There’s no denying that within the past two decades, video games have encountered an immense surge in their innovation, complexity, and overall graphic appearance. More and more novice gamers have found themselves sucked into this virtual lifestyle, while professionals encounter an increasingly larger stage on which to showcase their talents. In 2018, perhaps no title better exemplifies our rapidly developing video game culture than Fortnite. With over sixty million downloads, the online battle royale game has infiltrated the deepest corners of adolescent and collegiate America. However, not everyone is touched in exactly the same way. While most find it an exhilarating way in which to spend their Friday nights (as well as every other night of the week), Fortnite has had a more novel impact on some of its target audience.
The Daily Californian: Student-writer Joyce Cam utilized Fortnite as an opportunity to affectionately roast various major programs at UC Berkeley. As Cam pens in the piece’s opening paragraph, “because of names such as Snobby Shores and Lonely Lodge, we at the Clog couldn’t help but think that we’d find some of our favorite (and least favorite) UC Berkeley majors residing at these landing spots.”
• Cam explains to reader’s the thought that inspired the metaphor: “Just like UC Berkeley, ‘Fortnite Battle Royale’ is a survival game.” Then if Berkeley had the same infamous landmarks as Fortnite, we come to learn where various students would be camped based on their major. Throughout the article, Cam mentions five Fortnight locations, either admiring or poking fun at the school's different concentrations, though a few in particular stood out.
• Of Snobby Shores, the aforementioned destination, Cam says that it could be no other group than the students of the Haas Business School. “With snake-like tendencies and big egos, Haas rules Salty Springs,” Cam writes, but understands their self-inflation, as they did “[get] into one of the most selective business programs ever. When it comes to Salty Springs, however, “you can mainly find the economics majors who were rejected by Haas but claim that economics was always their first choice.”
• At Lonely Lodge, one will find Berkeley’s Electric Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) students. Cam states simply, “EECS students only need two things for survival: themselves and their codes.” In the northern battle grounds you’ll find Anarchy Acres, and “who else would you find here besides political science majors?” Cam offers explanation, saying that here you can “find every protest that has happened at UC Berkeley, but it’s all happening at once.” Visitors may feel “a little overwhelmed, but overall, [they’ll] feel empowered.”
The Village Idiot: Cornell student Noah Harrelson has been prophetically enlightened by Fortnite as well, though in a manner much different than Cam. Instead, Harrelson sees the game “as an analogy for our worsening environment.”
• Harrelson so modestly opens the article with a disclaimer of sorts: “Now of course I consider myself to be of sophisticated taste, but there comes a time when the cultural fascinations of the heathen masses cannot be ignored.” Initially scoffing at the game, Harrelson came to find that “this proletarian trend could not be ignored.” Soon, the Ivy Leaguer fell into a state of inebriation and shortly thereafter “[entered] the fray.
• After some time falling down the rabbit hole, Harrelson “realized the true purpose of Fortnite,” claiming it to “the most visceral environmental propaganda ever conceived.” Harrelson compares the forts built by player to society’s “mental walls to guard [it] from the endless bombardment of political stimuli.” Of course gamemakers recognized this, utilizing the game as a way to “subconsciously persuade today’s youth about the dangers of climate change.
• First, Harrelson touches on the ambiguity of the ever-growing storm. “For many of us, it is hard to wrap our heads around the reality of our changing climate, and we are stuck with this vague notion of impending doom.”
• Furthermore, Fortnite’s gameplay exemplifies attitudes toward the environment, constantly waffling “between a complete lack of fucks given and an occasional feeling of complete and utter hopelessness.” He says that, in kind, players find themselves at “one moment...chilling in Pleasant Park,” while the next moment they are high-tailing it to the Tilted Towers... – and just like in real life, the more fortunate players lay waiting to take advantage of those forced to move.
• “I’m not trying to suggest that we are literally destroying each other” Harrelson states to close the piece, “but it’s a moot point that our environment is a challenge that requires unity and foresight, not individual action.”
TechCrunch: Though not written by a university publication, this top-notch tech industry publication writes in detail of one particular university’s groundbreaking decision. Matt Burns, a TechCrunch writer, expounds upon an active scholarship for the 2018-19 school year of Ohio’s Ashland University, stating the school “wants to recruit the nation’s best Fortnite players for its varsity esports team, and it’s throwing out the dough to bring on some quality talent.”
• Burns acknowledges the widespread popularity of the battle royale video game, calling its reception “notable.” “It’s one of the most-streamed titles on gaming sites and there are millions of people playing concurrently."
• A school like Ashland, then, with its own collegiate esports gaming team, couldn’t help but share in the excitement. Burns explains that the university “will embrace the feverishly popular battle royale title into its competitive esports program,” offering a $4,000 scholarship for those Fortnite “gamers who want to showcase their skills in a more competitive space."
• Ahland’s esports head coach, Josh Buchanan, said in a release that “Fortnite appeals to both the core and casual gaming audience… [facilitating] an environment that allows players to get creative, innovate and show off their mastery of their skills.”
The Bottom Line:
Fortnite, undoubtedly, has secured its position as one of the hottest millennial trends. As New Yorker author Nick Paumgarten puts it, “the craze for the third-person shooter game has elements of Beatlemania, the opioid crisis, and eating Tide Pods.” Still the game’s cultural impact manifests itself in a myriad of ways. Whether it be a desolate representation of our progressively deteriorating environment, or a catalyst for expansion within the realm of collegiate sports, Fortnite is leaving its mark on the world one way or the other.