I’ve been accused of being both a cynic and a contrarian. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I’ll avoid things just because they’re popular. Needless to say, I never paid much attention to FORTNITE.

So imagine my surprise when I tried the game for the first time and couldn’t put it down for a week.

After days of nonstop play, I started to wonder: what makes FORTNITE so enthralling? At first, I thought it was just another fad, a byproduct of the latest bandwagon. But after playing the game, I realized there’s more to it than that. Between the tight mechanics and the upbeat tone, it’s clear that FORTNITE is popular for a reason. It’s just a damned good game.

So how did FORTNITE win me over? What sets it apart from other multiplayer games? What can we learn from all this? Well, let’s take a look!

Elegent Design

I admit, I like complicated games. Sprawling RPGs, massive open worlds, deep narratives, I’m a sucker for depth and immersion.

But there’s an elegance to FORTNITE’s design that sucks me in. It doesn’t need a story. It doesn’t need complex mechanics. Sometimes, all you need is a simple idea with a twist, and that’s what FORTNITE does best.

FORTNITE is THE HUNGER GAMES meets MINECRAFT. Simple. It takes the battle royale genre and combines it with building mechanics.

But the game’s simplicity is deceptive. Every mechanic is deep and versatile. As you play, you quickly catch on to the basics, building towers and ramps in the heat of combat. Each weapon has a purpose, each gadget can be used in multiple ways.

The building mechanics are both intuitive and flexible, allowing for all sorts of strategies. You’re rarely at a hopeless disadvantage. You can always build a few ramps to get the high ground, or a quick fort to protect you from an ambush.

The random nature of the game forces you to adapt to new situations.  You can’t just rely on on a single gun. You always need to adjust your tactics. Sometimes you’ll be stuck with nothing but a grenade and a bush.

FORTNITE
Yes, a bush. Image courtesy of AllGamers.

But there’s always a creative way to use these items to your advantage. In FORTNITE, these simple mechanics synergize with each other, creating an experience that’s both intuitive and deep.

A lot of companies can learn from FORTNITE’s design philosophy. So many developers feel the need to over complicate things. Others think they can just follow the latest trend without advancing the formula at all. But above all, you need to have a vision. Something that raises your game above the competition. The simple depths of FORTNITE keep me coming back.

No Stress, Just Fun

One reason I avoid multiplayer shooters is how intimidating they can be. The gritty tone, the griefing, it all just turns me off. FORTNITE is the antithesis of shooter stereotypes. It’s bright, approachable, and friendly.

Now, considering how difficult the game is, that may be hard to believe. In the main mode, only 1 out of 100 people can win. I’ve been playing the game for a few weeks now. I’ve only one a single solo match.

But believe it or not, FORTNITE’s difficulty makes it more approachable.

Knowing you’re going to lose changes your perspective. It makes the game feel less stressful, less cut-throat. It forces you to set your own goals, to find little ways to improve your strategy each time. Sometimes I just hide until the end of the match, trying to get as close to the top as I can. Other times, I put myself in danger on purpose, just so I can practice the combat. The game is constantly rewarding you for exploring certain areas, finding treasure chests, or completing mini-games. It’s never a discouraging experience.

A Fun-Sized Experience

Matches in FORTNITE can be hilariously short. It’s incredibly easy to get killed in the first few minutes. But within seconds, you can jump back in to another game. In a typical shooter, you can die over and over again, each death embarrassing you further. You need to worry about your kill/death ratio, whether you’re being a drag on the team, and whether all your effort will be for nothing.

In FORTNITE, death is a clean slate. In a matter of seconds, you can just pop into a new game and try again.

Because of the often quick nature of each match, FORTNITE is ideal for people with little time. It’s so easy to play a quick game or two when I’m suffering from writer’s block or when another game has left me frustrated.

I’m used to games that demand hours of your life. Gigantic open worlds that will take weeks to explore. Complex stories and puzzles that challenge your mind. Sometimes, it’s refreshing to play a game that you can enjoy in bite-sized chunks. Sometimes you need a game that puts fun first.

FORTNITE Is One Big Party

But it’s not just the gameplay that draws me in. It’s the tone.

In FORTNITE, every game starts with a party. You begin on a small island surrounded by weapons. It’s supposed to be a quick practice mode before the game starts, but most players just hang around and dance with each other. I haven’t been playing for long, but so far I haven’t seen a single negative emote in the game. You can only interact positively with others. At least, until the guns are drawn.

It might just be an illusion forced on the players, but it works. FORTNITE feels like a laid back party.

FORTNITE
Seen here: the FORTNITE experience. Image courtesy of Variety.

Sometimes in FORTNITE, you’ll find yourself without a  weapon. Maybe you landed in a bad spot, maybe you just have bad luck. Sometimes, all you can do is dance and wait for someone to finish you off. Before you know it, you’ve started a dance party with your enemies. I know I’m going to die, and they know it too, but for a brief moment we’re just having fun with each other. I can’t count the number of times I’ve friended the people who’ve killed me and vice versa.

So many games insist on being dark, gritty, and colorless. Without a shred of personality or humor in their design. The industry assumes this is what we want. They insist on forcing these bland, joyless experiences down our throats. FORTNITE is living proof that there’s a large portion of consumers who want something different. Something bright and cheery and laid-back.

FORTNITE is one big party, and I love it.

The Point

It’s easy for jaded gamers like me to dismiss the latest trends. It’s easy to write-off what’s popular. But there’s a reason people love FORTNITE, and it’s not just the hype.

So many developers try to replicate this success. They jump on the bandwagon, desperate to capture the magic of whatever they’re trying to copy.

But what they don’t understand is that it takes more than a trend to stay relevant. If you don’t advance the formula, if you don’t give your game a personality, if you don’t show me why I should play your game over another, then you’re bound to fade into obscurity. FORTNITE didn’t jump on the bandwagon. It became the bandwagon, and an example more developers should follow.

2 Comments

  1. Alexia Harris

    Alexia Harris

    October 19, 2018 at 9:36 am

    It’s shit, though.

    Reply

  2. Chris Carney

    Chris Carney

    October 19, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Lol no, just no, it’s terrible

    Reply

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