Welcome to the Cheat Sheet, a clickable, shareable, bite-sized FAQ on the news of the moment. Today: what is this Fortnite: Battle Royale thing that your kids keep talking about? Gaming editor Sam Brooks has you covered.
So what… is it?
Fortnite: Battle Royale is a video game developed and released by Epic Games! Think Pong, except not like that at all because Pong is a billion years old.
It’s a battle royale game – think the The Hunger Games, but it’s a hundred people, lots of bright colours, they all appear to be adults, and Elizabeth Banks isn’t involved, so really not like The Hunger Games except it’s a lot of people trying to kill each other.
The premise is simple: You and 99 other people from around the world are dropped onto a randomly-generated island, with no weapons or anything, and you run around finding weapons and trying to kill each other. You can also quickly build little bridges and forts, or something to keep yourself safe with or to kill other people even faster.
The last one left standing among the 100 players is the winner. There are a number of strategies to playing the game: you can run around getting as many weapons as quickly as possible to pick off everybody, find one weapon and hole yourself up in a fortress, or you can just be bad at the game. That’s also a viable strategy, and actually a quite fun one!
Games can be very quick – especially if you die early – or drawn-out if you are good at playing and hang around for a long time. It’s low investment and high turnaround, but still surprisingly engaging. Fortnite is like drinking a can of V – you can’t just have one.
Why is it so popular?
There are a few reasons for this!
One, it’s really quite fun and addictive to play. My friend and I streamed Fortnite for our On The Reg’ streaming video series and even though I’m not into shooters (I prefer games where you kill people with conversation and also I have no hand-eye co-ordination and dislike being reminded of that), I was hooked immediately. So was my friend, who used to be a competitive Halo player and is much, much better at shooters than I am. We both found it super fun despite our vastly different skill levels.
The speed of it means you have to be constantly engaged with what’s going on. It also makes it quite suited for pass-the-controller gameplay, which has declined since the internet started allowing gamers to get their aggression out on complete strangers with little-to-no consequences. Within ten minutes of playing Fortnite your friend can get to the top ten of the hundred while you can get killed off immediately – which is what tended to happen with me, and watching my friend succeed was equally as fun as watching myself fail.
Two, it looks different than other games of this ilk. This isn’t the grimdark super brown sadness of PUBG (Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, a similar game which you also might have heard of) – it has a beautifully cartoonish, high colour/ high contrast style. The closest analogue I can think is Spyro, which might be a series that you’re also familiar with. Fortnite is actually pleasant to look at, and unsurprisingly for a visual medium, that makes people want to spend time with it.
Three, people like to watch people play video games. That’s a thing people do now! The specific pleasures of what makes Fortnite a fun game to play (the rapid fire gameplay, the high turnaround, the low investment) also make it quite fun to watch, and quite easy to tune in and out of.
Four, the game is still actually in early access (that means it’s technically not finished yet) so there’s constant developments (like falling meteors) and updates to the game that keep people interested, and keep the media that reports on gaming constantly reporting on it. You keep it on people’s lips, you keep it on people’s minds.
Where can I watch it?
Where can I play it?
You can play it if you have any of these systems: Playstation 4, Xbox One, macOS, Microsoft Windows and as of this month, iOS. Basically, you can probably play it on the device you’re reading this piece on.
It’s also free, but there are in-game transactions.
What are in-game transactions?
It’s a way for developers to make money because they’re giving away their game for free; you can buy skins for your character and other cosmetic things. There is no inherent value to these things except the value you give them, which is true of most things you can buy with your money.
You know that Bejeweled thing where you can spend real money to be able to get more gems than your daily allotment? It’s like that, but a little less sad and a little easier to explain to your significant other.
How do I talk to my [younger family member/friend/acquaintance] about Fortnite?
Avoid using terms like ‘pwned’.
Don’t make eye contact because young people aren’t used to it.
Create a fake account on Twitch, make friends with them on the platform, blur the lines between your real personality and your online persona, tearfully reveal it to them and permanently damage your relationship in a way that will require therapy for you both.
Or don’t do that, and wait for them to bring it up in between vapes.
Would I enjoy it?
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Maybe! Watch a stream and see if you like it. If you don’t like watching it, you probably won’t like playing it.
Or just go ahead and play it! The game is really open to anybody of any skill level, whether you’ve never picked up a controller before or if you have a completely fitted out gaming suite with overpriced chair, headset and joypad.
Also: it’s free, games can be as short as a cigarette break, and you won’t feel like you’ve lost anything except your precious, precious time, which you will never get back, not ever.
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