A look at gaming phenomenon ‘Fortnite’ from the sidelines

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“Just five more minutes, pleeeease. I’ll empty the dishwasher when I’m dead, I promise”, or “I need €8 to buy a dance and I won’t ask you for anything again ever.”

Baffling pleas and pledges like this are probably familiar to parents of Fortnite fans. The adventure/survival game has a monthly active user base of more than 40m and its popularity shows no sign of waning.

For the uninitiated, each game lasts around 30 minutes and involves 100 real players on an island where life is pretty tough — the last player or team standing is the winner.

Players, who may know each other in real life or may be in different parts of the world, can team up to stave off hordes of enemy monsters by building forts or defensive camps. Then, as the population dwindles, friendships are abandoned and it’s every player or squad for themselves.

Gamers have to come up with increasingly inventive ways to kill their enemies — shopping trolleys are must-have vehicles or indeed weapons. But while the game is violent it is not gory.

And despite such short, brutal lives the characters are surprisingly joyous. They can switch outfits, known as Battle Royale Skins, for example, from jaunty green pigtails to a sleek catsuit by earning points. Players (and players’ parents) can also pay actual real-life money for these costumes. These virtual costumes include downright wacky ones such as the highly desireable Tomatohead — which looks just like you might imagine it would.

Payment is by V-bucks. €10 will get you 1,000 V-Bucks, though there are offers on bundles of V-Bucks every so often which create hype as you ‘have to buy this brilliant offer that everyone is getting before it’s all gone and I’ll be the only one with no life’.

This virtual currency can also be used in the unimaginatively named Item Shop. Here you can pick up pickaxes, outfits, gliders — and emotes. Emotes? To emote is to display emotions. And characters who survive
a series of attacks are so pleased that they dance. And your dance has to be one of a series of ‘cool’ repetitive moves which are updated regularly. These moves include the Dab and the Floss.

The Ride-the-Pony dance surely needs no explainer but maybe the Floss does.

Imagine you’re wet and have an invisible towel. Use this imaginary towel to floss yourself dry. Put a bit of swing into it and you’re doing the Floss. Now do this dance whenever you’re in a queue, waiting at a shop counter or at teacher’s desk and you’re living like a 12-year-old gamer.

Players can use a headset to really get into the game — more popular ones have a drive-thru-style mouthpiece so you can screech warnings to other gamers. A quirk of these headsets is that the gamer can hear real-life pals clustered around hissing advice and instructions but absolutely have no awareness of a parent repeatedly offering dinner or homework or bedtime reminders.

So there you have it — it’s a game but it’s deadly serious; the whole world is wiped out but it’s not violent; you buy endless ‘stuff’ but end up with nothing to show for it; you hide in bushes and build forts — just not in real life; and the Battlebus horn trumps everything else.

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