn't be bothered. Poor old ABC. This is what conservative governments have done to you.

    The program mentions the addictiveness of Fortnite, saying the game has "many parents at wits' end trying to control their children's gaming habits".

    Wow, that sounds terrible! At wits' end?!?! How on earth did it come to this?

    Aldridge saying the game was initially "a second free babysitter" for her 11-year-old son Harrison.


    Why dont these morons.. you know... parent their children? If your kid throws a tantrum because he can't play a game them ban them from it indefinitely.

    Ya know, It's hard to calculate how few fucks I give about Tam's opinion

    Last edited 02/08/19 5:52 pm

    While i agree that parent do indeed have to tools to limit the time their child plays fortnite, i can almost guarantee that Bugha's parents didn't.
    Greed can quite often overirde common sense

      I was wondering this same thing, how much gaming time have these 13 year old Fortnite pros had access to?

    What annoys me is parents who come on and say "Parent your children". It just shows a level of ignorance around the problem people are dealing with. Until you have had a child, then dealt with an obsession that takes over their life for no apparent reason then please, hold the holier than thou commentary.

    This game is intentionally addictive. The season pass of which is a minuscule $6 entry fee sets up the child to be mentally re-conditioned for the next 40 levels of play. If you think I am joking, go and *try* it for yourself. Every time you get a level in either play mode you get some kind of recognition, at the same time it shows you what you *would have got* if you had bought the season pass. Every level gain this happens again. Now every time you log in it prominently displays the current fantastic looking character customisation in your face. These are designed by professionals and are quite appealing, especially if its a look that you like. Now add new facets to gameplay every few months which change some characteristic of the game or mode of play. The most recent being mech's.

    So let me describe the 40 levels of conditioning that goes on... you think that $6 is an awesome deal for all the content you are given across those 40 levels. It really is great value. But what it doesn't do is tell you that at the end of the 40 levels you will be conditioned to try some new cosmetics on a regular basis and *this* is how they make their money. Every level you are given a reward for your efforts so the reward model sets up a feedback loop that you want to keep playing to get more. Pretty standard stuff for gaming. The nasty part is the cosmetics. Every few levels you get a new cosmetics. You begin to customise your character and the moment you begin to do this you become invested in it. This happens about 10-12 times throughout the 40 levels and now you have a nice wardrobe and some cool gear... but then the season pass runs out. Guess what... the store has an ever-constant rotation of rarely seen cosmetic pieces that are pinged at you multiple times at the start, and every game session. So the child, only developing their self-control has no defence against this. By the end of the 40 levels, they will want to continue buying cosmetics to further customise there character. They will have all sorts of reasons because it is awesome, their friends have it, their mates, peer group pressure.. the list goes on.

    If you think that's a bit of joke, last figures were $800 million a month on in-game items that have no real-world value. When the monthly bill for the game starts to creep up you will start wondering whats going on. Make no mistake, this is a serious business model and *you* are the ATM... via your children. The damage, however, is to the children who really have no defence against sophisticated psychological conditioning designed to reap monetary rewards.

    Embarrassing journalism from the ABC. I know it’s a three minute piece but it lacked balance and was clearly based on an agenda, consciously or not, at worst or was ignorant at best.

    I let my 9 year old play fortnite as long as he likes. Only caveat is school and bed times are non negotiable. Fight me ABC.

    Make it sound like parents are helpless and at the mercy of fortnite to have total control over their kids.

    Why parent when you can just blame video games huh?

    Parents who 'can't control their kids' screen time' are the same as those who can't control the fact that their kids will only eat chicken nuggets.

    It's nothing more than complete abdication of parenting responsibility, and is 100% the fault of the parent, not the object of their child's obsession.

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