Docs, families no fans of ‘Fortnite’

Henry Hailey, 10, plays the online game “Fortnite” in the early morning hours in the basement of his Chicago home. His parents are on a quest to limit screen time for him and his brother. Martha Irvine | AP

We’ve seen the “Music Man” treatment video games have gotten over the years. Trouble. And that starts with “T,” which rhymes with “V” and that stands for “video.”

Your young men’ll be fritterin.’ Fritterin’ away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too!

But this sounds pretty serious.

“We have one kid who destroyed the family car because he thought his parents had locked his device inside. He took a hammer to the windshield,” Michael Rich, a pediatrician and director of the Clinic for Interactive Media and Internet Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital, tells the Boston Globe in the latest article warning of degradation.

“Fortnite: Battle Royale,” the multiplayer shooter game, is the culprit, we’re told.

In the year and a half since the game’s release, doctors and therapists say it’s having a terrible effect on young people — mostly boys — including a substantial loss of weight because they won’t stop playing long enough to eat.

Parents are splitting up over the game.

“One of the parents will get to the point of almost considering a divorce,” said Rich Domenico, a therapist with LiveWell Therapy Associates in Boston’s Back Bay. “It’s similar to working with parents who have a child addicted to drugs.”

An Iowa State University researcher says a variable reward system trains the still-not-developed brain to constantly crave more.

“Fortnite” has been likened to a cross between “Minecraft” and “The Hunger Games.” Some 200 million people have played, but if you’re not one of them, here’s how it works: One hundred competitors are dropped on an island, where they run around finding weapons and materials to build walls, ramps, and floors that can protect them from other players.

As the game progresses, the game field gets smaller, putting opponents in ever closer range. The last player — or players, if friends are playing as a team — wins.

“Fortnite” is free, but more than 68 percent of players make in-game purchases — like pickaxes, dance moves, and outfits to personalize their characters — and the average player who makes purchases has spent $84.67, according to a 2018 study by the financial services firm Lendedu.

The Boston hospital pediatrician says they’ve yet to see a Fortnite player who didn’t have underlying issues, “ranging from ADHD to anxiety, depression, or mood disorders that manifest themselves in the interactive media environment.”

The kid who smashed the windshield? He had an 11-day stay in the hospital, broke his addiction, and he’s 13 now.

He doesn’t like what he sees, the Globe says.

“The little kids on the school bus have gone from Pokeman cards to ‘Fortnite,’ ” he said. “They’re in third and fourth grades and that’s all they talk about.”

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