Everything Parents Need To Know About Fortnite

So, there’s this new thing now.  Fortnite… Anyone heard of it?

Oh… Everyone?  Everyone’s heard of it?  


Yeah.  Everyone’s heard of it.   Parents, kids, grandparents, pets, aunts, uncles, cousins, space aliens, creatures from alternate dimensions, and I’m pretty sure even muppets… Everyone and everything.  Fortnite’s popularity is so strong, it’s pushed its way into mainstream pop culture. It’s moved from just gamers to the population at large.  If you’re a parent and want to know what your kiddos are playing, this post will give you everything you need to know.

What is Fortnite?

Fortnite is a game from Epic Games with two primary modes. Save the World, the original mode, which they followed up with Battle Royale.  We’ll be talking a bit about both modes in this post.  However, as a parent, if you hear your kiddo talking about Fortnite, in most cases, they’re talking about Battle Royale. The Battle Royale mode is taking the world by storm – which, as you’ll read later – is actually a bit of a pun.  A bit… and it’s still groan-worthy, but with a delayed groan, like when you get all the way to work then realize you forgot your wallet or purse at home.

Anyway, the game – in both modes – is primarily a First Person Shooter (but pretty tame in terms of violence).  It’s biggest differentiating feature, though, is the game gives players the ability to build things in the game.

So, you can think of it a bit like a video game version of Legos meets Paintball. But without the mess, much larger building blocks… And no fear of stepping barefoot on studded plastic caltrops left on the floor in the dark.

So Why is Everyone Playing Fortnite?

Lots of reasons – which we’ll go into here.  At the highest level though, much of the joy of the game comes from the gameplay – which is to be expected, but another big draw, and one of the reasons it’s getting such mainstream success, is the visuals.  The game is bright, fun, and silly. Yes, there are guns – it’s a first-person shooter, but your enemies pop in a comic bright flash, dropping all their gear as they disappear – a marked departure from the more serious-minded shooters (though, those can be fun as well).

The game is light, bright, silly and fun – regardless of how people play it.

Important Parent Note:

One important thing to keep in mind with this though is that the game is an online game.  That means that if your kiddo is playing, they have no way to pause it.  Thankfully, rounds tend to be short – from the very beginning to the last 2 players typically lasts less than 15-20 minutes.  What’s critical, particularly if you’re looking to pull you kiddo away from the screen is understanding when and how a match ends, so you can catch’em before they start a new game up.

A good way to know this is if you see them in the “pre-game” area. This looks much like the rest of the game, except everyone will be crowded around each other, jumping like crazed rabbits or dancing.  If you can stop your kiddo before they’re “on the bus” you’re good to go.

Lobby – Land of Bunny Hopping and Dances

How is Fortnite Played?

So, I touched on this a bit above, but there are two primary modes of play for Fortnite.  They both use the same underlying principles – firearms and building – but the gameplay experience for each is fundamentally different.

Save the World Mode

Save The World was the original mode and form of Fortnite.  It’s a fun and fully playable co-op experience. You and/or your kiddos team up with a few other people to stand your ground against waves of zombies.  Players run out and harvest materials like wood, brick, and metal and use those materials to construct bases and other structures. The building is fast and fluid, so Players can do build even in the middle of combat.  

Save The World is a PvE (Player versus Environment) style of gameplay. You and other folks you play with will be on the same “team” battling it out against computer-controlled opponents.  So, while there’s not a directly competitive aspect to play, it does involve coordination and teamwork.

Also, the Save The World mode is still in “Early Access” – meaning that it’s not fully complete (but it is far enough along to be fun and enjoyable).  Because of its Early Access status, be aware that it does cost some money in order to be able to play.  It’s a one-time purchase, however – outside of any additional cosmetic elements you may purchase, or things you may purchase for the second mode — Battle Royale…

Battle Royale Mode

Speaking of Battle Royale – This is the premier mode of play, and is generally synonymous with the word Fortnite itself.  If your kiddo says they’re going to go play Fortnite, it’s almost assuredly going to be this mode.

The Battle Royale mode is completely centered on PvP (Player versus Player) gameplay.  It does allow Players to form squads (basically a team). Whether playing Solo or as part of a Squad, though, the goal is the same – eliminate the competition.

The mechanics of the game put 100 players in a single (large) map.  After landing from their airborne transport bus, they need to start finding weapons and materials as soon as possible.  Gathering is important, as everyone lands armed with only a single item – their pickaxe.  While it’s technically possible to take out an opponent with it, chances are if you try you’ll end up facing down the business end of a shotgun, and that’s not going to work out well for you.

Coming In For A Landing

Each of the 100 players is trying to be the last one standing. It’s an elimination style mode, so once a player is out, they’re out.  In order to encourage action and the force a resolution, there’s a deadly storm that fills the outer edges of the map that, over time, closes in forcing opponents to get closer and closer to one another.  This is a great and critical mechanic.  The basic map is very large. If there were only 4 or 5 players left, it could literally take a few hours to finish. The closing storm circle ensures matches end in 20 minutes instead.

