THE EDITOR: Many parents have been speaking about the challenge of the Fortnite PC game with their children, mainly sons, especially over this vacation period. It was intriguing to me to find out what was special about this game to enkindle this mass interest in it, and my advice to most parents is always “know your enemy.”
In any kind of battle, in order to strategise, it is very important to understand what you are up against. Months ago I conducted the research on the loop technology behind this computer game (which I am no longer seeing on Google). These are my findings.
Computer game programmers are studying the human brain. The loop technology behind Fortnite takes the pleasure and reward essence of video games to a new level by changing the types and variety of the rewards to activities that are very appealing.
The desire to achieve these rewards and the pleasure one feels when one achieves them is from the release of a hormone called dopamine.
This feel-good hormone, which is present in most addictive behaviours, encourages the body to seek to repeat the behaviour to get another release of dopamine.
The explanation of this specific loop technology actually claimed to deny our free will, quite an ambitious declaration.
The good news is that with this knowledge we can even the playing field and better equip ourselves as parents to fight back.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from an older mother who said that every August vacation her sons learn a new sport.
I thought it was a great idea then and even better today, because every new physical activity the body performs (physical and intellectual) also releases the feel-good hormone dopamine. The emotional response created while listening to and producing music also releases dopamine.
What do we do with this knowledge? We can now create a schedule for our sons that would cut down on the time spent on computer games (definitive time of number of games) and factor in specific activities that can be just as enjoyable, with a more healthy response.
I will now share some examples that continue to work at home: cricket, football, riding in the road, skateboards, roller blades, swings, badminton and basketball. Of course the traditional visit to the nearby park as well.
Structured sports that may come at a cost (a fraction of the video game) can include swimming, football, riding trails, karate, tennis, table tennis, track and field, kayaking, sailing and triathlons.
Sports and games have similar effects (winning) as do board games, card playing etc.
With regard to music, both songs and playing of instruments need to be channelled to a finite purpose.
The most successful experience in my home has been a concert for parents, grandparents and other older family members at the end of the vacation period (poetry and drama can also be included). Art and craft for gifts also inculcates a pleasurable response (more delayed) when the person receives the gifts.
If our nemesis is studying our brain, we need to do so as well. Understanding how addiction can be formed from a neurological perspective is beneficial for understanding how vices can be formed. We can now take this knowledge to create the virtues we want our children to develop, and strategise how to beat our opponents, one game at a time.
I hope the rest of the holiday is beneficial to your family as we win the battle of the brain.