Logan Aukes — Staff Writer
The midafternoon sun filters through the shades of Southview 204, settling on a fortress of couches positioned around two glinting television screens. Quentin Van Essendelft, fresh out of his Sunday best, slips on crocs as he slides a chair in front of one of the screens, powering up the Play Station 4 that accompanies it.
Pulses surge through the fingertips of the self-proclaimed Fortnite legend as he logs in to the popular video game only to find the display dominated by darkness.
While he fumbles with the controller in search of a way into the familiar loading screen, all passion, purpose, and means of surviving in Sioux Center start to fade away.
“I have no idea what to do with my life,” said Van Essendelft. “What am I supposed to do instead? Homework?”
Although there may be some who are critical of Van Essendelft’s reliance on a fictitious video game, Fortnite is being sued by parents who claim the game is as addictive and harmful as cocaine.
Calex Legal, a Montreal Law Firm, is representing parents of ten and 15-year-old gamers who claim that Fortnite’s developers failed to warn players that the game causes the brain to release dopamine. Not only does this release of dopamine create an addiction, but it also classifies as a “Gaming Disorder”—a condition recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the first-time last year.
According the WHO, this condition is “characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”
While Calex Legal’s attorneys may not know it yet, recruiting Van Essendelft to testify to the hours he’s invested in Fortnite over school may just win them the case. But, given that Fortnite’s player base has grown to encompass more than 200 million people worldwide, intuition says they’ll have plenty of people to choose from.
And of those 200 million, more than 5.5 million of them tuned in on October 13, just hours before Van Essendelft logged on, to witness the game’s season ten come to an end.
Fortnite’s developers have made a habit of drawing the game’s “seasons,” roughly two-month periods of time, to a close with in-game viewing parties that draw attention to small tweaks or new features coming to the game.
But while players have come to expect these season-ending events, what they weren’t expecting was how developers would conclude “Fortnite Chapter 1.”
Just minutes after a black hole enveloped Fortnite’s map, rendering users unable to play the game, blogs, Instagram posts, and YouTube videos flooded the internet to let the world know: Fortnite is down, and we have no idea if it will come back.
“With Fortnite’s future up in the air, I started looking for a new Netflix series to binge,” said Van Essendelft.
But the game did return—and with a bang.
On the morning of October 15, an agonizing two days later, Epic developers brought Fortnite back online with a host of graphical and sound improvements, new and old weapons, boats, and an entirely new map.
The map, while similar in size, bears almost no resemblance to the battleground players have been using for the last two years.
“It feels like I’m playing Fortnite for the first time,” said Brandon Vande Griend, a roommate of Van Essendelft’s.
However, while some appreciate the change of pace the new map brings, others are not as pleased.
“The first round of challenges seems a little boring, tasking us with little more than exploring a map,” said Simon Carpenter, a video game blogger. “And that does feel a little uninspired considering what we’re used to.”
But Carpenter’s criticism is drowned out by overwhelming support from the men of Southview 204 where Van Essendelft once again fires up his Play Station 4, this time reaching the familiar loading screen.
“My life is complete again,” he said.