Why I was all wrong about Fortnite

I don’t remember exactly when I started hating Fortnite so much so that it made my flesh perish like Emperor Palpatine, but I think so started around 2018.

2018 was a helluva year for the game.

2018. The year Drake played Fortnite with Twitch streamer Ninja and broke records across the board.

2018. The year I downloaded Fortnite out of curiosity, played one match, was brutally destroyed by what I assumed were obnoxious kids before I promptly deleted the game from my PS4, never to be called up again.

2018 gave me plenty of reasons to hate Fortnite. There was Antoine Griezmann, the French striker who scored a penalty in the World Cup final before tarnishing the sport’s biggest opportunity with a party with Fortnite’s Do the Le emote dance. Four years later, I still haven’t forgiven him.

Nor have I forgiven my son, who – also in 2018 – made the decision, in front of all our friends and family, to go completely naked during a barbecue and run around the garden while doing The Floss.

Fortnite has a lot to answer.

I, in 2018, was wrong about Fortnite.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Since 2018, my son has been begging to play Fortnite, in a language most parents know: “But all my… friends play it all.’ “I promise I won’t ask for V Bucks.” “I certainly won’t talk to weird guys on voice chat.”

But I held back. In front of year. Fortnite was a forbidden word in my household. Mainly because I thought shooters weren’t suitable for kids. And I was concerned about the online communication element.

Also because I thought Fortnite was worthless.

I thought Fortnite was bad, especially in 2018, because it felt like passing the guard. The harbinger of a new type of video game. A monogamous black hole that absorbs all intellectual property and light. Unplayable crap, with microtransactions and endless skins, felt like exploitation, especially for kids. So I played it safe: “No. No chance. Didn’t you hear me the first time? The answer is” no.”

But four years later, in 2022 to be exact, I broke down. All it took was a surprisingly decent report. I nodded and told my now 9 year old son that he could play Fortnite.

And as I watched to make sure everything was going up and down, I found myself shocked. Fortnite looked… sort of awesome.

The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda in Fortnite

Fortnite absorbs all IP into one monogamous black hole. Of course why not.

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I missed it during my first fateful encounter with Fortnite, but I was surprised by how good Fortnite looked. Its clean, colorful aesthetic. I was stunned by the bloat that occurs when a game needs countless, endless updates, but when I watched my son take his first hair-raising steps into a whole new world, I thought to myself — damn, this video game looks fun .

The weapons seemed fun to fire, movement seemed heavy and tangible. It also seemed… suitable for children. at least for mine child, a 9-year-old boy with limited exposure to video game violence. After watching for about 30 minutes, not only was I sure my son would be safe to play this online video game with his friends, I actually wanted to play it myself.

What I did. When the kids were asleep, I fired up the Xbox, logged in, and started playing some games. It was amazing.

Part of the appeal for me was Fortnite relatively new mode No build. Normally, Fortnite allows players to frantically build structures during the game – for defense or traversal. For middle-aged people like me, with deteriorating reflexes and no capacity for change, the building felt overwhelming and terrifying – a whole new world that I had no idea how to navigate. The No Build mode allowed me to focus on the things I was relatively familiar with: shooting people.

And make no mistake, Fortnite is a very polished online shooter.

Like someone forged on the battlefield of old-school shooters, playing Fortnite No Build was a salve. It was also a great opportunity to play video games with my son in a balanced way. One of the most shocking things about parenting yet is how diverse our tastes in video games have become. For my kids it was Minecraft of bust, a game I don’t have the time or patience for. Fortnite is one of the few times we’ve been able to connect through video games.

The first time my son and I played together was legendary. Me, still clumsy with the controls and… general understanding of what the hell was going on; him, insured and in control. It was an interesting role change: my 9-year-old son led me through an online video game experience.

Half way through I was shot; my son resuscitated me and threw me some extra bandages to heal myself. We stuck together for the rest, spotting enemies and picking them out one by one. I had eight kills, he had ten. With only three people left on the map, I wasn’t sure what would happen. Should I kill my own son? damn…

A character in Fortnite wearing sunglasses is surrounded by characters zooming through the sky

The whole aesthetic of Fortnite is very cool. I was wrong there too.

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When the third player emerged from a nearby hideout, my son turned and took him out with some well-timed gunshots. We won! We didn’t have to shoot each other, but were allowed to share in the loot of a Victory Royale. Crazy high-fives all round. Father-son ties strengthened.

It was honestly one of the most satisfying video game experiences I’ve had in years.

So yes, I am a changed man. Fortnite is good.

Do not get me wrong. I have residual problems. I still hate Antoine Griezmann. I still think there is a time and place to participate in Do the L dances and the World Cup final is not one of them.

I still don’t understand why my kid got undressed and did The Floss in my backyard.

I still have issues with the whole V-Bucks economy and the way people are encouraged to buy skins and emotes, but I’ll admit it: I was wrong about Fortnite. 100%.

And at the end of the day, at least my kid isn’t a Roblox man. That’s a win in my book.

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