The Best Way to Understand 'Fortnite' Is to Play the Damn Thing


#1

Growing up, I didn’t spend a lot of time with random sets of blocks, letting my mind wander. If you handed me a specific LEGO set, however, I was good. (I’ve long wondered if this is why I breezed through algebra, but struggled to pass geometry.) This helped explain why, despite my best efforts, I was never able to enjoy Minecraft. I respected the hell out of it, knowing what it did so well, but always at a distance. I was always left wondering “Wouldn’t it be cool if Minecraft, but with specific objectives?”

There’s a certain creative spark that’s never been part of my repertoire, and it’s one reason I’ve spent so long treating Fortnite with a similarly distanced respect, figuring it’s not for me. I don't like being asked to put together random blocks. My decision was made easier by all of my friends choosing to stick with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, partially because we’d invested so many hours; partially because it felt a little weird to support a game that was so clearly ripping off the popular thing at the time; partially because the basic mechanics of the game—moving, shooting—didn’t look nearly as fun.

Thing is, I tried Minecraft and realized it wasn’t for me. That’s fine. Not all games are. But a lingering regret is not spending time with World of Warcraft when it was blowing up, so I could wrap my head around it. The game came and went—I know it’s still a thing, but you know what I mean—and I never played World of Warcraft. In recent years, when encountering a series (or game) that’s perplexing, rather than letting assumptions take over, more of than not, I’m rewarded by challenging assumptions.

So, Fortnite.

The past few days, the entire Waypoint staff has been participating in something we’re calling Fortnite Fortnight, in which we play Fortnite every single day for two weeks. Honestly, most of us went into this whole exercise with some low expectations, and in the first 30 minutes of Monday's stream, I wondered if it was all a mistake. The game wasn’t clicking, most of us sounded frustrated and bored. It was day one.

But the concept of Fortnite Fortnight was to stick with the game and get over that hump. The easier choice, in a world where you could be spending your time with any number of great TV shows, movies, and games, is running away.

We started experimenting, screwing around, and trying to give the game space, as we pushed and pulled at the world. Crucially, the audience informed us we didn’t have to worry so much about actually building in Fortnite; as it turns out, creativity isn’t really crucial to victory. Instead, if you map two building items to your mouse—stairs, wall—you can accomplish most tasks needed when playing the game.

It was a big “ah-ha” moment, one that gave me confidence. We had more of them.

Towards the end of the first stream, we had an encounter where each of us was working in tandem, building walls and stairs, and generally engaging in Fortnite’s flow. We quickly died, but it didn’t matter. Amidst the shouting and laughter of fucking up, we were having fun. This happened more often in the second stream, where we’d internalized enough of the mechanics to start deploying our own strategies.

As a round neared the end, we holed up near the ocean, built an enormous fort around ourselves, and decided to wait it out. Everything was working—until a team showed up with rocket launchers and it all came crashing down. And yet, the important takeaway was that we had a takeaway at all.

After the stream was over, I tweeted:

It’s a bit of a goof, yes, but true. After being outright dismissive of Fortnite, we’d started to believe our own bullshit. That’s not to say you’re supposed to like every popular game, but it was an indication that maybe we’d dismissed a game with some merit.

Here’s hoping there’s plenty more to find in the days ahead.

If you’re thinking of getting into Fortnite and playing along with us, there’s a really great forum thread with useful tips that’ll help you understand the game.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. If you have a tip or a story idea, drop him an email: patrick.klepek@vice.com.

Have thoughts? Swing by Waypoints forums to share them!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/59jjbx/the-best-way-to-understand-fortnite-is-to-play-the-damn-thing

#2

Several years back, I read a variation of this headline:

I have always been massively into music. I’ve prided myself on the variety of my musical interests; that many of the bands I loved, I could pay $10 to see them perform at a bar because I had done the work to ‘find’ them before popular culture exposed them to me. Hell, the hunt itself had always been a thrill, and the reward of hearing something bold and fresh and NEW was sweeter still.

Then, at 29, I read this headline. It flat-out frightened me. In four years, I will very likely stop trying to find new music - a trait of mine that I thought partially defined who I am. What will that be like? Why will I do that? I mean, why does ANYONE do that?? However, in thinking about my experiences with older people I knew, this pattern of behavior became obvious in so many ways. Older people watch older movies. They often roundly dismiss new technologies, sometimes even choosing never to try and learn them. They don’t understand what kids are into these days, and I’d be lying if I said it seemed like that bothered them. And yeah, of course, they listen to older music.