The experience of dropping in, finding equipment & materials, and methodically hunting and surviving in an ever-shrinking are of space provides endless fun, add in the ability to build structures, and you can suddenly provide cover (or craft a trap) adding to the fun and strategy.

Key Elements of Fortnite Gameplay Parents Should Know

Now that you have a general sense of what the game is and how it plays, let’s talk a bit about some specifics.  This will help you understand better what’s going on when you watch your kiddos play or hear them talking about the game.

Solo Wins, Squad Wins, and Duo Wins

Fortnite players (at least for Battle Royale) LOVE to keep track of their stats… at least their wins.  There’s a good reason for this – winning is very very hard, and it’s a notable accomplishment to pull it off. Battle Royale mode allows for 3 different styles of play.  Solo – You play alone against everyone else playing alone. Squads – you and handful of people play as a team against other small teams of folks. Duo – You and a buddy play against a bunch of folks and their best buds.  Solo wins seem to be viewed as the most prestigious, but any win is great.

Fortnite Front End
Queued Up For Solo Play

Treasure Chests, Green, Blue, & Purple Loot

 Scattered across the map, in various hilariously named drop sites like “Haunted HIlls” or “Tilted Towers” Players will find various pieces of equipment.  The equipment is color-coded by rarity and quality. Plain white/grey is the least quality while purple is the highest. So, if a player has a green coded pistol in their inventory then runs across a purple coded one, there’s a good chance they’ll switch it out.  Aside from the scattered equipment, players can also find Chests hidden around the areas – these will have several pieces of equipment in them, and can give a nice leg up to players in a hurry.

Inventory and Inventory Management

I touched on this briefly above, but it bears clarification. Players have an inventory – and it’s relatively small.  They can only carry 5 pieces of equipment (weapons and potions) — This, though, does not include the Pickaxe, which is needed to harvest materials. Speaking of which, Players can carry 999 pieces of Wood, Brick, and Metal materials – the elements needed to build.  This seems like a lot, but it goes quickly when you begin to actually construct buildings.

Fortnite Ammo
Looting Some Ammo

Managing the inventory is a critical part of the game.  Some players seek out a specific set of gear (also called a loadout) but as they come across different pieces, it forces a choice.  Do they want to toss their back up purple pistol for a green rocket launcher? Do they want to trade out an assault rifle for a spike trap?  The answer to those questions depends on the player, their skill, their play style, the other equipment they have, and where they’re at in the game.  Inventory managed is a small – but critical – aspect of the game

Building & Building Up

One the key factors that separate Fortnite Battle Royale from other Battle Royale games is the concept of building.  As soon as Players land on solid ground, they start searching out gear (weapons, shield potions, traps, etc…) but also harvest materials (bricks, metal, and wood).  Building plays a large role in matches. A key tactic is to start building up as soon as you start taking fire. This makes sense, as it provides cover and a place to be able to make a solid defense.  

Fortnite Building
Building a Ramp

Building has other aspects to it as well. Some people will build small structures then leave them as traps for other players. Yet others will build to get additional elevation – particularly smart for those players good with the long-range weaponry.  Yet others will build to provide paths to normally inaccessible (or not easily accessible areas). And, related, some will build to provide a quick escape from the closing storm.

The Storm – What It Is

Speaking of the storm, this is another very key element of the game. It’s also a feature prevalent in many other Battle Royale style games.  In the Save The World mode, the storm provides the context and mechanism by which the enemy zombies and monsters appear in the world. The idea of the storm still exists in the Battle Royale mode, but with a different function.  In Battle Royale, the storm serves as a way to continually push Players into a smaller and smaller area of the map. This ensures conflict and an eventual end to the match.

Fortnite Map
Map Before the Storm Starts Closing In

In Fortnite Battle Royal the match starts with the entire map open for play. Players are free to roam, loot, and do battle across the entire landscape.  A couple of minutes into the match though, the storm appears. At that point, a large circle will appear on the players in-game map. Players then have about 3 minutes to find their way inside that circle before the storm appears and closes in.  The storm will eventually close in and cover the entire map, except the area in the circle.  If a Player is caught outside the circle (aka “in the storm”) they will start taking damage until they find a way into the circle.  

The Storm – How It Works

Near the beginning of the match, the circles are still quite large and the amount of damage done by the storm is relatively small.  This means that some players will still brave the storm to try and find better gear for the inevitable battles ahead – particularly if they already have items on them that will allow them to heal.

Fortnite StormMap
Map With the Storm Closing In

As the match goes on, however, every few minutes a new, smaller circle will appear somewhere in the still open space.  At that point – just as before – players need to make their way to the new, more tightly confined area of play. To keep things moving, each time the circle shrinks. Furthermore, the time it takes to shrink is reduced. Towards the end of a match, players will need to move quickly to stay in a safe position. On top of that, as the match continues, the storm grows more dangerous.  Each time it closes in, the amount of damage done when out in the storm increases – meaning it goes from being dangerous to deadly.

So Why Is Fortnite So Popular?

