Fortnite continues to hit new heights of popularity as it further infiltrates the mainstream. Spikes in public presence resulting from major athletes like JuJu Smith-Schuster and musical artists like Drake engaging with the game have characterized the game’s rise as a cultural movement, and the release of the mobile version of the game only made it easier for players, especially those still attending middle and high school, to engage with it. Students and teachers alike are beginning to take notice of this fact, and it’s resulting in some concerning and downright hilarious instances of the game dominating the school day.
A Kotaku report compiled numerous reactions, both positive and negative, from students and teachers who have seen Fortnite become a fixture of everything from lunch period to AP test review. “There has been a rise in the number of incidents with students walking into classes while playing,” said high school AP computer science teacher Nick Gutierrez. “I have noticed in my room students sitting next to each other trying to play while pretending to do work,” he added.
Multiple students reported that their school’s wifi networks were greatly impeded due to the traffic of numerous students attempting to play the game over the shared networks. Some schools have resorted to blocking access to the game’s servers through their networks, as well as Twitch. In one instance, a student reported that their school blocked use of their entire wifi network because the school couldn’t figure out how to block access to the Fortnite servers.
The game is also affecting student interaction outside of the game. One student likened the budding rivalry between Fortnite and PUBG players to a “turf war”, and others reported regular conflicts between students over victories in the game. When students are allowed to use their phones, the vast majority of them choose to play the game rather than socialize. “[My] school allows phones during the lunch breaks and instead of socializing all they do is play Fortnite,” said teacher Priscilla Cullen.
Teachers are also taking notice. The ease of accessibility of the game’s mobile port adds another distraction to be fought by educators, with one teacher stating they’ve had to add the phrase “Stop playing Fortnite” to the list of verbal queues they need to repeat “100 times a day.” Probably the funniest and best strategy implemented by a teacher is science teacher Nick Fisher’s “Fortnite/PUBG Mobile Bucket.”
Games and phones have long been a distracting force within classrooms, but Fortnite Mobile puts a full-fledged title in an accessible form that can easily be hidden and, according to Fisher, builds on the cultural resonance of social media. “When you mix in the fact that you have to Snapchat every ‘dub’ (win) you get or Snapchat your friends losing it merges two of the biggest distractions in school … I would say Snapchat is a bigger issue than games. But Fortnite marries the two of them into a monster,” said Fisher.
While Fortnite is proving a formidable new adversary to educational engagement, some teachers are choosing to engage their students’ interest in the game directly in an effort to relate to them and keep them on track with the lesson plan. Gutierrez has a regular practice of giving students an AP prep question at the start of class to encourage discussion and review. When students instead chose to engage in a debate over PUBG Mobile’s auto-aim, he choose to casually steer the conversation back to test prep instead of utilizing course ridicule. “I jokingly asked ‘Which is going to matter more in a few months for the AP exam? This, or PUBG?’ to which, predictably, a student in the back yells ‘FORTNITE’S BETTER.’” A teacher who can weave respect for students into their position of authority always seem to get the best out of their students. It also helps to have a bucket handy though.