“Is it a fad or not? Will it still endure in five years’ time,”
December 24, 2018 6:13 AM   Subscribe

How ‘Fortnite’ Conquered Gaming and Mainstream Cultures Like Few Before It [The Ringer] “Fortnite’s continued presence in the spotlight is partly attributable to Epic’s efforts to keep plying players with content; the company has found ways to tell a story in a game that ostensibly lacks one, and it’s continued to add content and tinker with the gameplay. Epic “knows their fan base better than just about any developer out there,” says Dustin Hansen, author of the video-game history book Game On! “They engage with the fans with contests to pick new emotes, they promote popular streams, and their quick response time allows them to jump on trends and topics while the joke is still hot.” The game is also sticky to its core, roping in players with a savvy incentives structure based on nabbing loot; snagging limited-time, status-displaying items; and rewarding skill while still mixing in enough randomness to give lesser players hope.”

• 2018: The Year in Fortnite [The Verge]
“Fortnite was far and away the biggest game of 2018, despite the fact that it actually debuted in 2017. But its rise to full-blown cultural phenomenon wasn’t exactly expected. In fact, the game started its life as a co-operative survival game where players had to work together to build shelters and fight off zombie hordes. But the “Save the World” mode, as it’s known, never really caught on. It wasn’t until Fortnite jumped into the burgeoning battle royale scene last September that it took off. Initially seen as a game chasing the success of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, Fortnite steadily took over the space. Its free-to-play nature, combined with developer Epic Games’ breakneck update pace, allowed the game to flourish, constantly changing in ways both obvious and unexpected. It felt like Fortnite was everywhere in 2018. There were Fortnite dances at the World Cup, the game dominated E3 in Los Angeles, and streamers like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins were turned into overnight celebrities. It’s hard to believe just how much happened in such a short time.”
• How Fortnite Had A Major Impact On The Industry In 2018 [Gamespot][Autoplay Video]
“But just how popular is Fortnite? In June this year, Fortnite reached 125 million players, a figure that grew to 200 million as of November, an increase of 60 percent. This represents strong growth and even more evidence that Fortnite is no fad. There is no word on how the player population breaks down between platforms, but it's easy to find matches everywhere, so you can imagine player figures are high across all systems. Some of Fortnite's other major achievements in 2018 included the game reaching an unthinkable and unprecedented 8.3 million concurrent players, Epic picking up a further $1.25 billion in venture capital funding, and celebrities like Jimmy Fallon, Ellen, and the Saturday Night Live crew riffing on Fortnite during episodes of their shows. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox played the game so much this season that they had to remind themselves to eat. Some of the other notable stories around Fortnite this year include how Fortnite was cited in hundreds of divorce filings and how the mainstream media labeled the game addictive, violence-promoting, and damaging to young people. One story in particular said Fortnite was addictive in the same way that heroin is. It's sad but not surprising.”
• The one that might have changed the games industry forever [PC Games Insider][Autoplay Video]
“Part of the problem with being big is that you are very visible. Fortnite has, in some ways, become something of an epicentre for some of the issues that this industry needs to deal with moving forward. [...] It has changed the conversation around selling games on PC, it is helping bring down the barriers that exist between different platforms, all of which are going to be healthy in the continued growth of the games industry. And yes, it has been the flashpoint for a number of discussions about the potential negativity around video games. We just hope that the industry is nearing the end of its adolescence and, moving forward, we'll be able to have a frank discussion about the fact that video games can be addictive and parents need more guidance when it comes to age ratings. As it stands right now, the games industry is still young, insecure and unable to embrace its own flaws.”
• Fortnite: a parents' guide to the most popular video game in schools [The Guardian]
“If you have children between eight and 18, the chances are you’ve heard of the multiplayer online shooter Fortnite: Battle Royale. Here’s what you need to know. You know a video game has made it when ITV daytime programme This Morning posts on its Facebook page asking parents if their kids are addicted. You can be doubly sure when that post attracts almost 60,000 comments. In this case the game is Fortnite: Battle Royale, a bright, brash multiplayer shooter. It was released last year, and is now one of the biggest online games out there, drawing mounting concern from the mainstream media. With more than 200m players worldwide, the chances are either your children or their friends are already passionate fans. For some, that fandom may well be bordering on obsession.”
posted by Fizz (54 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I feel like in many ways Fortnite has reached peak fidget-spinner. Not sure how much longer they can carry this momentum. I was in a grocery store the other day and there were posters with Ninja on them being sold, the game has truly spread outside of gaming itself.

