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The Best Way to Understand 'Fortnite' Is to Play the Damn Thing

As part of Waypoint's 'Fortnite' Fortnight, we've been checking our assumptions about the biggest video game around. It's been fascinating.

by Patrick Klepek
Apr 12 2018, 3:00pm

Image courtesy of Epic Games

Growing up, I didn’t spend a lot of time with random sets of blocks, letting my mind wander. If you handed me a specific LEGO set, however, I was good. (I’ve long wondered if this is why I breezed through algebra, but struggled to pass geometry.) This helped explain why, despite my best efforts, I was never able to enjoy Minecraft. I respected the hell out of it, knowing what it did so well, but always at a distance. I was always left wondering “Wouldn’t it be cool if Minecraft, but with specific objectives?”

There’s a certain creative spark that’s never been part of my repertoire, and it’s one reason I’ve spent so long treating Fortnite with a similarly distanced respect, figuring it’s not for me. I don't like being asked to put together random blocks. My decision was made easier by all of my friends choosing to stick with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, partially because we’d invested so many hours; partially because it felt a little weird to support a game that was so clearly ripping off the popular thing at the time; partially because the basic mechanics of the game—moving, shooting—didn’t look nearly as fun.

Thing is, I tried Minecraft and realized it wasn’t for me. That’s fine. Not all games are. But a lingering regret is not spending time with World of Warcraft when it was blowing up, so I could wrap my head around it. The game came and went—I know it’s still a thing, but you know what I mean—and I never played World of Warcraft. In recent years, when encountering a series (or game) that’s perplexing, rather than letting assumptions take over, more of than not, I’m rewarded by challenging assumptions.

So, Fortnite.

The past few days, the entire Waypoint staff has been participating in something we’re calling Fortnite Fortnight, in which we play Fortnite every single day for two weeks. Honestly, most of us went into this whole exercise with some low expectations, and in the first 30 minutes of Monday's stream, I wondered if it was all a mistake. The game wasn’t clicking, most of us sounded frustrated and bored. It was day one.

But the concept of Fortnite Fortnight was to stick with the game and get over that hump. The easier choice, in a world where you could be spending your time with any number of great TV shows, movies, and games, is running away.

We started experimenting, screwing around, and trying to give the game space, as we pushed and pulled at the world. Crucially, the audience informed us we didn’t have to worry so much about actually building in Fortnite; as it turns out, creativity isn’t really crucial to victory. Instead, if you map two building items to your mouse—stairs, wall—you can accomplish most tasks needed when playing the game.

It was a big “ah-ha” moment, one that gave me confidence. We had more of them.

Towards the end of the first stream, we had an encounter where each of us was working in tandem, building walls and stairs, and generally engaging in Fortnite’s flow. We quickly died, but it didn’t matter. Amidst the shouting and laughter of fucking up, we were having fun. This happened more often in the second stream, where we’d internalized enough of the mechanics to start deploying our own strategies.

As a round neared the end, we holed up near the ocean, built an enormous fort around ourselves, and decided to wait it out. Everything was working—until a team showed up with rocket launchers and it all came crashing down. And yet, the important takeaway was that we had a takeaway at all.

After the stream was over, I tweeted:

It’s a bit of a goof, yes, but true. After being outright dismissive of Fortnite, we’d started to believe our own bullshit. That’s not to say you’re supposed to like every popular game, but it was an indication that maybe we’d dismissed a game with some merit.

Here’s hoping there’s plenty more to find in the days ahead.

If you’re thinking of getting into Fortnite and playing along with us, there’s a really great forum thread with useful tips that’ll help you understand the game.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. If you have a tip or a story idea, drop him an email: patrick.klepek@vice.com.

Have thoughts? Swing by Waypoints forums to share them!