Fortnite, the mega-popular video game where players shoot each other on a fictional island, hosts tens of millions of players each month—including Drake and a number of NBA players.
But now Fortnite is causing trouble on a real island: Australia.
The “battle royale”-style game, in which players control cartoonish characters as they gather materials and weapons before taking on 99 rival players in a Hunger Games-style battle, has set off a classic video game panic Down Under.
The game’s ubiquity—it’s free, and available on every major console, plus PCs and smartphones—has hundreds of parents turning out to events on how to break their sons’ addictions to the game, and the game has become a popular topic on tabloid news shows.
“Parents are losing their sons to Fortnite, the hottest game in the world,” Sydney Morning Herald columnist Madonna King warned in a column earlier this month.
King goes on to describe a world upended by Fortnite fever.
Teens are stealing their parents’ wallets to buy new outfits for their Fortnite characters, then waking up the middle of the night to play when their parents are asleep. Mothers are having their own friendships rent apart by Fortnite feuds, as their sons “scream like toddlers” when they aren’t allowed to play. School popularity in Australia, King claims, is now determined not by coolness or athletic ability, but by who’s best at taking out foes in Fortnite.
“This is the teenage boy’s version of the topless selfie, that parents of girls worry about,” King writes, somewhat confusingly.
King’s column is far from the first example of Australian media’s growing concern over Fortnite. In March, Australian tabloid news show A Current Affair ran a segment on the game centered around the question “when does a bit of harmless fun turn into a deadly obsession?”
The segment then featured an impressive number of glassy-eyed young boys who couldn’t tear their eyes away from the screen.
“I didn’t want to play it, until other people played it, and now I’m addicted,” said one.
Months later, Australian media is still going strong on Fortnite. This month, Australia’s Today show aired a segment warning that a game of Fortnite is more violent than a “game of footie with your mates.”
What one University of Sydney professor described as a “media panic” centered around Fortnite has prompted warnings from schools concerned about Fortnite-linked playground aggression. But there may be some hope for Australia’s Fortnite-sieged schools: One principal assured parents that the game would soon go the way of Pokemon Go.