By Dom Cioffi
I read an article recently about a growing addiction among NBA players. It’s not chemically related, nor does it involve alcohol or sex. The addiction centers around the videogame “Fortnite.”
“Fortnite” is a survival game (akin to “The Hunger Games” movies) where players are dropped into remote locations with other players. The goal is to remain alive while collecting as many supplies, weapons and materials as you can and killing as many other gamers as possible. Basically, it’s survival of the fittest (or luckiest).
Currently, the game has garnered over 40 million unique players, making it one of the hottest digital distractions available. The game became so popular during Super Bowl weekend (with 4.3 million people playing simultaneously) that the main servers crashed. If you’re so inclined to watch the video game service “Twitch,” where people literally watch other people play video games (I’m not kidding), then you’ve added to the 5,000 years of “Fortnite” streams that have already been consumed.
Lately, I’ve been noticing an uptick in my son’s interest in playing his Xbox so after reading the article about the NBA players, I wandered into our playroom and inquired what game he was playing. Without looking at me or missing a moment of screen action, he replied, “‘Fortnite,’ Dad. It’s amazing!”
That moment occurred a couple weeks ago and since that time it has been one argument after another trying to get him to temper his game playing. All the kid can think or talk about is “Fortnite.” And it’s not just him. This past weekend I took him and a buddy to the theater so they could see the new “Pacific Rim” film. When I picked them up afterwards and tried to inquire about the movie, all they could talk about was “Fortnite.”
Of course, the timing of this rampant addiction just happens to coincide with his spring break, which is for two weeks this year. We have a couple small trips planned, but for many of his days off, his mother and I will be working, which means he’ll be home alone and left to his own devices.
When I was a kid and left home alone, my parents probably worried about matches and the liquor cabinet. Today, most parents fear the intoxicating allure of the video game console and its break-neck hold on their children’s brains.
This past Saturday my son announced that he had a major problem. Apparently, his gaming headset had broken, leaving him incapable of playing “Fortnite.” I was secretly pleased with this news, knowing that he would have to earn a new set, which would mean several days away from the video game console.
When he asked what he could do to earn a new headset, I rattled off enough chores to keep him busy for days, giving how prone he is to procrastination.
I’m not sure what happened next, but an alien must have overtaken my son’s mind and body because he somehow completed every task within a matter of a couple hours. He then promptly announced his accomplishment and his desire to purchase a new headset immediately.
I couldn’t argue with the results, so as much as I didn’t want to buy him an accessory to the Xbox, I had to keep my word.
We drove to a big box store and wandered over to the gaming section, where he spent a ridiculously short time deciding on a model. “This is it. This is the one I want,” he declared while waving the box overhead.
I encouraged him to slow down and look at what else was available. We scanned the other headsets before realizing there was a better model for what he needed. I then pulled out my phone and looked at the same model on the store’s website, realizing that the online price was cheaper. I then price-matched that against other online retailers, eventually finding one that had the same model for $15 less.
In the end, my extra bit of work saved us close to $30. I’d like to think my son was thrilled with the savings, but to be honest, all he could think about was getting the product home to use. Talk about having your brain hijacked!
This week’s film, “Unsane,” also features someone who’s brain seems hijacked, except in this case, the controlling entity is a stalker who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, “Unsane” is an uncomfortable psychological thriller that utilizes an off-kilter filming style in order to set the overall tone of the film.
The interesting thing about this picture (beside the fact that it was shot entirely on iPhones) is that the viewer never really knows if the main character is crazy or just a victim of circumstance – and that’s what makes it so strangely fun.
Check this one out if you’re in the mood for a twisted little film full of bizarre and awkward moments.
A psychotic “B” for “Unsane.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.