What I learned from playing Fortnite with my kids

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Last night when I came home my children pleading with me to have a family Fortnite night. Even though I’ve never played fortnight, I know it well because of my kids incessant asking for money to buy new “skins” or because of their excitement in telling me they got a “W” (win) that day because at the end they were able to use a “double pump” as opposed to a “no scope” to defeat the last fighter standing on the island. I have a rough idea of what they were talking about, but the latest video game I played was Tecmo Bowl where you had to blow on the cartridge before inserting it into the console.

My kids have asked me to play with them many times before, and I have, until this moment, been able to escape their request. Earlier in the day, I had been reading Donald Miller's book Father Fiction, and I came across this quote where he says “If a kid grows up feeling he is burdening the people around him, he is going to operate as though the world doesn’t want him.” Thanks a lot, Don😉. There’s a good chance that my previous response implied that their asking was a burden to me and I had resolved, at least for this day, to be available to them. So I enthusiastically said yes. My kids immediately went into action setting up the Xbox, Nintendo Switch, iPad and iPhone for the Kennedy squad.

After dinner was consumed and the dishes were in the dishwasher, I sat down to experience this cultural phenomenon that had infiltrated the hearts and minds of so many kids (and adults too). The “War Paint” skin I wore was almost as comical as the “emote” my character did when excited; a kinda mix between the “pants on the floor guy” and a Diana Ross tribute.

Okay, I’m starting to see why this game is fun. Then we launched out of this air balloon “battle bus,” and I was given strict instructions to land in an area my sons had highlighted with lasers called Tilted Towers. I opened my tiki umbrella parachute and landed within a reasonable distance from the ideal landing spot.

Immediately my oldest son said, “Okay, dad now go get loot.”

Confused I responded, “Wait what is loot and why do I want it?”

All three kids responded in unison and with a little frustration towards me” It’s guns and axes and health drinks and a toilet plunger thing that you can launch at opponents.” Okay, now I’m starting to understand.

The objective of the game is to be the last squad with at least one player alive while eliminating the other 96 contestants.

Since only one squad would come out victorious, it was time to get serious. And I tried, I did, but unfortunately, because of all the unknown buttons, I spent more time dancing like a fool and shooting plungers at inanimate objects than doing anything productive.

My kids noticed this and quickly lowered their expectations to “Just follow us and don’t get sniped.” “How do I do that?”

“Stay low and when you’re in open spaces make sure you jump a lot to make sure it’s hard for a sniper to shoot you. Also, don’t get caught in the storm.” To make the game more exciting, every few minutes a storm would appear creating an ever smaller circle of the play area and forcing players into conflict.

As the other players continued to dwindle to 80 then 60 then 30 the Kennedy squad began to take a more serious note. My kids started working together in a beautiful symphony. “Watch out for the guy on the golf cart.” Or “stay down I’ll be right there to increase your health.” It was almost like all my lectures hadn’t fallen on deaf ears😃.

We had made it to the last dozen players with only losing my daughter who was now cheering us on in spectator mode.

“Quick, follow me up on this roof” my oldest son barked with an intensity I’d had rarely seen. Quickly followed by my middle son yelling “and don’t get sniped.” I had no idea what was going on but could tell it was good. Up on the roof, my oldest son built a platform of wood and told me to get on it. Almost as quick as I arrived he erected five other walls completing a box in which I was now held captive. I looked to my left, and then my right and I had no way to leave. “Hey, did you just put me in this box?” “Huh” was my son’s responses, I asked again and got the same response. I heard a laugh from the kitchen, my wife laughing at what she had identified before me. My son was done babysitting his dad and needed to construct a safe place for me to stay while the “real” players continued. We didn’t win the match but was one of the last two squads standing at the end. Our success had nothing to do with me, but I now understood why this game had taken the world by storm and slightly jealous that I didn’t have it when I was a kid.

I woke up this morning and was mediating when it hit me that my oldest son and I are evolving in our relationship. The four C’s of parent/child relationship include Caretaker, Cop, Coach and finally Consultant. If any one of these is missed or taken out of order, the body keeps the score, and it will continue to remind you until you return to the scene of the infraction and process accordingly. Up until this point I have been stronger, wiser and far more equipped to protect him. I have proudly stood by his side hundreds of time and claimed him as mine, validating his worth. In some small way, by boxing me in for my protection in a game of fortnight my son was claiming me and validating my worth to him.

I have fought for the better part of my adult life to be known and claimed as important. Risking almost everything to accomplish ever greater feats longing to be respected by my own father and my peers. So you can imagine the peace I feel when the tables are starting to turn as my son was claiming me as his and signaling to me, almost subconsciously, that there will be a time when I need protection in the real world, and he will be there for me.

I used to think to ask for help was a sign of weakness but I now know it is one of most courageous decisions you can make and I’m going to be working on that in the future. Don’t be surprised if I call you asking for your help and give me grace as it is a skill I am just learning.