If you regularly hang around flossing preteens, you likely know that the free-to-play battle royale (last man standing wins) shooter Fortnite is popular with U.S. gamers. It’s been popular long enough, in fact, that the Epic Games offering’s popularity with some fans has entered into an unhealthy realm, leading parents to seek treatment for their children’s gaming addictions.
According to Bloomberg, some parents have sent their kids away to technophobic camps led by video game addiction specialists who’ve begun practice since Space Invaders first displayed the form’s quarter-munching potential for addictive properties back in 1978. The World Health Organization has added "gaming disorder" to its most recent edition of the International Classification of Diseases, pending approval by the World Health Assembly next year, so there's reason to specialize. Some have treatment camps — like those of Michael Jacobus in Santa Barbara, California, and Asheville, North Carolina — while others are simply child psychologists seeing a surge in video game-related appointments.
Fortnite’s popularity — over 200 million registered players — has spawned a lucrative competitive scene while avoiding the loot box model that’s made multiple governments investigate games like Blizzard’s Overwatch, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and seemingly every mobile game under the sun that includes (or included) in-game purchases angled around chance-related offerings. Since loot boxes include items of different rarity inside, they can be seen as a “gamble,” which led Senator Maggie Hassan to call for their investigation by the FTC.
The Australian government followed suit, according to Variety, to “consider if existing consumer protection frameworks adequately address issues unique to loot boxes.” Understanding the potentially addictive qualities of loot boxes — and whether or not they qualify as gambling under current regulations and laws — will help influence how state bodies interact with these games and how gamers will be able to play them.
However, since these loot boxes don’t appear in Fortnite, as the game operates on a season-pass business model that offers an experience-driven reward system that encourages increased playtime, its link to Fortnite addiction and the subsequent drive to rehab is tenuous. However, since the model does incentivize tackling challenges, accumulating high rankings, and winning in order to attain that season's best loot, it makes sense why some kids just can't pull themselves away.