I had no idea what Fortnite Battle Royal was apart from the fact everyone was playing it. It's the biggest came of 2018 and a genuine cultural phenomenon - gaming hasn't seen anything this big since the coming of Minecraft. It's been characterized to be shareable, personal, smartly designed and above all free.
After reading about it, I found myself fascinated by the game. It reminded me of the glory days of Pokémon Go where you'd wander around the city chasing after little cute digital animals and bump into real people doing the same thing. It got you out of the house, made you explore and meet like-minded people. If Fortnite was providing the same warm experience I had with Pokemon Go, I was game for it (pun intended).
So I decided to give it a try. Despite not being very good at video games (I'm still reluctant to give up my Game Boy Color) and my go-to strategy is just pressing any button until something happens, I was ready to be immersed into the pollyannaish world of Fortnite.
After deleting a number of hours of podcasts from my phone, I was finally ready. My avatar was promptly introduced to me (a terrifyingly powerful woman wearing an outfit that looked like a stylistic combination of Lara Croft and the latest Kylie Jenner inspired Urban Outfitters line and wielding an axe half the size of herself) and without a second thought I clicked 'Next' and was catapulted straight into the middle of a field. I saw other players around me but they quickly ran off - to where, I had no idea. Unsure what to do next, I decided to do what any good person propelled into foreign land would do - go exploring!
That didn't last long as I was suddenly looking at a floating bus held up by massive air balloons. A countdown started and from my knowledge of watching every Mission Impossible, I assumed I was going to explode and fall to my fiery death. I started pressing my screen frantically to avoid such a gruesome fate. I had been playing this game for one minute and I wasn't prepared to die so soon! After all, I was a badass woman with a massive axe!
Luckily, I didn't explode but land in another massive field. Great! More adventure time!
From the corner of my eye, I realised names popping up on the side of the screen declaring that they've either knocked someone out, died or killed someone, I'm at loss to who these people are and where they are as I was quite literally standing in a field alone. I assumed these are my comrades who needed help defeating some sort of enemy but I had no idea where they were and if I would be any use to them. I knew I'd cause more of a mess than anything else, so I decided the best thing would be to remove myself from the fight and go on my own path.
As I wondered through the lush green fields, fording rivers and climbing hills, I began to think myself as a 19th century explorer venturing into parts unknown. Will I discover a new species? A new river? Or is this a more existential journey where I learn more about myself? Could this be the pilgrimage I was looking for?
I suddenly realised I was thinking too deeply about this as I crossed a force field and it started raining. "Get out of rain! Run!" alerted my screen. Snapping out of my reverie, I started running, noticing my life bar quickly falling. Excuse me - I can cross a river, yet this rain will be death of me? Water on the ground is completely fine but from the sky is a big no no? Is this acid rain? But also, where am I supposed to run too? Couldn't I hide behind my massive axe? Shield myself from the rain?
Suddenly I'm crawling. I'm losing energy. Death is closing in. I know I'm dying. Good bye sweet ephemeral life. It was nice being a powerful independent woman with a massive axe. The screen dims and alerts me that I've successfully killed myself. This is the end.
As I stared at the dimming screen wondering how this happened (why was rain poisonous and not the river?!), George Mallory, the famous explorer who attempted to have reached the top of Everest before falling potentially to his death, comes to mind. When asked why he wanted to climb the world's most treacherous mountain, he replied "Because it's there!" and in that moment, I faintly understood what he meant. I played Fornite because it was there yet I was definitely not good at it. I had failed miserably. I'm was aware that Fornite is not the incredibly life threatening undertaking that is climbing the world's largest mountain, but the lesson holds - maybe I shouldn't have done something I knew I was destined to fail at. I mused at the thought that maybe Mallory would have done better at Fornite than me?
Or maybe I'm thinking too deeply about this again? Most likely.
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About The Author: Caroline Corbett-Thompson
Caroline is the Marketing Director at Itavio. You'll find her listening to NPR and scowling 99% of the time.
More posts by Caroline Corbett-Thompson