I'm not a fan of the battle royale genre, so this game does not interest me at all, but I am fascinated by how it has shaped the industry this last year and am watching to see how long it can keep itself going.
posted by Fizz at 6:31 AM on December 24 [7 favorites]


It's impossible to guess as it's only been a year, but I think this may be a long-tail thing rather than a fad and blowout.

League of Legends saw a big ramp-up, and while it feels like it's less popular than before, they're managing the property well (even as their company is an HR trainwreck) and still profitable off that one game 7 years later.

World of Warcraft is running for 13? years now, releasing a new expansion pack every 2 years (with smaller content patches every few months) on a subscription model.

Apparently Guitar Hero is still releasing music and being supported! I learned about this from a friend joking about Guitar Hero and Band of Horses both still being around in 2018.

So yeah, I think we may hit the peak soon as people move on, but it'll probably be stickier than, say, fidget spinners. For one thing, after someone's invested $100 in cosmetic items, they're gonna feel attachment and want to keep coming back to the game. For another, Epic will be incentivized to create in-game events or special modes to keep it fresh. They won't slaughter this golden goose.

The biggest surprise to me about this whole thing was that this "genre" was born so recently. I hadn't paid attention to FPSes, but I would have assumed that the "big map, no respawn, many players" mode would have been technically feasible a decade ago. I understand why it couldn't be done back when I was in college and big into Unreal Tournament, but Battle Royale came out in 2000, and Hunger Games was a movie in 2012.
posted by explosion at 6:44 AM on December 24 [9 favorites]


I mean. A big part of its success is due to stealing from poc content creators and profiting from that theft; the dance emote lawsuits are honestly giving me life.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:18 AM on December 24 [26 favorites]


The biggest surprise to me about this whole thing was that this "genre" was born so recently. I hadn't paid attention to FPSes, but I would have assumed that the "big map, no respawn, many players" mode would have been technically feasible a decade ago. I understand why it couldn't be done back when I was in college and big into Unreal Tournament, but Battle Royale came out in 2000, and Hunger Games was a movie in 2012.

I was going to blame two generations of designing FPS games to console memory limitations, but then MAG had 256 players on the PS3.

I think it's more that the success of COD and Halo just steered publishers down a different path for a while that seemed to limit creativity in FPS design. Both the prior craze of survival games (Dayz) and the current battle royale craze came from ARMA mods, so a niche mod of a niche game. Nowadays publishers are so conservative that they need to be shown there's money before they'll even get out of bed.

Thus COD having a (actually pretty good) BR mode this year.
posted by selfnoise at 7:18 AM on December 24 [3 favorites]


Playerunknown's Battlegrounds was the first shooter I ever played that I enjoyed. My Steam collection is full of stuff like Civ (all of them), Cities Skylines, Kerbal Space Program, Knights of the Old Republic.... so I was very surprised to like PUBG, and while I find Fortnite too cartoony for me, the way Epic has kept in touch with the game players and delivered them what they want (PUBG is pretty horrible at this), I'm not at all surprised it's been a runaway hit.
posted by tclark at 7:25 AM on December 24 [2 favorites]


Battle Royale is a game mode that only works if you have a ton of players, because being able to instantly join a new game when you're eliminated depends on having enough players to be able to quickly matchmake 100 people together. So while it might have been technically feasible to have 100 player Unreal Tournament games, I don't think the playerbase was ever large enough to support a BR mode in a way that wouldn't involve long wait times. This is also the weakness of BR games: they can't be modest successes, they are either mega-hits or failures, because below a critical threshold of active players they enter a vicious cycle of fewer players -> longer waits -> players abandon game.
posted by Pyry at 7:32 AM on December 24 [15 favorites]


Funny - I just heard of Fortnite for the first time last night at a Christmas party. It was my friend’s 13- and 16-yr old sons who told me about it. Then I see it on MeFi less than 10 hours later.

I downloaded the similar PlayerUnknown BattleGrounds two weeks ago and played it twice. The first time, in a team of four (our team won, though I didn’t survive to the end) and then as an individual (which I won). Both times, I was desperately trying to learn the interface as I played.

