When “Fortnite” came out last September, I knew that it would be one of the best games of the year. Last fall, my brother called me into his room to check out this epic, newly released battle royale game where you jump out of a flying bus, glide down onto a cartoon island with 100 other players and duke it out until you’re the last one standing. Back in this stage of the game, “Fortnite” only contained a handful of simple weapons, including the assault rifle, submachine gun and the beloved pump shotgun.
I watched my brother play this oddly fantastic-looking game as he ran circles around other players, popping off precision shots with his assault rifle, eliminating his enemies with ease, but he still hadn’t won a game.
I, however, being just an average, casual gamer and bona fide smart a–, said, “Here, gimme that controller, I’ll show you how it’s done.”
He handed me the Xbox controller, clammy with sweat from intense combat, and I played “Fortnite” for the first time ever. I watched my character skydive out of the Battle Bus, and I landed on some random group of houses where I found a gray submachine gun. Little did I know that another player was right around the corner of an adjoining building, armed and ready.
I turned that corner where he crouched, waiting for me, and I saw him aim his rifle toward me. I sprayed bullets at him like a mad man, hitting him once or twice. While I reloaded what was apparently the worst gun in the game, the other guy built a wooden ramp, hit me with a few well-aimed shots and, before I could respond, the word “Eliminated” was emblazoned across the TV screen. In the span of about 30 seconds, I dove out of a flying bus, engaged in what was probably cringe-worthy but riveting combat and died.
It was the most fun I had while playing a video game in a long time.
After that, I was hooked for a while. I would team up with my brother and a couple of his friends online and fight against other squads, sometimes for hours at a time. Back then, everyone was just getting the hang of building their complex forts. I, on the other hand, was still learning how to shoot straight during a firefight.
I never was a talented gamer, and “Fortnite” gave me the most trouble because of how far ahead on the learning curve everyone else seemed to be. Most of the games with my much more skilled teammates consisted of me getting eliminated from the match pretty early on while I sat on my phone looking at memes until the next match started. That’s how most of my “Fortnite” experiences went.
After a while, I got bored of being awful at this game that everyone else seemed to be getting so much better at. The only real fun part for me was the fact that I could talk to friends in the Xbox party, but my excitement over the actual gameplay slowly turned into frustration, so I decided to put down the controller for a few days.
When I did come back to the game, I was on top of it. The majority of the shots I fired actually hit my targets, I consistently eliminated other players and I even clutched a win as a lone survivor after the rest of my squad were eliminated. In order to get better at “Fortnite” as a whole, it looked like all I needed was a break from the game to reflect on what I had learned from my mistakes during gameplay. With my skills sharpened and excitement rekindled, I felt ready to deal some serious damage alongside my squad on the animated battlefield.
But then, during a normal fight with another team, a disco ball suddenly appeared over my character’s head as he proceeded to dance around to some horrible music that randomly played over my speakers, completely outside of my control. While my character was in the middle of his forced yet funky dance break, someone on the enemy team took him out with a swift sniper shot.
“What the hell just happened?” I asked my brother while tossing my headset at the Xbox. Apparently, I had just been hit with a “Boogie Bomb,” literally, a bomb that makes your character boogie in the middle of an intense firefight. When I played “Fortnite” just days before, this Boogie Bomb didn’t exist, but now, someone used it to wipe me out of the game.
For many months, Epic Games has been cranking out content updates that can change the way players engage in combat, which, for many players, is a great aspect of the game. Introducing new weapons and even new game modes to “Fortnite” keeps the gameplay fresh and interesting. The kinds of content updates that the game designers have made in the past range from adding that silly little Boogie Bomb to offering a game mode in which you can play as Thanos from the “Avengers: Infinity War” movie.
For players like me, however, this is the underlying cause of much of the frustration that occurs when I feel like I just can’t improve at the game. As you could probably tell, I’m not a very good gamer. I like to casually play if I have some free time and if I know my friends will be playing too. I am in no way, shape or form an expert at “Fortnite” let alone any other game that isn’t frequently changing with significant updates. Because my gaming sessions are often sporadic, it’s intrinsically difficult for me to adapt to each feature of the ever-changing gameplay.
It seems as though the creators of “Fortnite” target their content to an audience that is generally able to devote a significant amount of time into their game, which is a valid target audience because many people do. As a result, the designers need to constantly come up with ways to keep the game feeling new and exciting for these gamers, and for the past year it looks like this strategy has been pretty successful.
But in a game where the only objective is to be the last one standing, the average Joe who just wants to pick up the controller every once in a while to have some fun with friends is often left swimming in an ocean of strange new weapons, defeated and discouraged.