This year my students are doing research on the powers of connectivity–specifically they are looking at the communities that sprout up primarily through network gameplay and may examine how that affects the local societies they inhabit in real life. This one is near to me, because I’ve watched video games snatch my kids away from me for days at a time. I have the pleasure of enjoying my boys every weekend, but more and more that time has become me walking by as they play Fortnite on various devices. We often try to play a game together or watch a film together, but it is always clear to me that they’re trying to rush through it in order to get back to what really makes them happy. This, unsurprisingly, doesn’t make me happy at all.
I originally backed off of controlling their gameplay. I figured I’d give them a week or two to completely burn themselves out on gameplay. That did not happen. Play intensified. At one point the boys were each playing somewhere between 4 and 8 hours per day on the weekends–barely stopping to eat or poop. The interactions between the boys and with their friends online are fraught with the kind of lightly malicious banter that is toxic and all too common among boys who have no empathy for other people. The game itself does little to build cohesive teamwork and relies on basic internet memes and cartoonish physics in order to suck in an audience of vapid game players who themselves want little more than to show off to anyone and everyone who will watch and listen. To say I am underwhelmed with the positive effects would be giving the game too much credit. In fact, I am most disappointed in how willing they are to tune out everything else in existence to the point where anything but playing online with their friends seems like black and white in a world of stunning 4k color.
I am at a loss here. I don’t know what there is to do.