Classroom Technology

Fortnite, Video Game Popular Among Students, Now Has 200 Million Players

By Lauraine Genota — November 27, 2018 2 min read
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Fortnite, a popular active shooter game, now has more than 200 million players, a 60 percent increase from June.

In June there were 125 million registered users, according to Epic Games Inc., the developer of Fortnite. In January there were 40 million players.

Released in September 2017, the video game has become wildly popular among younger players, with kids mimicking Fortnite dances and discussing nothing else but the game. It has also resurfaced debates around video games’ addictive nature and violent content.

It started consuming students’ free time and frustrating teachers whose students play it on their phones during class. Young people also watch other people play, making it the most popular game on Twitch, a streaming service where viewers can watch people play video games live.

In “Fortnite: Battle Royale,” 100 players compete to be the last one standing. Players can enter the game alone, in pairs, or as groups of four, hunting for weapons and building defensive structures. The area of play gets smaller and smaller as the game progresses, forcing the remaining players to confront each other.

The game is not only available on computers and gaming systems like PlayStation or Xbox, but it also has a mobile version, available on newer iPhones, iPads and Android phones.

Earlier this year, Education Week staff writer Sarah Schwartz wrote about the frustrations of teachers across the country as they attempted to compete with Fortnite for their students’ attention. Many educators wanted to ban the game from their classrooms, but some have attempted to weave it into classroom discussions and assignments.

Liz Kolb, a clinical associate professor of education technologies at the University of Michigan, said in an interview that some teachers have used students’ obsession with the game as an opportunity to talk about digital citizenship and digital safety. Some teachers also connect the aspects of gaming with learning goals, like problem-solving and collaboration.

“Students learn best when school learning relates to real life,” Kolb said. Connecting what students are passionate about to content-based learning goals leads to a more successful grasp of those goals and concepts.

While video games are designed for continuous play and there is research that draws a connection between screen time and depression, that outcome depends on the child, Kolb said. Parents and teachers need to be mindful and look for signs that a young person is developing unhealthy gaming habits or addiction.

Some researchers have said that parents and teachers shouldn’t worry the violence in Fortnite will lead to violent behavior by players. Kurt Squire, a professor of social informatics at the University of California Irvine, wrote in an Education Week Commentary that research shows there is no causal link. He said Fortnite isn’t all that different from “traditional types of kids’ play,” like tag or capture the flag.

Kolb said the obsession with Fortnite isn’t different from other “video game fads,” like Minecraft and Pokemon Go, that were more popular a few years ago.

“I imagine in a few years there will be something else,” she said.

Image: Epic Games

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.