For Fortnite, the Save The World mode certainly has fans. The mode is getting even more traction now that more players are trying out the game as a whole. By and large, though, when we talk about Fortnite’s popularity – we talk about the Battle Royale mode.

So as a Parent, you’re probably curious, why it’s so popular.

The Mode

The Battle Royale mode is an extremely popular style of play right now.  The Battle Royale game mode itself originally started as a mod (fan-made modification) in an entirely different game. Over time it gained more and more popularity before exploding big with a rival title called Player Unknown’s Battleground (aka PUBG — Pronounced Pub-Gee).  PUBG is also extremely successful, has its own unique set of game mechanics. Where Fortnite has building mechanics, PUBG has drivable vehicles. The two titles sit at the top of the “Battle Royale” heap and spark something of a friendly rivalry among the two games’ fans.

…About PUBG

PUBG fans tend to skew a little more hardcore. That game is more “grounded” and features more a more realistic art style and gunplay.  Fortnite, on the other hand, is silly. The art direction is more colorful, fun, and cartoonish. The physics are set a couple notches south of Looney Tunes, and the game – and it’s fans – wholeheartedly embrace the silly.  Fortnite can be viewed as a more casual experience, and there’s some truth to that, but that bit of tradeoff allows for a broadened accessibility. Fortnite has a wider and more diverse player base.


Another big contributor to the success of the game is the broad range of platforms it can be played on.  You can play Fortnite on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, even iOS. Some of these can even play with each other across platforms – so Players on PlayStation 4 and the PC can play together.  Similarly, Players on PC can also play with folks running the game on the XBox One.

Important Parent Note:

At the time of this writing, Players on the XBox One and Playstation 4 cannot play with each other.  This is important to remember if your kiddo is looking to get on and play with their friends and they each have different systems at home.

The Price

Lastly, one of the key drivers of Fortnite Battle Royale’s popularity is its price.  It’s free. Players can download and start playing for zero cash. This is not to say, though, that Fortnite doesn’t have a business model.  Players can elect to purchase outfits and other cosmetic and “fun” items (like dances — yes, you can dance in the game. Like I said, it’s silly).  You can also purchase Battle Passes — These are seasonal tournaments that allow Players to go up through a number of tiers of play, and grants faster access to cosmetic items as they play.  So, instead of paying to unlock items individually, you can pay a smaller amount and unlock them via play.

What’s important to realize, is that none of that is required to play the game, though.  Nothing you can buy in the game can – or will – give you an advantage in the game. Something to keep in mind when your kiddos asks for a purchase of something.

ESports and the Competitive Scene

So, Fortnite – both the Save The World mode and Battle Royale are popular, the Battle Royale mode especially so.  It’s also a competitive game, but the game is not yet a major player in the formal Esports world. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean there are not many many players online – there are – but the game itself does not have the same “Formal” Esports structure, with leagues and tournaments and such as other games like League of Legends or Counter-Strike.  

Because of the random nature of elements of the game (like, for example, what items and equipment appear in various locations) the basic mode may not ever really turn into a full ESports title — Though, never say never. The ESports world is rapidly advancing and Epic Games (The developers of Fortnite) could have any number of tricks up their sleeves if they decide they want the game to be a big name in the ESports World.

Streaming and The Games Impact on Gamer Culture

Now, while Fortnite may not be a big title in the official ESports world – It is making enormous waves in Streaming.  It’s consistently in the top 5 of games people stream on Twitch, and the biggest “streaming stars” have put the game in main rotation.  Streamers are playing the game – a lot. But it’s being watched even more.  The impact of this cannot be overstated.  It’s a key factor in driving Fortnite to the mainstream and making it a household name on par with Mario.

Twitch Channels
Twitch Channels

As an example of the reach and impact, in the middle of March 2018, a popular streamer – Ninja teamed up with R&B star Drake to play Fortnite on the popular streaming service – Twitch.  The single stream garnered 600,000 concurrent viewers, an unprecedented feat. Those numbers are large by any measure, and for Twitch and streaming in general, they are gargantuan. It just goes to show the mass appeal of the title.

Talking to your Kiddos about Fortnite

There’s a lot of avenues of discussion for the game.  One of the great things about Fortnite, regardless of the mode, is that the gameplay creates a narrative.  In other words, as your kiddo plays it, it creates its own story. So, you could ask your kiddos about the craziest thing they’ve seen in the game.  You could ask them about their favorite win. If they haven’t won – ask them about their closest call. You can ask them what their favorite equipment is, you can ask them what their favorite drop zone is.  You can even ask them what their favorite costume is. There are so many exciting stories formed from the play itself (one of the biggest reasons its such a success in the streaming world) that you can likely get your kiddo to talk for hours.

Wrapping Up

It’s to be expected that there are a lot more details and nuance to any game, particularly one as robust as Fortnite, than can be conveyed in a single post, but I do hope this provided parents a solid understanding of what this game is, how it plays, and why your kiddos love it so much.  If you have other questions, want more information on a specific element of Fortnite, or just have a great story tell regarding the game, please drop it in the comments below.

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