Fortnite Is Everything And Everywhere
Trying to be everything for everyone has made Fortnite hard to put down and hard to be against
“It’s everywhere I go.” The last time I could safely say this about a game was with Minecraft and even at the time, it meant an entirely different thing. A teenager finding his way through the internet at the time, what I meant was that everyone with a PC and a Youtube channel was broadcasting themselves playing the game. People made successful careers off of the back of that game, folks like CaptainSparklez, Seananners, or even TheSyndicateProject, all dudes you associate with the original vanguard of content creation online. Just like Minecraft before it, Fortnite is making waves, though the intentionality behind it all may point to an end we’re less than satisfied with. At least I am.
Fortnite is the definition of Too Much™. When I went to visit a friend and watch E3 together, we decided to play some to wind down the night. Between his Xbox and his Switch, we had two ways to play, yet there were three of us. One of us remembered the mobile version, downloaded that and before long, we had a three man squad rolling out. Even earlier that night, from his balcony, I watched the baseball game being played below and could make out the form of a small boy doing the orange justice dance, a dance that wasn’t supposed to make it into the game and went from an inside joke to a global sensation. The ubiquity of the property is preposterous and in a manner reminiscent of the last viral game, Pokemon Go, affords some semblance of universal appeal and unity between people. The thing is though, everyone is doing Fortnite all the time.
All over my feeds that aren’t Instagram at this point, all I see is people playing the game. Its introduction to the Switch audience has specifically brought about a fervor I hadn’t seen on my timeline ever for anything. On the fringes of this, I see the excitement for other releases but the numbers speak for themselves: everyone is playing Fortnite and not much of anything else. And because everyone’s playing it, everyone’s consuming it too.
While there’s nothing inherently malicious about everyone playing Fortnite, here’s where it takes a darker turn. The people who do make a living in this industry are forced to engage with Fortnite or ostensibly be left on the curb. Go virtually anywhere on Twitch that isn’t playing Fortnite or League of Legends and has a high viewership and you’ll see three things:
- Viewership lower than even the top 30 people playing Fortnite.
- Viewers asking why the streamer isn’t playing Fortnite.
- The streamer explaining that much as they enjoy the game, playing it in order to survive on Twitch burnt them out.
It goes even further than that. Because we are who we are, we tend to fall more in line with trends than any of us would care to admit, even if that trend is a highly popular online personality. With Fortnite’s introduction to the mainstream has come an abandonment of channels in favor of the chosen few. You know them as the Ninja’s and timthetatman’s of the internet, channels that were already successful before they rocket blasted out of the goddamn stratosphere and absorbed the majority of the viewership others used to have and understandably. They’re both incredibly capable players of the game and that’s what the people want to see but now what I see is dramatically reduced counts everywhere else. Fortnite isn’t necessarily breathing new life into the site or any site its on so much as it’s whisking away the life of every other aspect of it.
On a place like Twitch, whose number of streamers has grown to an incredibly unstable point, this has meant that more and more people can really only get by on luck rather than a plan and steady growth. It’s made moves to other sites like Mixer more common, which means essentially upending your career to reboot it elsewhere with virtually no insurance you’ll ever get that success back.
On the other side of media, it’s become a repetitive talking point. Patch notes hiding secret changes to the game world get overexposure in the news. Theories about the game’s makeshift lore and events are spread across every channel to spread the excitement like wildfire. The game is regularly doing numbers, which gets reported often and Epic has never been more of a household name. If it begins making the shape of the word “Fortnite” on its lips, the gaming world already knows about it. It’s not going to stop anytime soon either. As a medium that is actively drawing in less people because of other emerging forms, games media needs to cover Fortnite and work done out of necessity rather than drive has never been the best path forward, though it is the quickest way to ensure your survival…
People have asked "why do you cover Fortnite so much, IGN?" To illustrate, here are the top read/watched gaming topics on IGN for the last week, by popularity. If we included our Snapchat edition in this, the other bars would be even smaller by comparison. Fortnite is a monster! pic.twitter.com/kw5GkglZ1k
— Peer Schneider (@PeerIGN) July 13, 2018
It’s become a lens through which people criticize and talk about a genre despite the fact that while aspects of it are novel, most of what it does it just does well compared to its peers. I hate it but am enthralled with it just as much as everyone else. Hell, I’m writing this story because I want to talk about Fortnite like this and also attract people to the article without straining myself too much. Fortnite being everything to everyone was great, until it slowed everything to a crawl. I learned a while ago that poring over every detail of something doesn’t make you better, it make you more tedious and complicates everything. Most good criticism comes from the intersection of a property and the context it’s been placed in, but Fortnite, having trounced its competition and ascended to phenomenon felt the world over, is only in contention with itself anymore.
If there’s anything I can say I definitely love, for fear that you might think I hate this game, it’s been the dances that have proved to be the most enjoyable aspect of Fortnite and a surefire sign of its embracement of the title of the game for everyone. The dances, adopted from real ones that you’d definitely see at house parties, have become sensations. Cultural touchstones from often shunned communities have become staples of gatherings across the world. Seeing what I see daily reflected on the biggest platform is the literal best thing to come out of the game, though of course that stuff has also been co-opted, renamed and distributed as something else, ensuring its place of origin isn’t credited, as a certain big name rapper and POC in the industry have been very quick to point out, implicating Epic as just another company happy to build its success on the backs of marginalized people and while Fortnite isn’t the originator of this predatory trend, nor do I think it’s done with malice, they’ve very quickly become the biggest proponent of it.
Fortnite should put the actual rap songs behind the dances that make so much money as Emotes. Black creatives created and popularized these dances but never monetized them. Imagine the money people are spending on these Emotes being shared with the artists that made them
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) July 13, 2018
At the end of the day, here’s the problem: No one thing should be the arbiter of taste, yet we’re a people that actively pursue and embolden things we feel should assume that mantle. Which is how we end up with viral content on a variety of platforms that are all vying for the same claim but fundamentally speak to different people. Fortnite isn’t the OG nor will it be the last, but it’s just the latest in a long line of platforms that wants to be everything to everyone, despite the fact that it shouldn’t. Here we are though, and we’ll be here again before you know it.