Fort­nite ad­dic­tion is forc­ing kids into re­hab

More than 200 mil­lion peo­ple have reg­is­tered to play the game in bil­lion- dol­lar in­dus­try READFULL STORYAT

StarMetro Toronto - - DAILY LIFE - Jef Fee­ley and Christo­pher PALMERIBLOOMBERG

Deb­bie Vi­tany is fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle against Fort­nite.

Her 17-year-old son, Car­son, has been log­ging 12 hours a day on the video game, search­ing for weapons and re­sources in a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic world where the goal is be­ing the last per­son stand­ing. Teach­ers com­plain he falls asleep in class and his grades have plum­meted.

“We’d made some progress in get­ting him to cut down his Fort­nite hours and get bet­ter sleep, but he’s slipped back into his old habits,” Vi­tany, who lives near Sag­i­naw, Mich., said in an in­ter­view. “I’ve never seen a game that has such con­trol over kids’ minds.”

Vi­tany’s an­guish is echoed by an army of other par­ents, teach­ers and bosses around the world grap­pling with a game that sucks up hours of play­ers’ time — some­times to the detri­ment of other ac­tiv­i­ties. More than 200 mil­lion peo­ple have reg­is­tered to play Fort­nite, which has be­come a bil­lion-dol­lar busi­ness for its cre­ator, Epic Games Inc. Some des­per­ate par­ents have THES­TAR.COM/

LIFE

“This game is like heroin,” said Lor­rine Marer, a Bri­tish be­havioural spe­cial­ist who works with kids bat­tling game ad­dic­tion. “Once you are hooked, it’s hard to get un­hooked.”

Epic has is­sued past warn­ings about avoid­ing Fort­nite scam­mers, but it de­clined to com­ment on ad­dic­tion .

Video game ad­dic­tion isn’t new: Par­ents and teach­ers have been carp­ing about dis­tracted chil­dren — and their joy­stick- ad­dled hands — since the days of Atari con­soles. But the ubiq­uity of Fort­nite has cre­ated a more wide­spread men­ace. And it’s hap­pen­ing against the back­drop of broader con­cerns about so­cial-me­dia and smart­phone overuse.

Fort­nite, first re­leased in its pop­u­lar “bat­tle royale” mode in late 2017, isn’t just caus­ing prob­lems for kids. An on­line U.K. di­vorce ser­vice says 200 pe­ti­tions cited Fort­nite and other video games this year as the rea­son for the breakup of mar­riages.

Pro­fes­sional ath­letes are get­ting hooked, too. The Na­tional Hockey League’s Van­cou­ver Canucks had so much trou­ble get­ting play­ers to meet­ings and din­ners they banned Fort­nite on the road. David Price, star pitcher for Ma­jor League Base­ball’s World Se­ries-win­ning Bos­ton Red Sox, was scratched from a May start against the archri­val New York Yan­kees be­cause of wrist prob­lems that may have been ex­ac­er­bated by Fort­nite play­ing.

PATRICK T. FAL­LON/BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO

For now, Fort­nite is the game of choice. On a re­cent af­ter­noon, the game was the most-viewed on Ama­zon.com Inc.’s Twitch stream­ing ser­vice, with 250,000 peo­ple watch­ing oth­ers play.

Bey­oncé and other stars gath­ered in South Africa for a con­cert Sun­day hon­our­ing Nel­son Man­dela. A tweet from Justin Trudeau pledg­ing $50 mil­lion to help ed­u­cate girls and women was shown on a big screen. thes­tar.com/canada

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