There I said it. Fortnite will continue to be the best battle-royale video game for a very long time. Better than COD, better than Apex Legends, better than Tetris 99. It has franchise legs the likes of Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, or Street Fighter (well maybe not so much Street Fighter but please enjoy my bias when it presents itself). I admit I am powerless over Fortnite and my life has become unmanageable. Step 1.
After hearing about the controversy of gaming difficulty in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, I had to wonder why so many people argued against me. “There should be a way to make game production more accessible,” was the thundering cry in the Twitters and the Reddits and the Just Chattings. “That’s what grows the community!” was said somewhere equally important. To propagate the idea that punishingly difficult video games have a place in the gaming ecosystem was another transmutation of “gatekeeping,” where a welcome mat should have been put instead. But I still don’t believe that. I believe there is value to learning and being rewarded through experience, persistence, and loss, something that doesn’t need to be seen as old fashioned these days (and it has nothing to do with being raised playing games that had to entertain you until your birthday or Christmas before you ever saw a new game again. Even if you didn’t really like it and the gameplay was trash you found a way to love it and interpreted this toxic relationship with a plastic cartridge into what one can understand as fun. (Not an attack on Christmas by the way, just want to openly communicate that so nothing is taken out of context)).
And now with the battle-royale genre sitting at the “is it gonna last or is this just a fad precipice” I found myself grinding games this weekend for my son because he had his video game time drastically reduced (Education first, people. It’s ok to punish your kids. Parenting means having to be the bad guy sometimes.) and he wasn’t going to be able to keep up with the rest of his competition in his modern world of Xbox Achievements and Gamer Scores (man, that’s almost a full decade that the 7th generation of consoles used to fashion what this industry is today). Fact is, an opportunity to see just what my son sees and play in his world (he stopped playing Street Fighter with me years ago #SadDad) meant I was happy to help him out. Deep dove into this project like some kind of treehouse-building-moment-with-your-kid-thing that you just don’t do today (sounds like a pattern developing here). And what I found was just how entertaining and well designed Fortnite actually is.
Fortnite as an action game is absolutely stellar. Covering platform elements, shooting, sometimes driving, flying, gliding and then building Lego sets at speeds that makes no sense to any innocent bystander. And you can do all of the things, or just some of the things, allowing for a real sense of developing your own style. An opportunity to truly define yourself (Seriously, people are saving their creations inside this digital toybox of a new generation the way you didn't want to destroy your Lego creations as a kid). Come to think of it, Fortnite isn’t a battle-royale shooter anymore than it’s a sandbox title as immersive as Grand Theft Auto V. Want to know why Fortnite is positioned to offer entertainment in a fashion similar to GTA RP (Remember to vote Avonius Barksdale. Lean to keep the city clean)? Because this really is action, speed, and momentum. Tip of the hat to Dr. Disrespect for capturing exactly what Twitch is, a cable TV platform. H1Z1 and PUBG provided moments of tension not seen before in gaming, but these titles are 80’s action movies that just don’t capture the imagination like the chaos of a bunny hopping shooter in Fortnite.
See, I wasn’t that good at the game because I’m fuck’n 42. There are 8 year old kids today that understand keyboard and mouse movement like it’s second nature. When I was 8 our controllers had 2 buttons. So yeah, this shit was hard for Cro-Magnon gamer over here (we’ve come a long way from 5 floppy disks edition of DOOM shooters). Now I have to think about creating cover for myself while I'm getting shot at all of a sudden (because it wasn’t that long ago we did half-wall cover and magnetized to structures to peek around a corner. (Really, we’ve got a pattern turned theme)). To win today, you make all these decisions on the fly. To just point and shoot will not be challenging enough for today's intricate developing minds. Now you’re jumping, flying, building, digging (did I mention this game is also Minecraft?), dressing up your avatar, and exploring an ever-changing gaming environment. Fortnite encapsulates everything that I grew up in gaming over a 35 year journey all in one package. Side bar: (and there have been many) When does DeadMau5 do a Master Class on music production in Fortnite? Seriously, Epic Games has nothing less than an MPC3000 in their Creative mode and some kid created the opening song for The Office (just watch the clip and you'll likely crack a smile and might even wiggle your ass). Mario Paint modernized. This game does everything!
And then, even after I lost over and over again, re-entering the lobby as fast as I could only to realize I wasn’t getting better at the rate I want to (some of those achievements aren’t that easy (and have damn near nothing to do with anything but some fan-fiction I think could easily see developed into a Twitch series.(Damn these tangents))). Did I type that to make you realize yet another point I’m trying to illustrate? The depth here.
Rather than complain about the learning curve presented by the often (and sometimes unnecessarily) criticized Fortnite, I sat back and started to watch the other players. And it’s seamless to do that. That’s what’s so fascinating. I go from Game Over to Practice Mode through spectatorship in the blink of an eye. With a little more refining (in the decades old practice) of camera fixes, once you can capture the crazy that is an Overwatch game on screen, you can see the big picture strategy of entertainment that Fortnite as one IP can capture. And you know how people are getting even better at video games than that? By watching the best of the best play on Twitch. A network that captures audiences faster than cords are being cut. And a network that drives sales (How’s Apex Legends doing these days? Haven’t seen too many concurrent players reports lately). When I hear about Epic Games not listening to the community, I can only laugh. They heard the community praise that new respawn game mechanic in what could have been a credible threat to fan-base migration, and it didn’t take long to see the Reboot Van. Pretty sure, we’re coming full circle now.
Are you ready to see how entertainment captures that next generation? We don’t need 10 years to figure that out, it’s already happening and Fortnite is showing you how it’s done. The monetization is proof positive. Fact is, Gen Z is 25% of the US population and they became Gen Gamer right under our noses. And they’re coming back in droves playing Seasons instead of waiting for a new generation console to see a sequel to your favorite franchise. So now, I’m going back to my Fortnite daily and weekly Xbox Achievements, because you gotta keep up with the Joneses when you’re only 8. Also I need my little escape before I start worrying about game difficulty being sold as Season Pass DLC in the next wave of video game consoles (when Google Stadia becomes the OUYA of a new generation). Until then, I love Fortnite.