In the team mode game, I was killed by the zone barrier that contracted faster than I could run. In the second game, I quit trying to master the interface or optimize equipment. Instead, I played the whole game with a .45 pistol, focused on getting to the center of the battle zone so I wouldn’t be zapped by the contracting barrier, while aggressively using cover and concealment. That is, I mostly ran from one hiding place to another. (I’m not familiar with any tenet of sportsmanship that dictates I have to stand up and present a better target for those people trying to kill me.)

I’m not a big FPS gamer, but there is something rather satisfying when opponent after opponent, loaded down with kit, comes round the tree where you’re lying in the grass, or through the door where you’re standing in the corner, and you shoot them six times in the face with a .45 before they can get a good bead on you with their sniper rifle.

That being said, I found it all rather shallow entertainment. The forced timing means there’s virtually no room for strategy; it’s almost all knee-jerk, on-the-fly, reactive tactics. Which adds a sense of urgency to the game, yes, and keeps players in contact. But otherwise it mainly feels like you just fell off a mountain during a rockslide, and are just desperately trying to bounce downward while avoiding the tumbling rocks with minimal damage. It’s an adrenaline rush while it’s happening, but I found it boring after the second game and uninstalled it.

Then again, I found FPS games like Doom and Quake to be tedious and unsatisfying, as well, so what do I know.
posted by darkstar at 7:53 AM on December 24 [9 favorites]


I mean. A big part of its success is due to stealing from poc content creators and profiting from that theft; the dance emote lawsuits are honestly giving me life.

We've had songs telling people how to do the "next big dance" forever. People are *still* doing the Macarena. Popular dances have been easter eggs or features of a lot of games. WoW has them, League of Legends has them.

Dances spread fast onto YouTube and you can't get away from trends like Harlem Shake.

And yes, people of color often are the ones originating or popularizing these dances. But these lawsuits are going nowhere. You can't copyright a dance, and if it's ruled that you can, it'll be a nightmare of lawsuits in the next few years.
posted by explosion at 8:20 AM on December 24 [9 favorites]


I noticed that my nephew spends time building huge structures like he does in Minecraft, I think this is also part of its appeal.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:21 AM on December 24 [2 favorites]


There is a thread about the dance lawsuit(s) if anyone wants to read more. It looks like no one has commented in a couple of weeks though.
posted by ODiV at 8:29 AM on December 24 [4 favorites]


You can't copyright a dance,

The U.S. Copyright Office disagrees with you.

"The Copyright Act provides in section 102(a)(4) for copyright protection in “pantomimes and choreographic works” created after January 1, 1978, and fixed in some tangible medium of expression.1"
posted by haileris23 at 8:29 AM on December 24 [10 favorites]


The kid unwraps an Xbox in approximately 21 hours from now, so this is my life for the next two weeks. (Years, actually. Who am I fooling?)

He's late to the party and knows he is, since this is pretty much anything any middle-schooler has talked about for the entirety of 2018. I spent the morning chaperoning a group of them to the zoo, and I can verify this first-hand.

I'd rather he play Fortnite than some of the other more violent FPSes like Call of Duty and whatnot. He's too old for Splatoon, which was his previous favorite. I loved that game.

I think the Battle Royale play mechanic is neat, but to me it's an evolution of the whole "king of the hill" mentality that appeals to players. Remember when the winner of Mortal Kombat (arcade version) got to stay on and play the next paying challenger for free?
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:38 AM on December 24 [3 favorites]


Right, you can copyright "choreographic works." A dance routine can be copyrighted, but dance steps can't.

The link in ODiV's comment is a pretty good discussion.
posted by explosion at 8:40 AM on December 24 [2 favorites]


Apparently Guitar Hero is still releasing music and being supported!

Just FYI, Guitar Hero =/= Rock Band. Rock Band developed by independent studio Harmonix is the game you linked to that is still getting DLC.

Activision closed the DLC store for the original Guitar Hero in 2014. Their attempt to reboot the franchise in 2015 wasn't very successful and they closed the online store to get new content in 2017 although maybe you can still get new songs for the mobile iOS version?
posted by straight at 8:40 AM on December 24 [2 favorites]


Joezydeco I reaaaaaly hope you applied all the xbox software updates before you wrapped it!
posted by Faintdreams at 8:42 AM on December 24 [6 favorites]


Fortnite reminds me of Minecraft. About the same demographic, and it's everywhere for a while. And then it tails off, sells for $billions, and more or less fades away over time.
posted by cowcowgrasstree at 8:46 AM on December 24 [1 favorite]


He's too old for Splatoon, which was he previous favorite.

