What Fortnite can teach you about relationships

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

I am a 45-year-old man who plays Fortnite. Before you pull out your Dork Daggers and commence to stabbing me, let me unpack the reason why. And the life lesson from it we can all win with.

I live 1,200 miles away from my 12-year-old son and COVID-19 has succeeded in keeping me from seeing him since Christmas 2019. I ordinarily make the trip home 4-6 times a year from military duty to spend quality time with my kids, but this past year-plus it just hasn’t been possible—or advisable. So I had to get creative.

Zach suggested that I check out his favorite video game. He assured me that it was multi-platform and we could play it together from a distance. The first time I logged into this game, I was overwhelmed with the sheer enormity of it. I grew up playing 8-bit games like Super Mario Bros. and Contra, but this was—something else. It’s sort like Call of Duty meets Grand Theft Auto meets Minecraft. The path to victory in Battle Royale mode is straight Hunger Games—you have to be the last one alive at the end.

When I first started playing this game, I was horrible. I would drop into the map and either the storm that closes in to make you keep moving inward on the map would get me, or some kid with a simple pistol would cap me before I could turn around. I was determined to improve on my own so that when Zach and I played together, I wouldn’t be a complete liability to our dual effort. The more I played, the better I got. Eventually, I started winning solo 100-person Battle Royales. Which confused Zach. I had no idea that the ensuing conversation would be a real relationship eye-opener for me.

“Dad, I’m so much better at this game than you, but I can’t win a solo match,” he complained. “How are you winning?!”

“Tell me how you play, kid,” I said. “I doubt there’s anything I can teach you about this game, but we’ll see.”

He explained that he lands, harvests as many weapons and as much ammo as he can, and drinks shield potions. Ok. Same thing I do, so nothing to work with there. Then he said something that opened a whole new portal into relationships for both of us.

“Once I’m geared up, I run toward the shooting,” he said. “I like to kill as many opponents as I can as I move through the map.”

“Do you ever kind of ease up on a situation before wading into the battle?” I asked.

“Nope,” he replied. “I hear shooting, I run in and try to kill everyone.”

That’s when I realized that our levels of skill in this game weren’t the only things that were vastly different. Our approaches were, as well.

“Zach, I like to assess a situation and see what’s going on before I jump in,” I said. “If I see someone by themselves, I might engage them one-on-one. If there are several kids battling each other, I either wait until there’s only one left, or I move on. The fewer conflicts I have to be in, the longer I last in the game.”

After we disconnected that night, I returned to our conversation in my thoughts. As I replayed the whole thing in my head, I was reminded of an old saying that a pastor friend passed on to me years ago.

“Not every hill is worth dying on.”

Relationships can often be sprawling, technical, and hard to navigate. You know, like today’s video games. Any two people with different backgrounds, upbringings, experiences, and opinions on things are bound to disagree at some point. Are all of those disagreements worth going to war over, though?

When those situations present themselves, ease up on them and assess them before wading in. Ask yourself why the subject is important enough to disagree openly about. Ask yourself if there is a chance you might be wrong about it before you start throwing smoke. Ask yourself if there is any chance you might change the other person’s mind before you offer a piece of yours. Sincerely seek the best way to present your point of view in a way that feels genuine and non-threatening.

If you can’t productively answer any single one of those questions, don’t choose that battle. Move on from it and save the damage it would surely cause.

The fewer conflicts you find yourself in, the longer your relationship will last.

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