Games

The Surreal Politics of 'Fortnite' Trying to Parody Apple's '1984' Ad

Did Epic's #freefortnite ad flop, or did they mean it for a different audience than the average Fortnite player?
August 19, 2020, 1:00pm
Screenshot from "Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite," the Bright Bomber skin from Fortnite, characterized by it's bright colors and rainbow shirt, is holding a unicorn pickaxe, standing in a gray drab industrial building flanked by gray avatars sitting in rows, sta
Image courtesy of Epic Games

Of all the legal back and forth happening between Epic Games and Apple over the last week, one of the more bizarre moments was the drop of “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite,” an in-game spoof of Apple’s famous “1984” ad. At the time, Apple was criticizing IBM’s computer monopoly.

Seeing as most Fortnite players were easily born a decade after the ad aired, you have to question the choice to make this specific reference. We discuss the ad, the greater legal and economic ramifications of the lawsuits, “picking a side” when corporations fight, and the games we’re playing on this episode of Waypoint Radio. You can read an excerpt and listen to the full episode below.

Rob: Here's a question for you guys though, are they really weaponizing kids? I look at the ad and I'm like, did that resonate with kids?

Austin: No. I think they're bad at it, but that's their attempt, the goal is to get #freefortnite trending.

Rob: I think that was for politicians.

Austin: I think it's for devs.

Rob: You're either a fuckin' tech nerd who's like "Pirates of Silicon Valley is my favorite fucking movie man, double feature of Pirates of Silicon Valley and Steve Jobs, let's do it."

Patrick: Go read up write ups of Tim Sweeney's politics and you can see an immediate through line to why someone like him would be like "yes the 1984 ad, that's very clever" and [it] falls apart immediately upon any sort of real scrutiny of the politics it's trying to unpack. I mean, maybe it's aimed at politicians, I don't know.

Austin: I think was aimed at journalists, trying to sneak in a story at 4pm on a Thursday. It's catnip to some degrees like "whoa look they're doing the thing!"

Patrick: It's clever, it's just the actual thing they presented was terrible. But when you look back at everything that occurred throughout that day, even though it quickly became clear that this was a piece of performance art to a certain degree, when's the last time we've seen [something like this?] I can pick apart some of their aims and some of the consequences of that, but to my knowledge, I cannot remember the last time I've seen something play out like that.

Austin: No, I absolutely [saw] the wrestling of it, you know what I mean?

Patrick: The spectacle of it.

Rob: You called it a work!

Austin: I did call it a work, it was a work! I did immediately, as soon as the ad went up for the 1984 [video] I was like, "Oh, this is a work." And it's a great gimmick, you know what, the amazing thing of Tim Sweeney [basically] coming out [and] revealing an NWO shirt underneath? Alright, let's go, I'm down. But that doesn't mean that I'm at the same time, recognizing it as a work means then evaluating it on that level and not evaluating it on the level of everyone here is being completely sincere and not that there is no sincerity there.

Patrick: And that's the issue, once it went out, seeing certain members of the gaming community immediately start using that hashtag, like "come the fuck on, what are you? Don’t."

Austin: Yeah I don't want to read other tweets, I'm not going to go down this road, but just know that people out there–

Patrick: No, we're not gonna do this. Do the work yourself!

Rob: I'm just saying, this weekend I was checking out that hashtag and it did not seem like the youths have joined the revolution.

Austin: No, because they don't get the reference, they think it's corny as shit, and all of them want their parents to have jobs again!

Patrick: Also what are the kids supposed to do there is no actual call to action in the video, you're not calling your congressman, what are you supposed to do?

Rob: The sunrise movement but for IPs.

Patrick: That's what I mean! They're almost assuredly on a family account on this app store. Who are they complaining to, are they @ing Apple on Twitter? The kids don't use twitter! They view it on TikTok!

Austin: Tiktok #freefortnite.

Rob: That ad is entirely about Xers and boomers who care about the mystique of Apple and I genuinely think that, unless you're truly delusional, they knew that was not going to resonate with kids but that wasn't the point. The point was to go to people in journalism and people who are considered tech savvy on Capitol Hill by the very loose standards of tech literacy on Capitol Hill, and to point out to them "hey, Apple used to be cool, Apple used to be positioning itself as an innovator against abusive would be monopolies, and now they're just another rent seeking monopoly." And I think that was the only real message of it. If it was meant to bring the kids out in the streets, didn't seem to work.

Ricardo: On TikTok, some of the trending hashtags right now: #Actionlines, 6.7 million views. #rockingincollege 17.5 million views. I say this to establish a baseline. #freefortnite, not technically on the trending list right now, but 90.6 million views.

Austin: Oh, that's all right.

Ricardo: Yeah. So, maybe it's maybe that they're using a different platform.

Austin: I've linked to those hashtags for y'all to peruse at your own pleasure. Some of it is just Fortnite videos.

Ricardo: Yeah, that's the thing, it doesn't actually say anything in the video about it, but they’re using the hashtag, therefore making it seem like there's a lot of people talking about it.


This transcript was edited for length and clarity. Discussed: Epic Sues Apple 1:20, Microsoft Flight Simulator 39:14, Take on Helicopters 1:05:33, Blasphemous 1:14:22, Remnant: From the Ashes 1:18:07, Emails 1:25:29

You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher. If you're using something else, this RSS link should let you add the podcast to whatever platform you'd like. If you'd like to directly download the podcast, click here. Please take a moment and review the podcast, especially on Apple Podcasts. It really helps.

Interaction with you is a big part of this podcast, so make sure to send any questions you have for us to gaming@vice.com with the header "Questions." (Without the quotes!) We can't guarantee we'll answer all of your questions, but rest assured, we'll be taking a look at them.

Have thoughts? Swing by the Waypoint forums to share them!