You should tell him a lot of your cool grown up friends really like Splatoon.

(Okay, that strategy might not work on a youth.)

darkstar, I'm really interested to know what you played PUBG on. A 100% win rate across someone's first two games is incredible. That plus an immediate uninstall has to be some kind of record.
posted by ODiV at 8:47 AM on December 24 [11 favorites]


I haven't played Fortnite in weeks, mainly because I just suck at it and am trying to play it on a laptop with a USB game controller which makes me suck extra extra. If I'm going to play a game, it has to be something I can play on a laptop while sitting on a couch in 20-40 minute increments because I am tired and old and busy and man that's a hard niche to fill. Fortnite almost gets me there. If I had an actual console, it would be all the way there. I don't give a shit about the emotes or costumes or shit you have to pay for, but the actual game play I totally get the appeal of.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:16 AM on December 24


Battle Royale is a game mode that only works if you have a ton of players, because being able to instantly join a new game when you're eliminated depends on having enough players to be able to quickly matchmake 100 people together.

So ... yes, but: 100 is an arbitrary number. Being triple digits, it psychologically feels better than 99 or 90 or 80, but having played over a thousand hours of PUBG I can tell you that it's not really real. You will never interact with more than ~25 players in a match (and often far fewer). The difference in a PUBG game that starts with 100 players vs 80 players is that in the latter there's 20 people who die in the first couple minutes and otherwise have no impact on the game.

In that vein, I will give a shout-out to IMHO the best Battle Royale game going right now, Ring of Elysium. It's only 60 players, but the map size is appropriate for it, and you don't miss the other 40 dead bodies you'd never have seen anyways. It's basically: what if PUBG, but a lot of quality of life improvements, and also some of the unnecessary complexity sanded off, and also midgame tedium reduced (shorter rounds by ~5m or more), and also has game-changing and super fun movement mechanics (3 distinct classes -- hang-glider, snowboarder, climber/zipliner). Also free to play. I've been enjoying the hell out of it, and haven't played PUBG in months as a result.

Fortnite? I kinda wish I liked it. I've tried it a few times. I'm not a fan of the building mechanic, which means there's a big chunk of the game that I don't enjoy, so I bounced out pretty quickly. But, I get why it's popular, even if it's not for me.
posted by tocts at 9:30 AM on December 24 [2 favorites]


I started playing Fortnite BR back in June and the contant updates were great at first. Then I added StW to the mix and it felt like I needed to play 3-4 hours a day just to keep up*. I've been on an involuntary hiatus for 4 weeks now and I'm partly relieved that pressure is gone. But also disappointed in all the stuff I'm missing.

*The completionist in me wants to get all the daily and weekly challenges/items.
posted by zinon at 9:31 AM on December 24 [1 favorite]


Fortnite reminds me of Minecraft.

Yeah, but Minecraft was a megasuccess by charging 100 million people $20 a pop to play their amazing game.

Fortnite is a megasuccess by letting everyone play free and then doing an astonishingly good job of making players want to spend money to look cool while they do it.

Epic isn't a games company. It's a fashion company. A virtual fashion company. From an economic perspective, the game is just a virtual mall or nightclub or school playground -- a place to see and be seen.
posted by straight at 9:31 AM on December 24 [24 favorites]


A virtual fashion company.

So are we finally getting the VR 'Oasis' environment/world that works for people? Can we live there? sounds like it from the Fortnight jokes on Kimmel.
posted by sammyo at 9:51 AM on December 24 [1 favorite]


pic isn't a games company. It's a fashion company. A virtual fashion company. From an economic perspective, the game is just a virtual mall or nightclub or school playground -- a place to see and be seen.

100% THIS! I think the real winner here is how they've leveraged the game into more of a social experience. I mean sure, getting a headshot is a lot of fun but sharing that headshot with your friends that is the selling feature, that and the emergent gameplay element, where anything can happen, where even mistakes are enjoyable, I think this is what really makes it such a success.
posted by Fizz at 9:54 AM on December 24 [3 favorites]


World of Warcraft is running for 13? years now, releasing a new expansion pack every 2 years (with smaller content patches every few months) on a subscription model.

