I watch the Fortnite trailers every time a new one drops because they’re so extremely my jam. I love the cartoony graphics and the confident mixture of action and humour – actually funny humour too, which is rare for a video game. I also love Lara Croft, who made her Fortnite debut in the most recent trailer, as well as the iconic Croft Manor that will also be coming to the game soon. I adored Croft Manor in the earlier games, and it’s a shame we spend so little time there in the most recent trilogy. I’d love to spend more time roving around there soon… but I won’t. Because I don’t like Fortnite.
This is not some contrarian “bah, Fortnite is just for kids” take. Crash Team Racing is my most played PlayStation game for God’s sake. Describing one of (if not the) most popular games on the planet as a kid’s game – or worse, a dead game – is absurd. My feelings towards Fortnite have nothing to do with its fanbase or popularity, I just can’t get on board with what Fortnite is. This isn’t even a moralistic, microtransaction-influenced position. I just don’t like online battle royales. Scratch that, I barely like online shooters, and battle royales might be my least favourite of the lot.
I’ve always been more of a single player gal, but I can still roll with online stuff. Crash Team Racing, for example, or FIFA, but I’ve also put a decent amount of time into shooters like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Titanfall, Valorant… I still play online shooters, and I mostly play them by myself, but I prefer being in a team. I prefer a clear goal, simple rounds, and most importantly, being able to respawn when you die. I know not all games have that – Valorant, for one – but I don’t feel so completely out for the count in those games as I do in Fortnite. Yeah yeah, git gud and all that, but I don’t really want to. I’m good at other games, games I can play through to completion in around 20-40 hours, see everything there is to see, then move on to the next adventure. People who sink 250 hours into the same shooter don’t really get that experience. Obviously, they’re not looking for it, but I am – and that’s why I’m never going to git gud at these service shooters.
Okay, so I don’t like Fortnite, but what else is new? Here’s the thing though – I actually love Fortnite. I don’t watch trailers for other shooters, not even the ones I play occasionally. But I always watch the Fortnite trailers, because I love thinking about the game it could be. I’ve said something similar about Overwatch, but I feel quite differently about them. With Overwatch, I love the idea of the game, since I enjoy the personalities of the characters, but I don’t really want it to change. Overwatch’s characters are great because they give you just enough to feel like fully established people, but hold back enough to let you project onto them. It strikes a perfect balance, and that’s why turning it into a single-player game or offering up more narrative would probably be a mistake. But Fortnite doesn’t use well-drawn character outlines, it uses iconic, established characters that we’ve known for years. Lara Croft might be the latest, but there’s also Iron Man, Mystique, Harley Quinn, Ryu, Sarah Connor, Predator, Chun-Li, Ellen Ripley, Rey, John Wick… and that’s on top of the more Overwatchy original characters like Jonesy or Peely.
I get that they’re not really characters, they’re skins, and that’s why I feel very differently about Fortnite and Overwatch, despite my opinions feeling very similar. I think a single-player adventure with Fortnite’s tools could be spectacular, because what other game in history has access to characters like this? It goes way beyond something like Smash – there, the characters are specifically limited to video games, and they basically just punch each other. Fortnite takes from wherever it chooses, and offers up an open world. Fortnite is more like Ready Player One, except it isn’t constantly winking at you whenever it references something cool or obscure. Fortnite is plastic. It’s the box of action figures you played with when you were a kid. It wouldn’t surprise me if Action Man or Barbie made their way into the game before long, in all honesty.
We’re getting a new single-player event pretty soon, which could be the start of Fortnite realising it has unrivalled potential thanks to all of these licenses, and that spending them solely on a battle royale is bound to exclude some people, despite Fortnite’s runaway popularity.
Fortnite grew into this position of pop culture dominance fairly organically, initially starting out with generic skins and unlockable dances. Stuff like that was never going to get me on board, but now that I see how far it has come, I feel a little bit of regret at jumping in initially. Not only would it now be an uphill struggle to git gud, I don’t have enough of the in-game currency to run around Croft Manor as Harley Quinn, Mystique, or Ellen Ripley – a scenario so perfect that I can only assume the developers have invented some sort of brain scanning technology and have used it on me personally. Perhaps it’s just that Fortnite is now so universal – even if its genre is not – that practically everybody feels that way. Having Kratos, John Wick, or Ryu in the game does little for me, but I can only assume that gunning down Predator with a machine gun while playing as Ryu is as perfect for somebody else as Harley Quinn wreaking havoc in Croft Manor is for me.
I think there’s so much more potential in Fortnite, but considering how popular and profitable it is, maybe Epic is just fine with how Fortnite is doing without my input. But as it takes a step into solo play, I hope it realises that Fortnite’s licensing, popularity, and budget offer it a chance to create some game modes that could be nothing like we’ve ever seen in gaming. I get that it’s fun to dump these characters on an island and just make them fight each other, but there’s so much more that could be done too.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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