The video game, Fortnite Battle Royale, is disrupting many a household: Parents tell horror stories of young sons who play it non-stop and suddenly turn violent toward those who oppose their playing.
For those unfamiliar with Fortnite, it is an immensely popular fast-paced video game which was released in the summer of 2017. It has since gathered a following of more than 200 million registered players worldwide. Each game involves one hundred players who are dropped on a virtual island and shoot each other until a single winner or a team of players has eliminated the other players. The game is offered free of charge, but players can and do buy plenty of helpful accessories in the course of the battle.
Fortnite has been attacked from many angles: Some simply say it is bad for children. Others claim it is highly addictive. The game wastes countless hours better spent in more constructive ways—like homework. And the shoot-and-kill game is undeniably violent and employs profanity.
Avoiding A Moral Condemnation
All these are valid reasons to be against Fortnite. However, few ask the thorny questions: Is Fortnite sinful? Does it lead to sinful acts? Can playing it be sinful?
Someone should be addressing the moral issue. It should at least be the subject of sermons and religious commentary. And yet the silence surrounding the moral problem of playing Fortnite is absolute. No one wants to touch it.
Talking about a very specific sin carries the risk of offending someone—even inside the family or home. Many prefer to deal with sin in vague terms since it has the desirable effect of making religion irrelevant to the modern world.
Thus, delivering a moral judgment on Fortnite would be an excellent way of making the Church relevant. It would show that the Church has opinions about specific things that impact the daily lives of people. By calling these things sinful, the faithful would openly clash with a culture that needs to be challenged. People would call a spade a spade.
However, let the challenger beware. Those who call things sinful will incur the wrath of those who deny sin. Be prepared to be judged by those who denounce others as judgmental.
Thus, answering the question of whether Fortnite is sinful will be painful. It is best accompanied with a logical explanation.
Answering the Question
The best way to judge Fortnite is to analyze its bad effects. The reports from the battlefield of countless homes are very incriminating. Children, especially boys, are not sleeping due to the game. They isolate themselves and become rude, violent, and uncharitable. Some gain weight from lack of physical exercise. Others lose weight for refusing to eat due to intense game playing. Some steal money to pay for the game’s accessories. The stress on families is severe as gamers lose interest in family affairs, disobey parents, and create conflicts.
Often ignored in the moral debate are the parents who fail to practice the necessary fortitude by not curbing their child’s obsession for the game. They give in to their children’s temper tantrums and let them indulge in these behaviors.
All these bad effects involve sin. Sin always leads to self-destruction and conflict like those caused by Fortnite. These behaviors can even be mortally sinful if they involve willful behavior that is seriously harmful to themselves and those around them. They are, above all, sinful because they offend God by acting contrary to the order which he put in society.
Not all episodes of the game will cause these behaviors. However, when Fortnite incites these acts, the game becomes an agent that facilitates sin and must be avoided.
Fortnite Players Sin Against Temperance
Fortnite apologists will say that the game is not sinful because the real problem is not the game but how players use the game and how long they play. They further claim that if played in moderation, the game can be tolerated and even encouraged since it develops useful “skills.” In this way, advocates hope to deflect the criticism and insinuate that most players can continue engaging in Fortnite “in moderation,” without risk to their souls.
However, such promoters fail to understand the true nature of the game. The sins cited above are mere effects of the structural design of Fortnite. The game is not meant to be played in moderation. It has built-in features that make it extremely intemperate, and therefore, sinful.
Temperance is the virtue whereby one governs and moderates the natural appetites and passions in accordance with the norms prescribed by reason. When people are unable to govern their appetites and passions, they commit the sin of intemperance.
Fortnite is made to appeal to young boys who can easily lose control of their passions. Youth are especially vulnerable to Fortnite’s designed intemperance. Psychologists have long warned that young children have self-control systems that are not fully developed. Games like Fortnite stimulate the release of dopamine, a pleasure hormone that causes very addictive behavior, not unlike that of drugs.
New technology and programming have made Fortnite engaging, interactive, and exciting. Its many potential plots and multiple-player platform stimulate the brain and make players crave it even more. Like slot machines, the game’s makers have introduced unpredictable and variable reward schedules that also make it more difficult to disengage.
Thus, the main problem with Fortnite is that it encourages intemperance. It fuels the appearance of anxiety, depression, or mood disorders that manifest themselves in interactive media environments. Not every episode will involve the sin of intemperance. However, when the game causes these extremely imbalanced positions in players (and it often does so), it becomes sinful and should be avoided. When playing the game threatens to upend the family, it is also sinful, and parents should take measures against it.
The Denial of Sin
Such considerations will inevitably irritate those who see games like Fortnite as opportunities for fun and entertainment. Even though the game destroys the lives of many players, the game’s advocates would prefer to live in denial of its dangers. They will most likely criticize those who oppose Fortnite as rigid and intolerant.
The real reason for this hostility is the denial of sin and the moral law. Thus, a condemnation of Fortnite is a reminder that sin exists. Making a moral judgment must be avoided since it is hurtful and insensitive to those who sin.
By refusing to recognize a notion of sin, this secular perspective denies Christianity. For if sin is not real, then our redemption by Our Lord Jesus Christ becomes incomprehensible and the Church loses its logical connection with history and life.
The Church’s constant fight with modernity has long been over relevance. The progressive elements inside the Church have insisted that the Church adapt herself to the world and not talk about sin. As a result, the Church has withdrawn from many cultural debates that involve Church teaching and her sanctifying mission. Such a retreat facilitates the free reign of sin everywhere.
That is why it is so important that the Church speak out against sin and the culture. The Church must labor for the sanctification of souls. She needs to present her views and boldly oppose the games, fashions, and entertainment options that are destroying the morality of society. She must propose powerful and marvelous alternatives in accordance with human nature and the practice of virtue.
When something like Fortnite appears, the Church should not fear to take a position, even if it be unpopular. Many Catholics are yearning for leadership in this matter. It is time for the Church to once again play a role in the formation of our culture.
As seen on Crisis Magazine.