I saw a long Twitter thread the other day where some writer opined that Fortnite was the new third place for kids and I went a little crazy. I've read that exact same story about WoW and every other MMO, and to see it come back as if this is a fresh thing is maddening. Fortnite is 10x bigger than WoW, but it isn't sui generis (especially given that PUBG and Minecraft are still going concerns). (Does TF2 still exist?)

The story wasn't wrong but it isn't complete. Grump grump grump.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:55 AM on December 24 [1 favorite]


Fortnite reminds me of Minecraft. About the same demographic, and it's everywhere for a while. And then it tails off, sells for $billions, and more or less fades away over time.

eventually it goes on to a ceaseless undeath as completely decontextualized merchandise -- see the Five Nights At Freddy's plush in the claw machine at your local grocery store
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:57 AM on December 24 [4 favorites]


Does TF2 still exist?

TF2 still regularly cracks the top 10 concurrent players among all games on Steam. It has reinvented itself repeatedly, and if you haven't played recently you will find parts you remember and parts that are baffling (I go back every few years and it's a real trip), but fundamentally yeah, it still exists.
posted by tocts at 9:57 AM on December 24 [2 favorites]


I remember Raph Koster once hypothesizing that the ultimate evolution of MMOs was Facebook. You wait until they a version of Facebook with hats, cheebos, dance emotes, and a giffable interactions. (Or is that Snapchat or TikTok already? )
posted by Going To Maine at 9:58 AM on December 24 [2 favorites]


TF2 still exists but Overwatch is kind of TF2 The Next Generation, the WoW to TF2's Everquest, if you follow me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:06 AM on December 24 [1 favorite]


Overwatch! The one I always forget despite it being a huge success.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:09 AM on December 24


darkstar, I'm really interested to know what you played PUBG on. A 100% win rate across someone's first two games is incredible. That plus an immediate uninstall has to be some kind of record.


I downloaded the app and played it on my iPad (5th gen), connected via WiFi to my router.

I should say, in the second game I played, I was shot many times during the game. But the players I was killing kept dropping bulletproof vests/helmets and whatever that health food/drink stuff was, so I was able to withstand a body shot or two from an opponent before I was able to headshot him a few times with the .45 and then get my health back after he expired.

The kids I was talking to last night were more astounded that I won with a .45 pistol. I’m not sure if this strategy is sustainable, and it may have been a fluke, but it worked surprisingly well.
posted by darkstar at 10:14 AM on December 24 [2 favorites]


I’ve been seeing the idea of Fortnite as a place, or even a third space, and I think it makes a lot of sense.

I’ve played it once or twice, but the above articles make me want to experiment with playing with friends across the world and go on a walk together - to treat it like second life, jumping around, doing things, while catching up on life and how they’ve been doing lately.
posted by suedehead at 11:43 AM on December 24 [2 favorites]


IME you get like thirty seconds of that "third space" stuff before you have to start running in panic from an electrical storm. While you are running, a nine year old will shoot you in the head.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:00 PM on December 24 [17 favorites]


see the Five Nights At Freddy's plush in the claw machine at your local grocery store

I’m still not fully over Angry Birds ceasing to be the thing
posted by Apocryphon at 12:45 PM on December 24 [6 favorites]


Fortnite is a megasuccess by letting everyone play free and then doing an astonishingly good job of making players want to spend money to look cool while they do it.

Epic isn't a games company. It's a fashion company. A virtual fashion company. From an economic perspective, the game is just a virtual mall or nightclub or school playground -- a place to see and be seen.


That tracks with what I’ve heard about parents observing thier middle schoolish aged kids playing the game - it’s much more about hanging out, catching up, etc then about actually playing the game. Minecraft as a similar “virtual hang out space “ vibe but not quite as ....monetized
posted by The Whelk at 2:08 PM on December 24 [1 favorite]


"In June this year, Fortnite reached 125 million players, a figure that grew to 200 million as of November, an increase of 60 percent. This represents strong growth and even more evidence that Fortnite is no fad."
"If this trend continues… AAY!"
posted by Pinback at 2:37 PM on December 24 [1 favorite]


Fyi PUBG mobile puts you against bots for your first games - sounds like it's common to win your first game.
posted by xiw at 4:11 PM on December 24 [2 favorites]


Quite possibly so. This article repeats similar results, though unconfirmed. Even if they’re not all bots (some of them definitely behaved human), having a nevertheless large percentage of bots to give beginners a (false) sense of their aptitude would definitely explain two victories in two games.
posted by darkstar at 4:28 PM on December 24


