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1. The Accessibility Factor
Some of what makes Fortnite popular among young people is more obvious than ever. For example, the sheer accessibility of this game is a major factor.
First of all, it’s free, so young gamers can play it no matter their budget. And second of all, it is available on PC, console, and mobile. And a third (and related) note is that Fortnite is cross-play compatible, so youths can play with their friends regardless of who owns which system.
Throw in the ability to easily communicate over Discord for team play and you have an accessible hit.
2. Short Bursts of Entertainment
While Fortnite didn’t exactly invent this, it has another unique appeal for young gamers: you can enjoy the rounds in short bursts of entertainment.
Obviously, your goal in the game is to be the last man standing. But for most players, the cold reality is that you land, forage, and then quickly die. After that, you can queue up another game or start again.
And that’s part of the magic for younger players. Sure, they can spend all night playing with their friends. But they can also squeeze a round or two between things like homework and household chores. No matter how much free time you have, you can enjoy Fortnite.
3. Gaming As a Social Space
Epic has made more than a few missteps, both with Fortnite and beyond. But one thing they managed to absolutely nail is that young gamers crave games that can double as online social spaces.
Initially, this was limited to playing around before a game and shooting the shit with other players. Eventually, though, Fortnite started offering weird events, including in-game concerts. The writing was on the wall: this was no longer just a game. This was a place where you can digitally hang with friends from around the world.
If that sounds crazy to older gamers, remember: Fortnite is aimed pretty explicitly at digital natives. To those who have never lived in a world without the internet, regularly hanging out in elaborate digital spaces filled with weird cartoon avatars is downright normal.
4. Colorful Characters and Graphics
When we say “younger gamers,” that obviously covers a lot of ground. But one of the ways that Fortnite appeals to especially young gamers is via the colorful characters and graphics.
And these colorful designs are no accident. When Fortnite came out, players couldn’t help but compare it to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. But while that game aimed for more gritty realism, Fortnite looked like someone let your favorite Saturday morning cartoons do rails of coke in the club bathroom.
But it worked, and young players naturally gravitated towards the bright graphics and wacky designs. And as a side effect, the cartoony graphics help the game look decent even on crappy PC rigs or mobile devices.
5. The Random Reward Factor
Part of what makes Fortnite successful with young gamers is not exactly new. The game uses a concept that fuels pretty much every RNG game ever made, but young people are particularly susceptible to it.
The fancy term for this is “contrafreeloading.” It goes back to animal experiments in 1963, which is when animal psychologist Glen Jensen discovered that rats, mice, and other creatures would prefer to put in some effort (in this case, stepping on a pedal to get some food) rather than get something for free.
Later experiments by others verified that when given a choice, mice would rather gamble that more food will come out when they step on the pedal rather than getting a fixed amount at a set time. Fortnite triggers this same response in young people who will keep coming back for random chances at competitively getting better loot than playing a game with fixed, passive rewards.
6. Even a Taste Of Victory Will Do
Sometimes, older gamers don’t see the appeal of battle royale games. What’s the point of playing in 100-person matches if only one person (or one team) will be the winner?
As psychologist and gaming guru Jamie Madigan points out, it all comes down to the “Near Miss Effect.” This is a fancy term to describe the fact that humans still derive as much (and sometimes even more) joy from nearly winning a competition as they do with actually winning it.
In other words, your young nephew may never come anywhere close to a victory royale. But if he comes close enough (by however he defines it), he will keep playing.
7. Playing To Different Strengths
Plenty of people play Fortnite solo. But the game doesn’t really come alive until you are playing it as part of a team.
And when you do so, you will quickly discover one of the simpler reasons the game has such youth appeal. Once you are on a team, everybody can play to your different strengths. Some players are better at building, others at scouting for supplies, and others are simply good in a firefight.
This lets young players of different skill levels work well together. It also means that young people can drag their parents into the game and the parents can do a half-decent job of staying alive by simply hiding. And when they aren’t trying to kill each other, this game does a remarkably good job of bringing siblings together.