Out of The living room into the Coliseum


Joseph Sirois

From the living room to the bank, everyone seems to be cashing in on the battle royal trend. It has become a billion dollar industry with over 100 million fans. This new digital arena has captivated the minds of my generation. But at what psychological cost?

Battle royal games are a style of game-play that drops a player onto an island and you must quickly arm yourself then attack, defend, and make it inside the new timed circles. Only one person or team can win, and at times, there can be as many as 99 players. Most games you can play solo or with teams of up to 4. This hunger games format is beloved by many people. The developers designed these games to be addictive, not unlike casino games.  (Nielsen’s SuperData tracking arm) “Fortnite” made $2.4 billion in 2018. Many seniors interviewed for this article admitted to spending over $100 on these free to play games.

What makes these games appealing is that in this modern arena, anyone can be a gladiator fighting for glory. In the game’s first month of release, Apex Legends reportedly made over $92 million. Between its release in July 2017 and May 2018, Fortnite amassed an audience of 125 million players and netted $1.2 billion in revenue. Besides, these games are free, meaning anyone can play, but if they want cosmetic items in the game, to earn respect and admiration of peers, they need to spend some serious cash. Aiden Johansson, a senior and a self-proclaimed pro, has spent around “$120” on these BR games.

Fortnite is a highly competitive game with a budding pro scene. The Fortnite World Cup is coming in 2019 with $100 million in prize money. Fortnite, like any well-designed video game, delivers in every aspect of what makes a good game. According to doctors Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, people need three things to flourish: “We look for competence — the need for mastery, progression, achievement, and growth. We need autonomy— the need for independence and freedom of control over our choice, and relatedness or human connection— the need to feel like we matter to others and that others matter to us.” Unfortunately, when considering the state of modern childhood, many children aren’t getting enough of these three essential elements. These games tap into humans natural instinct to be competitive; creating a reward based system makes the games addictive. These games are giving the player full autonomy on where to go, how to play, and how to compete. These games have many individual mechanics requiring the player to be competent and skilled in many areas like reaction time, movement, aiming, and teamwork. Finally, they provide relatedness, respect, and admiration among friend peers and teammates. These games are built to be shared and viewed by many people. If a player does well, other players are forced to watch the better player. For example, In Apex, the player that is doing the best gets their avatar and username emblazoned upon all billboards and banners in the game. These games are so behaviorally addictive because they fulfill a lot of people’s fundamental needs to master a game that the majority of their generation is playing.

Now, from my personal experience, Apex Legends is my Battle Royale of choice. I have dedicated dozens of hours on this game. My favorite part of the game is dropping. Every player starts in an aircraft flying high above the players and drops from the aircraft with electronic music playing. It’s an opportunity to race opponents to the map using my geographic knowledge of the game to succeed. I get a little nervous because every match is different. The way other players land and loot creates changes to every game, and when I am dropping, I get a feeling of uncertainty and excitement that I don’t get from any other game.

I have had many great times on this game, but it certainly has flaws. I have lost many hours of sleep because of these games. I had felt intense rage when my games crashed as I was about to win. I believe these games play to our human emotions so much that some players become engrossed by the games. Aiden, who has played in “Pro” tournaments in Fortnite, stated, “I have made Friends and been social in the game. Fortnite affects my relationships and school.”

Parenting expert Elizabeth O’Shea adds to the issue: “There’s a peer pressure element here and that is one of the dangers. “Children aren’t just playing alone, and they want to be seen as being good community players among their friends.” When your character is shot at, your real-life survival instinct will kick in, and your body will tell you to fight back. Jack Sotiropoulos, a lacrosse state champion,  said he had played games for up to “7 hours a day.” He is very competitive. He states, “In battle royal games you can compete on a skill-based game for money making it a professional sport.” O’Shea also stated that “Video games such as Fortnite are designed to be addictive — they give children a hit of dopamine – also known as ‘the reward hormone.'” The CDC has accepted gaming addiction as a real disorder where people will neglect their lives and families to play games. Although this disorder is sporadic because games affect people differently.

There is no doubt that the battle royal is here to stay.  It is one of the biggest and fastest growing player bases in the history of gaming. It has also become increasingly normal to watch celebrities and YouTube personalities play these games. With celebrities like Drake, Travis Scott, and Ninja, it’s no wonder battle royals have become a cultural staple. According to Stream Hatchet, 250 million Fortnite players in total watched 2.7 billion hours worth of content on Twitch in the first quarter of 2019, a 35% increase from the first quarter of 2018.  If Fortnite were a sport, it would be one of the most watched in the world. In this large industry, gamers have been thrust into the spotlight. Soon these games will be all over ESPN filling stadiums all over the world. The only question is: “Do you have what it takes to be the last man standing? Do you have the skills to get a Victory Royale?”