by April Lisante

It was around 7:30 on a recent Tuesday night and my husband and I were sitting on the sofa recovering from our day in the usual fashion.

He was trolling You Tube for new Sebastian Maniscalco comedy skits and I was crocheting my umpteenth blanket while riveted by TMZ on the TV.

I turned to him as an epiphany dawned.

“It’s quiet in his room, I don’t hear him throwing the remote or stomping on the floor,” I said of my middle school son, bewildered by the absence of that, and yelling.

I headed upstairs to find him playing NBA 2K 20, the latest version of basketball on his PlayStation.

“What’s up?” I asked, still befuddled.

Where was the Fortnite? Where was the frenzy?

“Oh that’s old, no one plays that anymore,” he said matter-of-factly.

I turned and left the room, dazed. What was this sorcery? Was it true?

After nearly four years and thousands of V Bucks, it was over?

V Bucks, the intangible, worthless currency of the game. The reason I will not go into my bank account and search for debit listings of “Epic Games,” lest I prove to myself how many times I’ve been hosed for the $1.99, repeatedly, that I’ll never see again.

It was over. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Laugh that the creators had cashed out with billions, surely not the least upset their four-year run was over, or cry that I’d been party to some millennials who now own multiple cars and mansions.

I am not alone. I can’t quantify the number of parents who felt my pain as they lived it too. The always-so-close to Victory Royale that ended in disappointment and remote throwing. The number of headphones ripped off in anger when the victory was elusive. The number of times I listened to boys screaming on said headphones in a Fortnite “party.”

One of the last straws for my son was the Fortnite asteroid-style gimmick back in October, which heralded in the beginning of a new season with a doomsday scenario, leaving his screen blacked out for nearly two days as the creators scrambled to come up with a new map, and a new way to keep kids interested in the game.

He and his friends were frustrated, and as middle schoolers go, disenchanted with the whole thing.

What began as a frenzy in 2017 has netted nearly 200 million players worldwide and billions for Epic Games and CEO Tim Sweeney. It made a net profit of $3 billion alone in 2018, the height of its popularity, according to TechCrunch.

What made it genius? I’ve been to this rodeo before, with a now-20-year-old who used to sucker me into Webkins and Club Penguin cyber bucks. But Fortnite was slicker. Some items were free, but the media frenzy online made kids hunker for that elusive skin that cost V Bucks. Or, as I like to say, real money paid for nothing concrete.

Ask any middle schooler in Springfield Township now why they aren’t playing Fortnite – if they can rip themselves away from Madden 20 or NBA 2K 20 long enough to respond. The answers are eerily similar: It got boring. The challenge isn’t there any more.

I guess the real lesson was for me, as a mom. Yes, there are trends our kids will see come and go, but that doesn’t mean I have to help make it a trend.

Take that NBA 2K 20 upgrade of Allen Iverson’s jersey for only $4.99. I’ve been to this rodeo before.

April Lisante writes “Food for Thought” for the Local.