If you're the parent of an adolescent boy, you likely know what Fortnite is. For the uninitiated, it's an insanely popular video game that can be played on game consoles, computers, and smartphones—and, as the Wall Street Journal says in an extensive article on the shooting game, it's taking over "American boyhood." The Journal profiles five seventh-graders in California's Bay Area, friends who used to spend their free time playing at each other's houses or at a nearby park and who now spend all the time they can spare playing Fortnite. They're still together, in a sense, as the game allows players to communicate almost as if they're all on the phone with one another. But the obsession many boys experience with the game is putting a huge strain on many families.
The parents profiled in the article describe sweet, good-natured boys who sometimes act like completely different people when their parents try to limit the amount of time they spend playing the game. One says her son screams and calls his parents names when they take the game away; others say their kids end up cut off from their friends (all of whom are playing Fortnite) if their parents cut them off from the game. The article looks at why the game is so addicting; it uses random, unpredictable rewards, which studies have found is the best way to form habits (and is similar to how gambling works). "When you follow a reward system that’s not fixed, it messes up our brains eventually," says one expert, noting that with things like Fortnite, "We’re all pigeons in a big human experiment." Read the Journal's full article, which also delves into how Fortnite got so popular and how it makes money, here. (He spawned "the Carlton," doesn't want Fortnite using it.)