Friday, June 05, 2020

This week’s column is less tech, more advisory. When I write Ungarbled-tech I either pick a new technology or something that my office has been asked recently.

For the past year or so parents, business owners and even clergy have been asking my team, “How can we block our children from Fortnite?”

The gaming industry has changed dramatically since the days of Space Invaders or Pong. In the 80s, players used to purchase a game, which was expensive. Even then you’d play until you had blisters on your thumbs, but at some point the game did end. Most of the games today are online and never end, kind of.

Nowadays games that are downloaded on various game consoles such as Xbox, smartphones or even PC may be free. The cost comes in when players want to buy new levels or buy stuff.

For some games, the urge to play is amazing and the games are set up accordingly. Just when you want to hit the next level or game items your time runs out. The player can opt to wait until the next day, when you may receive credits or the gotcha factor. Pay! The fees can be nominal but can add up. Especially when gamers may play multiple games at once. I did some research a while back. One of the developers credited me $100 with free play. I figured this was a fortune. Boy was I wrong. I quickly fell down the rabbit hole of wanting the next level and used up my credits quickly. 

In one of the games if you want to gain more credits you need to defeat an enemy. Crazy me I attacked a player ship that was near my ship. Then I wake up to messages berating me. “How dare you attack our clan!” What’s a clan? I asked the player. A clan is another way games cash in. The clans consist of a group of players who fight as a team. The catch is you need to deposit credits to join the clan. Which costs real money. I explained to this one player that I was just playing the game for my column. The player is a disabled veteran and spends a lot of his time on gaming. He gave me a Gamers 101. His bottom line was I am not a good gamer person as I am not playing every day or willing to spend $100 a month.

So now on to Fortnite. What makes Fortnite unique is a player can play unlimited at no cost. The players have clans and have the ability to talk and chat with each other. There is a social aspect if you want to call it that. How Fortnite makes their money is on the avatars. I’m going to hear from all the boy teens who read my column, but I consider this dress-up for gamers. The same way my daughters used to plead for new Barbie outfits, Fortnite players purchase avatars outfits.

I heard a story where kids are purchasing these avatars and paying $1500! Some kids get ripped off as the seller just provides their username and password.

The attraction to the game is the different players you can be. Playing with 100s of other players and chatting. The graphics are outstanding and all web-based.

I know when GCGs teen interns have been playing the night before. As when they come into our office I see yawning. I will look and say “Fortnite?” The reply is ‘Ya’; they don’t even try to deny it.

The game has been a huge distraction to both young and old alike.

How to block this? My feeling is once a teen is past 14 filters are pretty useless. Most teens have unlimited 4G and don’t use Wi-Fi. Though if you want to go extreme I recommend either purchasing the router or pointing the DNS (servers that search the web) to openDNS. But I can’t guarantee any success. In one case my friend implemented openDNS and his son actually thanked him for removing the distraction.

I’m a bit old school. Take your kids out somewhere to eat, to talk, not a movie. Explain how these are the years when you can spend time on hobbies and not have the pressures of making a living or a job. Let’s not squander the time screen sucking. I don’t always practice what I preach on this subject. But I can try.

I am blessed to run an IT program over Pesach where I teach STEM experiments, hands on. You would be shocked what some balloons, straws and plastic cups can do. I do train the seniors on Facebook, Waze, Alexa and other high-tech tools. I’m even giving a shiur on shutting down Google Home and Alexa on Shabbos. Drones and 3d printers are two other activities. A parent can purchase most of these items at a low price. Get your kids outside with a drone or on a 3D printer. Quality time.

I want to thank my hosts Bruce Backman and Alyssa Green for having me with

By Shneur Garb


Shneur Garb is the CEO of The Garb IT Consulting Group and he has a passion for EdTech for education.

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