For a while the top row of the "Just For You" screen in my PS4's store was a row of games it was suggesting "because you played Fortnite". I've never even tried the thing on any platform.
posted by egypturnash at 7:10 PM on December 24


From studying Minecraft players, Fortnight seems not so much a fad as a continuation of a trend, which I believe is accurately described as games acting as social platforms in addition to their strict as-written mechanics. Minecraft did this by being (almost by accident) very moddable, and also having an engine that supports lots of different types of play. A Minecraft player could hop between casual building, roleplaying, competitive FPS, and huge economy simulation game styles within a few hours online. Players were also directly involved in building the server and software infrastructure for those experiences, with people maintaining similar groups across servers and outside social media. All of that combined meant that you could maintain a stable social circle and move between lots of play experiences interleaved with deep social connections as well.

In a similar fashion to Facebook and Twitter taking various aspects of personal blogging software and wrapping it in approachable pre-rolled sites, I think that Fortnight has taken the wild-west nature of Minecraft (e.g. hackers outright stealing poorly secured servers from other people), and tamed it. Successful mobile platform implementation is also pretty huge, since it means that your game follows you instead of staying locked in a beefy computer (which thanks to Minecraft's spaghetti code was required when I was following the game more actively). Fortnight also seems to have recognized all of the fun personalization of Minecraft and both reduced the labor required to get that level of customization, as well as comodofying it with the F2P model (like, I remember people selling custom skins on Minecraft forums when I was researching them in the early 2010's, but that also requires several additional steps to just buying some fun bucks and then clicking 'purchase' on a cosmetic you like). One of FN's biggest public missteps so far has been the level of IP theft inherent in that commodification, though. A player making a free skin from pop culture and putting it onto an online database (or even charging another person like $3 for it) is one thing. A company making hundreds of thousands of dollars off of stolen content is another.

One thing that I didn't see mentioned in the articles above that I read (but may very well have missed) is that Battle Royale as a genre seems like a direct descendant from the Minecraft mod "Hunger Games". As you'd expect, Hunger Games servers drop players into a battlefield which is littered with hidden treasure and then starts a last man standing battle mode with (for the time) massive player bases. I remember seeing some upward of 30 or so, but I'm sure you could get more on a powerful server. That was easily one of the biggest competitive modes of Minecraft I observed during my time studying the game, and so much of that seems carried over to (first) PUBG and then more successfully FN (which also takes the conceits of crafting and basebuilding). I'd probably be pretty fucking salty if I was the person who programmed the first Hunger Games mod for free to see the idea turning into a huge industry.

Another aspect of this is that games are simply becoming bigger and more important, and also (one hopes) more culturally neutral. Twitch and esports are both certainly feeding into this, as are mobile platforms getting strong enough to support a game like Fortnight. Even with FN being the current massive trend, ancient games like CS:Go and TF2 still draw decent audiences. Indie single players like Stardew Valley can find a niche to be massively successful. Maybe the best way to think of it is that games are finally (blessedly) becoming less special - Fortnight isn't interesting because it's a game, and being a game doesn't give it an edgy cultural cache, but instead beause it's a good social platform. The game might even substantially change (as it seems Fortnight Creative is trying to do). To anyone who's sick of games being an unique cultural thing, I think it's a change that can't come soon enough: make everyone a player, and make playing just a normal thing.
posted by codacorolla at 8:47 PM on December 24 [3 favorites]


Battle Royale as a genre seems like a direct descendant from the Minecraft mod "Hunger Games". As you'd expect, Hunger Games servers drop players into a battlefield which is littered with hidden treasure and then starts a last man standing battle mode with (for the time) massive player bases. I remember seeing some upward of 30 or so, but I'm sure you could get more on a powerful server.

Battlefield 1942 has very large multilayer battles waaaay before Minecraft, tho I believe they had respawns.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:05 PM on December 24 [1 favorite]


I'd probably be pretty fucking salty if I was the person who programmed the first Hunger Games mod for free to see the idea turning into a huge industry.

The games industry has a long history of making millions of dollars swiping ideas from free player-developed mods.

Capture the Flag in a first-person shooter? Started as a Quake mod. Class-based team deathmatch like TF2 & Overwatch? Based on Team Fortress Quake mod. DOTA? Based on fan-made Warcraft 3 mod. Counter-Strike? Originally a Half-Life mod.

