Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
When Fortnite first hit the scene I was tremendously uninterested in it. The two big aspects of it that really stood out where the cartoon-like art and the building mechanics. I couldn’t fault it for it’s cartoonish visage, it was obviously aimed at a younger demographic and at the time I was entrenched in the realism of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, you know, a far superior game. As for the building aspect? It was an interesting take at the time in a genre that was exploding at a tremendous speed and wanted to stand out. Whether it was because of the building mechanics or not, stand out it did. I had played a few rounds, watched a few streams, but for me the nature of the battle royal was one of a singular, primal focus. Find the other guys and shoot them before they shoot you. I didn’t need to spoof an episode of the Property Brothers while simultaneously hiding in a fern as I tried to make it to the front of the pack. So, while I recognized that Fortnite was doing something new, that it had achieved something special by capturing the minds and hearts of a generation, I also recognized that it just wasn’t for me.
Then a giant burger with googly eyes was found in the desert outside of Palmdale, California. The headlines were popping up all over the place about how Fortnite was invading real life. This corresponded with an in-game event where pieces of the game world were being swallowed up into rifts and ‘appearing’ in real life. Despite Fortnite not being my kind of game, I had to hand it to them they certainly knew how to grab my attention. It’s something the game has continued to do since its inception, with each new season (to varying degrees of success) they turned the game and community on it’s head with some kind of world shattering event. From the burger to the rocket that smashed the sky to the most recent Fortnite ending black-hole event, Epic and Fortnite are second to none.
Even for an old, cynical, angry gamer like myself who can’t build a wooden shack to save my life or land a shotgun blast to the groin (I did it once!) I want to know more about this world. I never thought I’d be saying that about a battle royal game, but events like these make me wish I was part of it.
However, this also leads to the bigger issue of Fortnite or what I like to call Schrödinger’s Fortnite. Since I don’t play the game and instead live vicariously through headlines and streams, I’m never sure what Fortnite is currently live on servers…is it the awe-inspiring, world changing events that bring the entire community together? Or is it the cringe-inducing, game shattering meta changes that divide the pro community?
That’s the other side of the Fortnite Coin, the volatile, ever-shifting, unpredictable nature of the pro meta. I know a shifting meta is inevitable, it’s a part of esports and every game goes through it. The Overwatch League uses a week break between stages to gives pros a chance to adjust. Fortnite, however, has always been heavily criticized for the timing of their changes to the game. Often adding in these game changing mechanics or weapons days before a huge tournament. This causes pro players who have spent months honing their strategy and skill to have to then pour countless hours into redefining their playstyle at the last minute in order to find some kind of edge over the competition.
So, as a person who doesn’t play a lot of Fortnite but often gets caught up in the drama and story of the game and it’s community, I’m never certain if what I’m waking up to. Fortnite for me, is simultaneously bringing the streamers and players together to watch a giant meteor impact the map or driving a wedge between the pros and the casuals over new mechanics.
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