'Fortnite' video game obsession borders on addiction

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Jake Goude, 15, and his friends are among the 40-million-plus gamers around the world all playing Fortnite with the same goal. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Jake Goude, 15, and his friends are among the 40-million-plus gamers around the world all playing Fortnite with the same goal. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
"It's like an addiction. I would say it's kinda like drugs how you just get addicted to smoking, you just get addicted to playing all the time and to killing people online. You can stay up for hours with it and you lose track of time." (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) "It's like an addiction. I would say it's kinda like drugs how you just get addicted to smoking, you just get addicted to playing all the time and to killing people online. You can stay up for hours with it and you lose track of time." (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Dr. Lisa Strohman says parents are mostly worried about how all-consuming the game can be. She says kids are often sleep deprived, have even dropped out of school and one even threatened suicide when he wasn't allowed to play. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Dr. Lisa Strohman says parents are mostly worried about how all-consuming the game can be. She says kids are often sleep deprived, have even dropped out of school and one even threatened suicide when he wasn't allowed to play. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

For decades, video games have been pulling us in, growing more realistic, more interactive and more addictive over the years.

The latest game craze is "Fortnite: Battle Royale." From professional athletes and musicians to everyday players, its popularity has exploded.

[VIDEO: Alarming obsession with 'Fortnite']

"There's people that are online or at school that play for like 10 hours a day. It's crazy."
 
Jake Goude, 15, and his friends are among the 125 million gamers around the world all playing with the same goal.

"Just to be No. 1 out of 100 people."

[VIDEO: The 'Fortnite' craze]
 
A hundred players are dropped onto a map and kind of like Hunger Games, the last survivor wins.
 
"It's like an addiction. I would say it's kinda like drugs how you just get addicted to smoking, you just get addicted to playing all the time and to killing people online. You can stay up for hours with it and you lose track of time," Jake describes. 

Like the popular "Call of Duty," there's a ton of shooting and killing, but no blood in the cartoon-like game, and like "Minecraft," there's a lot of building and creating.

[RELATED: Parents take 9-year-old girl to rehab after getting ‘hooked’ on ‘Fortnite’]
 
You can buy featured weapons, cool costumes and the latest dance moves, and most parents like Jake's mom, don't see a problem.
 
"Balance is 100 percent the rule," says Janine Goude of Gilbert, who says in her home, playing time does not get out of hand.
 
"As long as I keep my kids active and healthy and moving and doing other things, then I'm OK with them taking some downtime and playing the game," said Goude.

But experts warn this is one of those games where players can become obsessed, constantly chasing the next level.
 
"Probably the last six months a lot of parents have come to me specifically talking about Fortnite," says Dr. Lisa Strohman.

The clinical psychologist says parents are mostly worried about how all-consuming the game can be. She says kids are often sleep deprived, have even dropped out of school and one even threatened suicide when he wasn't allowed to play.
 
Dr. Strohman says the game becomes particularly harmful when kids feel like the game is their only social connection in the world.

She points out how oftentimes kids with no boundaries can get lost in the survival game.

"I had a 13-year-old come in and say they lost a whole weekend and felt like that they had forgotten to eat all but one meal that weekend because his parents were out of town," recalls Strohman.

Just this week, Fortnite made headlines after a 9-year-old was sent to rehab because she wouldn't stop playing, not even to go to the bathroom. The game has no pause button so if you stop, your avatar dies.
 
Strohman says examples like these are extreme but show why setting limits for kids is crucial.

"These kids that start playing have a really hard time unwinding and coming off of it," she describes.
 
Since the games are short, typically up to 20 minutes long, Dr. Strohman says allow kids to finish the one they're in when it's time to unplug. Pulling them off cold turkey, she says, can be dangerous.
 
"If they feel like they have to be part of this leaderboard and be part of the game and you cut them off of it, without understanding that that is similar to what our careers might be to us --  that that's kind of their life, and you just pull it out from under them -- understand that first, and have a conversation about how we're going to kind of unwind that, instead of just cutting them off of it," Strohman explains.  
 
Total immersion in the virtual world means less time interacting in the here and now.
 
"If you're a teen who is awkward or who can't get to where you need to be, this is a perfect avenue to go in and feel important and relevant," said Dr. Strohman.

But that online confidence in the avatar they've created, she says, does not mean they'll be confident in real life. And although hours of gunning down opponents online might not lead to violent crime, it does have an impact.

"The science is really clear that you get increased aggression and reduced empathy when you're in any type of video game for a period of time," explains the Valley psychologist.

Another thing parents need to check out is the chat feature which uses a mic and a headset. That's where gamers can play with their friends and talk teamwork and strategy, but it's also a way for a weirdo to talk to your kid, even if that person is playing on a whole different game system. That means a kid playing on Xbox could be paired up with an adult playing on a PC.
 
"They could be playing with absolute strangers or they could be playing with somebody who could have the intent to groom them," Dr. Strohman explains.

She says parents can disable the chat feature, but actually having a chat with your kids is key.

"Your kids are going out there and sim shooting other people. If you're OK with that as a family and you think that you can have a healthy balance, do it with an understanding that you have to have conversations around it," advises Dr. Strohman.
 
"As long as your kids know this is a game, it's not real life," says Janine Goude.

While it's hitting its target in the gaming world, Fortnite: Battle Royale is hitting the jackpot in the real world.

CBS News reports more than 125 million gamers around the world are playing, and in just the month of March, the group Super Data reports it raked in $230 million.

"They're cashing in and they're gleefully taking the money and running," said Strohman.

Fortnite is free to download but there's a lot of other stuff you can buy with "V-bucks," that typically start at 10 to 20 real-world dollars.

"In the game, you spend money to get better looks on your character, like skins, and you can make them look different than any other people," explains Jake.

Those "skins" are costumes. You can also buy different weapons, bling out your backpack or purchase the latest dance moves called "emotes," which help a gamer look better, but not necessarily play better.

Items in the online store are constantly changing. Since some gaming systems are tied to a credit card, parents need to keep an eye on those charges. 

"My kids have not asked me for any money yet to purchase things for the game. So that's good. We're going to keep it that way," said Janine Goude.

Gamers who are highly-skilled earn hundreds of thousands of dollars for posting tips on how to play. Twenty-six-year-old Tyler "Ninja" Blevens has 4.5 million YouTube subscribers and reportedly pulls in a whopping half million dollars a month.

These gamers are entertainers and considered professional athletes just like in eSports, all part of an industry that brought in over $100 billion last year.
 
"They make more money off of that industry than they do off the real players," Strohman points out.

For casual players like Jake, his advice is simple.

"Just don't get addicted to it and play lots of hours. Don't waste a lot of money on it," he said.

Fortnite is just one of several "Battle Royale"-type games on the market.

"Player Unknowns Battlegrounds" is another popular one out right now and both "Call of Duty" and EA's "Battlefield 5" plan to introduce the mode in their games due out later this year.

If kids are on Xbox or PlayStation, you can limit how much time they're playing, using the system's parental controls.

If you want to prevent your child from using your credit card or set spending limits, the following links can help.
       
Xbox how-to guide: https://support.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-one/security/prevent-unauthorized-purchases

Playstation how-to guide: https://www.playstation.com/en-gb/get-help/help-library/my-account/parental-controls/how-do-i-stop-my-child-spending-money-on-playstation-network-/

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