Fortnite can trace its influences back to PUBG, which was originally a fan-mod of DayZ which was originally a fan mod of ARMA2 (and, as you say, PUBG drew from other previous king-of-the-mountain fan mods).
posted by straight at 1:39 AM on December 25 [7 favorites]


Another aspect of this is that games are simply becoming bigger and more important, and also (one hopes) more culturally neutral. Twitch and esports are both certainly feeding into this, as are mobile platforms getting strong enough to support a game like Fortnight.

Yeah if you follow the online right/alt-right/these damn Nazis you’ll know how Extremly I,portent twitch and gaming YouTube are for recruitment and how these these active efforts to have either leftist or just anti-nazi, anti-Semitic streamers (and how they become uh, the intense fixation of the online right) because streaming and games is where ...all the people are.
posted by The Whelk at 3:25 AM on December 25 [2 favorites]


The games industry has a long history of making millions of dollars swiping ideas from free player-developed mods.

Capture the Flag in a first-person shooter? Started as a Quake mod. Class-based team deathmatch like TF2 & Overwatch? Based on Team Fortress Quake mod. DOTA? Based on fan-made Warcraft 3 mod. Counter-Strike? Originally a Half-Life mod.


Uhh, 'swipe' is a loaded term here. Back when Valve made games instead of perching like a vulture on the industry, they had a track record of hiring mod and student teams who made interesting games and employing them to make full versions, including three of your four examples. Cloning is a problem in the games industry, but it's also the way that ideas get refined. While Minecraft started life as an Infiniminer reimplementation, it developed its own identity and then, later, got really big. The original developer of Infiniminer is doing okay - he's the guy who makes games like Spacechem, Shenzhen I/O and Exapunks.
posted by Merus at 4:47 AM on December 25 [4 favorites]


Yeah if you follow the online right/alt-right/these damn Nazis you’ll know how Extremly I,portent twitch and gaming YouTube are for recruitment and how these these active efforts to have either leftist or just anti-nazi, anti-Semitic streamers (and how they become uh, the intense fixation of the online right) because streaming and games is where ...all the people are.

I'm not sure if you played games before Twitch became prevalent, but there was certainly no shortage of Nazis in game-related spaces before that.
posted by codacorolla at 1:59 PM on December 25


Yeah, I feel like the internet has revealed more than it created in that regard.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:53 PM on December 25


So, part of the draw of FPS games generally is that they're pretty for stroking egos. The action is fast, the weapons are powerful, the characters are relatively fragile (compared to their predecessors like Doom and Unreal Tournament).

So if you're a young toxic male idiot, you can jump in and feel like a real badass if you're decent at the game. Plus there are plenty of things to blame failures on besides yourself. If you rack up high kill:death ratio or are the top scorer on the winning team you've just proven to everyone that you're the most manly man and are just plain better than everyone else. If not, they were cheating, the server rules are dumb, that guy used a cheap weapon/tactic, snipers ruined the game, there was lag, the devs buffed/nerfed something or other, etc. and that's what prevented you from demonstrating that you're better than them.

With battle royal games you get to do the same thing but now there's just one winner and 99 people you beat.

At least with PUBG (I don't care for Forenite's art style mostly) avoiding combat at all costs tends to be the most successful tactic but the streams that get the most viewers are the ones that win with the most kills.

And yeah, the nazis have been recruiting in games for as long as these games have had chat and violence.

PS: I'd be remiss if I commented in a games thread without plugging the MeFightclub, join our discord server and chat!
posted by VTX at 6:07 PM on December 25 [1 favorite]


I mean, yeah I’ve played games online for a while I know about the Nazi and reactionary element, I’ve read “Chber Racsim” (2009) which discussed storefront actions into web forums and recruitment drives - but the key thing is, unlike then, twitch and gaming YouTube channels weren’t outperforming TV for certain demographics.
posted by The Whelk at 7:25 PM on December 25


I watched a few ~13 year olds playing this at a party a couple of months back. I said something about the flying bus drop reminding me of Half Life's introductory monorail/gondola thingy, thus rendering me so lame as to be invisible from there on in.

I was quite surprised by just how bad at it they were. They'd just run around at random, paying no attention to cover or where other players might be, just hoping to stumble onto some powerful item or another. And then bang someone would shoot them dead and they'd pass the controller on and the next kid would get a go.

