It was early June of 2017 when I first learned of Epic Games’ Fortnite — back when the title was still roughly seven weeks out from launching in paid early access, when it was still just a co-op sandbox survival sans-battle royale mode, when I was as deeply entrenched in the gaming world (and its breaking news cycle, more specifically) as Ariana Grande is in the comments section of her fiancé Pete Davidson’s Instagram.
Being a games journalist — more so then than I am now, admittedly — I did a lot of research on Fortnite, learned of its sky-crackling thunderstorms and its hero classes and its oozing-at-the-mouth-and-other-orifices monsters, discovered just how customizable its construction interface was and how varied its weapon-drop locations were. I spoke with other players, gathered up details, and informed others on how to get their Oreo crumb-covered hands on the sought-after crystal weapons. (At least, they were viable then. How coveted are they now?)
And when Fornite developers and director Darren Sugg announced Fortnite Battle Royale and hype for the game subsequently increased at an alarming rate, so quickly and so intensely that the buzz around it went from a tiny bumblebee flapping its wings to a blimp-sized swarm of Japanese hornets forming into the shape of fist in the sky and busting through the games industry’s collective bedroom window like some kind of god-awful insectile Kool-Aid man (“Oh, yeah?” Oh, no!), I tracked what Chang Han Kim, the vice president of Bluehole, the studio behind the other BR juggernaut PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, felt about the situation.
I learned that a player shelled out a grand and a half in less than a week trying to obtain a Mythic Hero, and that, at one point last year, the title reportedly ran smoother on Xbox One consoles than on PS4 and PS4 Pro systems. And just last week, I shared with The Young Folks readers that the average Fortnite player spends as much dough on in-game purchases as I did on a dress to celebrate an upcoming anniversary with my partner.
To say that I know what Fortnite is all about, that I’m pickin’ up all the irresistible weirdness and often over-the-top energy it’s puttin’ down, would be accurate if not a slight understatement. Give me a basic quiz on Fortnite, and I’d likely ace it. I’ve got the proverbial ABCs on lock, stored safely in the pink goo held in by my brain bucket, and can recite them whenever prompted.
What I don’t — didn’t, until very recently — have, however, was the inside experience. I, AJ Caulfield, had never played Fortnite before this past weekend. (Oh, how different I was then — so blissfully unaware of what was yet to come.)
Figuring I should put my money where my mouth is, my butt in my desk chair and my hands where all the game-playing magic happens, I ventured to sink a few spare hours into what’s been heralded as the most widely appealing game since Minecraft, the phenomenon that drew King Soft Boy-Cum-Fuck Boy himself, Drake, onto the Twitch channel of the platform’s single biggest star and went all Kim K., breaking the site and the game-loving section of the internet when 635,000 concurrent viewers tuned in.
Here are 15 (of the many, many) thoughts I had while playing Fortnite for the very first time.
- Alright, time to play some gosh dang Fork Knife. (P.S. Shoutout to my pal-slash supremely-talented-game-dev Jackson for corrupting my brain with that bastardization of the title.) (P.S.S. I never guaranteed any of these thoughts would be of substance and/or importance. I just said that I had them.)
- My main goal is to survive. Surviving is easy! I’ve survived on Earth for almost 24 years. I might have died 10 minutes into gameplay when I tested out PUBG for the first time, accidentally killing myself after I crashed my car into a tree, flung myself through the windshield, and proceeded to run over my body a baker’s dozen times, but I’ve got this. [extremely Ross Gellar voice] I’m fine!
- As a Sims fan since day one, in the days when the finding out the prized motherlode cheat inspired an emotion I can only expect to feel again when I finally pay off my student loan debt, I’m a huge sucker for character customization — the more detailed I can get, the better. Leave me to my own devices, and I will undoubtedly create something that could put the McElroy Brothers and their Monster Factory madness to shame. It’s a total bummer that Fortnite doesn’t offer players the ability to customize their characters — apart from swapping into skins and accessories they’ve purchased.
- I now get why everyone and their entire list of Twitter followers is obsessed with Fortnite skins. JOHN WICK SKIN OR BUST!
- Ms. Frizzle, is that you? The Magic School Bus is quaking.
- Solo mode seems a wee bit too daunting for my first rodeo, so is a default Squad match the way to go? I think a default Squad match is the way to go. (Quoth the gal whose most recent exposure to a battle royale title was PUBG, “Where we droppin’, boys?”)
- It was not the way to go. Rest in spaghetti, never forgetti to me, who came in 34st place after taking a bullet and perishing not long after skydiving down to the battle zone.
- So much for that “just focus on surviving!” attitude.
- Let me give this another shot. I ain’t no quitter. I ain’t no only-better-than-66-percent-of-the-other-players kind of lady.
- [very Mortal Kombat voice this time] Round two: Fight!
- I actually really dig the limited inventory space (so streamlined! fewer things to keep track of!) and the lack of weapon customization. Personally, it grabs and holds my prone-to-drifting attention, allowing me to channel my brain power into trying not to get murked…
- Which I do, this time placing in the top 10. That’s solid for my second go-around and enough to call it quits.
- But I can play more, right, self?
- From the bright, flashy colors to the smatterings of humor to the insane level of replayability to the goofy-but-it-knows-it everything, this game truly works in all the ways its legion of adoring players says it does…
- As evidenced by me diving into another back-to-back round. Consider me a (still learning but very eager to be doing so) new Fortnite fan.