I think that, for a lot of the older games crowd, this is happening with Fortnite. We see it in all of its frenzied, cartoonish chaos, and maybe we compare it to the methodical “realism” of PUBG, and we, consciously or unconsciously, apply the “for young people” label to it. Maybe we even recoil from it on-sight. For some of us, I think that also means that we dismiss it out of hand, because we are reaching a point where, when we can’t immediately come to grips with what the kids are into, we are more willing to acquiesce to our knee-jerk reactions to those things. That’s okay (we don’t need to try everything), but it also means that a lot of dismissals coming out of our age group of things that young people absolutely fucking adore that we “just don’t get” should be taken with a grain of salt. I’ve heard these knee-jerk dismissals from the Waypoint crew since Fortnite’s release, and I know I’ve heard them from my own mouth, too.

I’m 32 now, and I am trying to see this response in myself every day. Though I know it’s a battle I’ll never be able to stop fighting, I hope I don’t end up giving in to that impulse. The only way to fight it is, when faced with a new thing we aren’t really interested in understanding, we should fight the urge to step back and validate our knee-jerk reactions, throw impulses aside, and just dive head-first into the thing as soon as possible.


#3

So this is something I constantly worry about too. I’m only 25 so probably not as concerned, but I’ve noticed that I don’t go out of my way as much to seek new music and that concern has dug it’s way into my mind. I want to keep seeking new experiences dammit!

This isn’t so much a concern with games for me usually, but I do reckon that my comfort with PUBG was partly why I gave Fortnite as little time as I did. I think you are really on point about how viewing something as childish (as in appealing to younger folks, not immature) makes it easier for many to dimiss it. Because I don’t think there’s anything inherently more appealing to younger people about Fortnite other than the price point and possibly the aethetic (though cartoon = childish isn’t really a thing among at least most folks I know). It’s easier to look at something as not made to appeal to us, than it is to recognize that maybe we just aren’t as open to different things as we thought.


#4

I tried to play Fortnite a couple a days ago and didn’t really enjoy it that much. Maybe it’s because I’m too old (Late 20s) but I don’t think so. I don’t really think that the game is that radically different. It’s still an online FPS where the goal is to shoot other people. The only new online shooters I’ve really enjoyed over the past few years are Overwatch and Splatoon, which are both really cartoony and more of a change to the FPS formula imo.

The only aspect of the game that made me feel old was the UI. Right when I booted it up I couldn’t believe how ugly everything looks. The main screen as far as I remember is just a barrage of stuff that the game is trying to get me to spend money on, rather than like…options or game modes or whatever. Also, the fonts in this game look real ugly to me. If you’re going to make a cartoony game, you need good art direction.

The only thing that I think younger players are more open to is the free-to-play model. I’m willing to pay for games, but kids don’t have that option a lot of the time. They’re also probably desensitized to games trying to milk them for their money because a) they don’t have any money anyway so it’s not an option they need to consider and b) they grew up on mobile games.

TL;DR: To quote Skinner: Am I out of touch? No, it’s the children who are wrong.


#5

As a counter point, I’m in my early 30s and love Fortnite. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been an online shooter fan for decades. I will admit that if you’re not into icing fools online, Fortnite’s build mechanics aren’t going to redeem the experience for you.


#6

Patrick, y’all need to give Dragon Qust Builders a go. It’s even on Switch!


#7

I’ll admit I’ve the person who recoiled on-sight with Fortnite and voiced it publicly, but eventually I tried it and realised that I was wrong in judging the book by the cover, wrong in snidely dismissing it, but ultimately right that it wasn’t for me.

All I had heard about the game was through osmosis, some brief original Fortnite video footage, and the Epic / Bluehole debacle. I had never actually jumped in myself, but I guess like a lot of things that become the Big Talking Point (BTP) I decided I could at least give it a shot, I mean it was free after all.

I was immediately displeased, for really knee-jerk reasons: it doesn’t play like Battlegrounds and I don’t like the art style. I realise now after watching Waypoint stream the game and giving it an actual chance myself post initial shock, that going in with the expectation of it being a cartoony Battlegrounds was misguided; the game is going for a wildly different thing.
It’s bouncy and chaotic, far more focused on strategic building than I had anticipated, and just one Dreamworks eyebrow away from making me roll out of my chair and on the ground.

Anyway, like Minecraft or Pokémon in their respective times, I appreciate and enjoy that Fortnite has brought a lot of people together. I guess when it comes to this kind of Battle Royale modes I prefer to have something that is methodical and precise rather than fast and frantic.