I didn't get a go, but I'm pretty sure camping under a bush and shooting people in the kneecaps (as @darkstar describes above) would be regarded as unsporting behaviour and hogging the controller besides. After a while I wandered off and watched the 7 year olds teaching each other how to floss and macarena instead.
posted by nickzoic at 2:03 AM on December 26 [1 favorite]


(Okay, that strategy might not work on a youth.)

darkstar, I'm really interested to know what you played PUBG on. A 100% win rate across someone's first two games is incredible. That plus an immediate uninstall has to be some kind of record.
posted by ODiV at 10:47 AM on December 24 [10 favorites +] [!]


100% without looking he played on mobile and they were all idiot bots designed to let him win. https://www.polygon.com/2018/3/22/17142692/pubg-mobile-bots
https://kotaku.com/pubg-mobile-players-are-pretty-sure-the-game-is-full-of-1823936661

Sorry for ruining Christmas.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:07 AM on December 26


I should have made it more clear that by no means does everyone play FPS and/or Battle Royale games just to stroke their egos, just that a significant and loud portion of the player base does.

For me one of the big draws to the Battle Royale format is that, all other things being equal, winning a round is so much more difficult than with two teams. Since my odds of winning the match are 1/100 instead of 50/50 I don't really worry about trying to win. It's less of a contest and more of a story generator. Like the time one of my fellow MeFighters was excited that he'd found a motorcycle (and he LOVES riding motorcycles) but the artillery that the game fires into the randomly chosen "red zone" made a direct hit on the bike just as he was running up to it.

Or just the other day when dropped into a an area that ended up being busier than I'd hoped. I couldn't find a gun so I ran away. Another player chased my down with an assault rifle and two grenades and I somehow managed to punch him to death.

The real prize really is the friends we made and the stories we generated along the way.

Also, while white supremacists have been using videos games to recruit angry young men for a good long while, Twitch and Youtube have made it much easier to cast a wider net.
posted by VTX at 7:43 AM on December 26


Epic isn't a games company. It's a fashion company. A virtual fashion company. From an economic perspective, the game is just a virtual mall or nightclub or school playground -- a place to see and be seen.
So they realized the promise of Second Life?
posted by doctornemo at 10:52 AM on December 26 [1 favorite]


So, this is what all the kids of Marathon players are up to?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:40 PM on December 27


"I mean. A big part of its success is due to stealing from poc content creators and profiting from that theft; the dance emote lawsuits are honestly giving me life."

Seems like a pretty narrow view. The dances in the game come from a variety of sources. Morally, I don't think anyone has a right to those movements. Under capitalism, I'm not sure with how the law works in this regard (and I can assure you I do not like the state of any element of trademark, copyright, and patent law which are blatantly corrupt and in an anti-human state atm), but it still feels disingenuous to paint their dances as if they're going around looking for POC to steal dances from -- they're looking for popular and iconic dances that people like and are familiar with -- and perhaps have "stolen" the dances by trying to do them themselves at some point.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:09 PM on January 3


So, I decided to re-download PUBG again and play again. It’s a fun game!

First, the early levels aren’t populated by all bots. There may be some, but many of the opponents were clearly human-acting. I suspect, though, that the early levels are populated predominately with noobs. So winning is easier.

The difficulty definitely shifted into higher gear after about 10th level. It seems like I was encountering some extremely skilled opponents. Telltale signs of very high level play: circle-strafing, run-jump-firing, and highly developed sniper tactics.

These high-competency tactics are visible because of the very cool feature of the game which allow you, once killed, to see through the eyes of your killer, and then their killer, and so on. I’ve learned a lot just spectating enemies like this after I’ve been eliminated.

One frustration is that you can drop into an apartment complex and scour through a whole building and find no firearms, or perhaps only a revolver. By which time, other players have found body armor, automatic weapons and 4x scopes. If you manage to survive the first 30 seconds, it makes the next 20 minutes an exercise in frenzied running from cover to cover to avoid getting mowed down.

I just finished a “season” with 63 games, with just over 50% placing in the top ten, winning five games outright. It seems like I’m picking up a new tip or trick each game I play. The latest: don’t jump from a speeding vehicle!

I’ve only played in Erangel, but looking forward to trying out the other environments.
posted by darkstar at 9:48 PM on January 5


« Older Let buttons pop and colons strain; it's (almost)...   |   The Soulful Strings deliver a groovy Christmas Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.