How Games Like Fortnite and Celeste Can Help You Grow

Video games have much to offer in terms of personal development.

Posted Sep 03, 2019

Creative Commons
A Fortnite world asks young players to cooperate and accommodate others.
Source: Creative Commons

The Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City is the largest tennis stadium in the world. Housing 23,771 people, it is the main stadium for the U.S. Open.

Yet this year it’s marquee event wasn’t a rematch between Djokovic and Federer, because it was the site of the inaugural Fortnite World Cup. Over 2 million people watched teenagers online as they competed for $30 million dollars by playing a video game about being dropped on an island and battling other players with guns, shovels, and hamburgers.

Fortnite's rank in popular culture

The multi-billion-dollar Fortnite, for better or worse, is cementing video games’ place in popular culture. Pew Research reports that 90 percent of teenagers play video games. and the medium has now become inextricably linked with coming of age. While much has been written about their negative effects, with President Donald Trump even linking gaming to mass shootings, it is worth looking at the positive psychosocial elements of the medium that may not be readily obvious.

Without a doubt, excessive video gaming is damaging to a user’s well-being. But the medium itself is quite complex and so it can’t be viewed from a singular lens as being uniformly good or bad. Are video games good or bad?

The easy way out dampens your skill at developing online relationships. Fortnite, by contrast, encourages frequent engagement, because players need to continually formulate strategies with one another via group chat in order to lead their team to victory. Studies show that Fortnite strengthens friendships by giving young people a sense of community and an outlet for communication, all of it centered on the game’s mechanics and lore.

The downside is that players may spend less time with their actual friends in person. Getting most of your socializing through game chat isn’t challenging or nuanced enough to develop a person’s social skills. Users miss out on body language and tone, which carry a greater proportion of a message’s meaning than its mere words do. Previously I wrote about social media’s “like” system in which you lazily click to vote someone’s post up or down rather than engaging them via comments or discussion.

Video games don't necessarily quash your social skills

Video games can teach you to be more disciplined and tenacious in the pursuit of difficult goals. Games like Dark Souls and Celeste put players through tricky challenges that need to be thought through with strategy, flexible behavior, and experimentation — all positive elements you can incorporate into other aspects of your life.

Celeste uses its difficulty as a storytelling device because the game is about a young woman named Madeleine scaling a mountain in order to conquer her anxiety. A player who overcomes each challenge level identifies with Madeleine as she learns to deal in a healthy way with her personal roadblocks. The game showcases lessons in growth that anyone can benefit from.

Video gaming is a growing and complicated technology. It is neither fully good nor bad. It can induce addictive behavior that hinders you, or serve as a road map for self-improvement. And while gaming has benefits as well as drawbacks, if used strategically and within commonsense limits, it may help young people get the most out of a growing piece of current culture.

Comment to Dr. Cytowic at neuroman@gwu.edu or to ask for his low–frequency newsletter. Visit his website at Cytowic.net.

References

Gonzalez, Oscar. “A 16-year old just won $3M playing in the Fortnite World Cup.” CNET. July 30, 2019

Monica Anderson and Jingjing Jiang. “Teens, Social Media and Technology 2018.” Pew Research Center. May 31, 2018