Where are we dropping? The misguided hunger for Battle Royales
Why Fortnite is the absolute worst thing to happen to modern gaming
By Colin Macgillivray, Arts Editor
The infamous video game has reached near mythic levels of popularity, permeating the mainstream world and existing as a worldwide phenomena for the majority of its short lifespan. It’s so popular that my mother, who is absolutely clueless when it comes to video games, (sorry mom) has heard about it.
Now this might seem redundant because I would find it hard to believe that you haven’t heard about this video game yet, but Fortnite Battle Royale, the free-to-play portion of the aforementioned video game has seen resounding success over the last year.
Essentially, 100 individuals are dropped onto an island to duke it out with a multitude of different weapons in pursuit of one goal—a “Victory Royale.” No rewards other than experience and bragging rights. At first glance, it seems like the concept of “winning just to say you won” would get tired, boring and even tedious after a while. Surprisingly, that is not the case at all.
Fortnite is clearly not your average video game. Developer Epic Games rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars each month from hungry children who insist they need some sort of cosmetic marker for their character and the game has seen more than 125 million unique players in less than a year.
Why is this silly, little game where you build forts and mercilessly shotgun your opponents so popular? Why have 125 million people hop off the laughably named “Battle Bus” in search of that coveted Victory Royale? Why, for now more than a year, has Fortnite remained a video game juggernaut, dominating the industry and frankly, the internet?
It’s something I’ve asked myself time and time again since I captured my first—and only—Victory Royale last December. I sat there, staring at the big bold letters that illuminated my dark basement with a sense of accomplishment. I texted friends, who congratulated me for this meaningless achievement and I lauded my victory over those who hadn’t yet won their first game.
But after those initial moments of pride wore off, I had absolutely no desire to play Fortnite ever again. I won. I did what I had set out to do and I knew that the initial euphoria of beating 99 other players across the world would never be matched.
So, I stopped playing.
I genuinely believed that this inherently goofy game—in which players can do cringe-inducing dances and dress up like cheeseburgers—would become less and less popular over time. Sure, the game was fun while I played it, but if you told me that it would be a cultural phenomenon nine months ago, I would have laughed you out of the room.
Looking at Fortnite now, I’m more confused than ever at its popularity. I’ve played maybe 10 times since my first win more than nine months ago and I’m baffled as to how the game has had this run at the top for so long.
Now, before I get into why I believe Fortnite’s time at the top is incredibly detrimental to the gaming industry as a whole, I would like to make it clear that I’m not saying you’re a fool if you enjoy the game. If the insatiable need for video game bragging rights gets you off and you genuinely enjoy humiliating the hordes of children who play the game every night, then by all means, continue.
But for me, a casual video game player, nothing about the Fortnite’s formulaic, repetitive gameplay is appealing. If anything, the game is only fun to boot up and play in the background while you talk to your friends. The social aspect is definitely appealing and I commend Epic Games for making their platform so accessible so literally anyone can hop on, but the game itself is just boring.
Again, this is subjective, but the magic of struggling for my first victory was eclipsed when I had actually won my first game. To put it in perspective, it would be as if you had been desperately trying to get the attention of a cutie for months and then realized that the cutie wasn’t that interesting when you finally got their attention.
Nonetheless, that doesn’t explain why I think Fortnite is detrimental to the game industry. I’d like to harken back to the Call of Duty franchise and its reign of terror atop the gaming industry. COD had a stranglehold on gamers everywhere, with yearly titles being scooped up by the masses with no regard as to the quality of their game.
In other words, popularity can easily lead to complacency. Call of Duty was definitely revolutionary for its time and one can certainly make a claim for Fortnite being a revolutionary game itself.
For one, Fortnite Battle Royale is a free-to-play game and the developers have made millions just from cosmetic items that offer no benefit or gameplay advantage. It blows my mind that people are that desperate to wear costumes in a video game, but I guess that speaks to human nature and our need to be unique and stand out in some way.
Despite being far from the first Battle Royale game—a Hunger Games style fight to the death where one player emerges victorious—Fortnite was unique enough to stand out from the pack. But, the pack is now bigger and overflowing with Battle Royale games due to Fortnite’s success.
Just like how Call of Duty’s success led to a slew of team-based first-person-shooters entering the mainstream and ultimately over saturating the market with unpolished, rushed products that existed solely to make money, Fortnite’s success is seemingly making the gaming industry head down a similar path.
It’s interesting, because the next installment of the Call of Duty franchise is already receiving a tremendous amount of hype due to one reason: a Battle Royale mode.
Now, my seemingly outlandish claim—why Fortnite is the absolute worst thing to happen to modern gaming—might be hyperbole, but I have genuine fear that Fortnite will do more harm than good in the long run.
Everyone loves money and if Battle Royale games continue to be incredibly popular, more game developers will dip their greasy paws into that honey pot. We’ll see iterations of the formula, whether it is an all-animal Battle Royal or a Battle Royale that features only boats. It will happen and it will suck.
Plus, all kids can talk about now is Fortnite! I head to the grocery store and see little, eight-year old cretins doing their stupid Fortnite dances and begging their parents to buy them “V-bucks” so that they can wear new costumes.
Worst of all, parents are hiring Fortnite tutors for their children. I might sound like an out of touch old man, but there is nothing more ridiculous than being tutored in a video game.
So, to end my long winded rant about a cartoon game where you can dance, build and kill your enemies, I’m worried that incredible success will lead to others mimicking and imitating this formula in the hopes of making a lot of money.
In any art form, it’s my hope that artistic expression comes first. When it comes to so many things these days, whether it is music, film or even videogames, dollar bills seem to be the main motivator.
Sure, money is super cool and it is awesome spending it on things, but it is incredibly refreshing to see someone try something for the purpose of expression and passion rather than money and fame.
Fortnite might not be my cup of tea, but it is a unique entity. The problem is that it will be copied, emulated and recreated for years to come, leading to a stagnant industry until the new revolutionary video game comes along.
So, get out there, jump off the “Battle Bus,” make your cartoon avatar dance and gun-down other hungry players across the world. But in about two years, when every single video game is about “where to drop” and you’re looking for that fresh and exciting game to come along, you can blame Fortnite.