There has been a lot of controversy around the similarities between free-for-all arena battle games like Epic’s Fortnite and the subgenre’s de-facto father, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). Still, there are plenty of differences between the titles that keep gameplay unique and experiences fresh from product to product and match to match.
One of the things PUBG has that Fortnite doesn’t is an optional first-person camera. This makes the game play a lot more like a traditional shooter, and the graphics and realistic style reinforce that experience. I’ve seen a few people in the great Fortnite vs. PUBG debate (one of the major conflicts of our generation) cite a lack of an fps mode in Fortnite as a win for Battlegrounds. After giving this more thought than I’d like to admit to you here today, I’ve come to a conclusion on this issue that I’m comfortable sticking with. PUBG can keep its first-person camera, because in Fortnite…
it would be absolutely terrifying.
Fortnite and PUBG are almost identical in terms of objectives, obstacles, and environmental mechanics, and yet the experiences in each game remain fundamentally unique. Much of that fact is certainly due to style. While PUBG strives for realism (in terms of graphical fidelity, at least), Fortnite goes in a different direction entirely. The cartoonish aesthetic, the impossible items, and the ability to spawn structures as if you were working on your Sims 4 summer home all work great for the game, and I am very into it, but there is a problem.
Like many other cartoon/fantasy worlds with questionably valid rules for their respective universes, Fortnite looks great one step removed from the space you’ve been invited to explore. When you look more closely, the cracks in the wall begin to appear, revealing glimpses of the lovecraftian, Upside Down style truth of what life there is really like. In this world, that sort of air-gap is the third-person camera. It filters out what I can only assume would be a psychological mini-hell for the character you control. To show you what I mean, follow me as I break down for you beat by beat what a game of Fortnite’s Battle Royale looks like through the eyes of the programmed puppet you direct through the fight.
Act I: Suddenly a bus.
Our story begins on a small island of 99 strangers. Many of them seem that they could very well be the same person. You don’t know how you arrived here, or of anything that happened before this moment. Are you dreaming? This question will linger in your mind for the duration of your time with these strangers. You don’t know how you missed it before, but everyone is holding a large pickaxe. You look at your hands and realize you too are wielding the same mining tool. Your confusion turns to fear as you notice that while many of these strangers are simply standing motionless or dancing to music they seem to be conjuring with their minds, some are violently swinging their pickaxes at others. You look to your left and see it — a man dressed as a medieval knight about to strike you with his weapon. You instinctively raise yours to defend yourself and an instant after a strike that should kill you collides with your body you have another realization…
you are unharmed. You. Are. Immortal.
Unfazed and coming to the conclusion that this is one big joke, you too begin wildly swinging your axe through the air, dancing wildly with others, making friends! You’re still not sure where or what “here” is, but you think you could get comfortable in a place like this. Just as you’ve accepted your new home and the friends you’ve made, everything changes. You look around with a familiar confusion as you realize that where there was once an island around you there is now suddenly a bus. You look out the window and see that this is not just any bus, this bus is hundreds if not thousands of feet in the air and moving quickly across an island similar to that from which you were just… teleported? Jumper(2008)’d?
You look around and see all of your new friends but something is off. While some of them were motionless on the island, not one of them is moving a muscle now. They are all seated in the same way, staring lifelessly, unblinkingly, straight ahead. After a few moments you stare in horror as one by one and seemingly at random, your friends begin to stand and walk to the rear of the bus before leaping without hesitation to certain doom. As the bus empties and your adrenaline and mental anguish skyrocket, you begin to weigh your options. Should you follow your friends? You’re certainly not wearing a parachute. Should you ride this bus to wherever it may or may not be going? Before you can make a decision, a force unlike anything you’ve ever experienced compels you, almost drags you, to the rear of the bus. Without even enough time to process what is happening, you’re falling.
Act II: Fred is dead.
As you fall towards the ground (which looks much further away from outside of the bus, by the way), you see lush greens, flowing rivers, and a variety of man-made structures. Even a set of tall towers that look brand new, almost like they were just placed in the world by some benevolent all-powerful creator. You’d be in awe of the beauty if you weren’t so sure this would be the last thing you ever saw. You also see many of your friends that you were sure would be dead by now floating gently to the ground on some sort of gliders. You wonder how they fit those in their pockets. Do you have a glider in your pocket?
As you search your pockets for something to slow your descent towards the approaching ground below you, your hands are forced into the air and just as you were holding a pickaxe of unknown origins, you are now holding on for dear life to a glider that is the exact size and shape of the one you were just desperately searching your pants for. You begin to feel hope again as you gently glide to a landing in an empty field. On the ground, you take a moment to collect yourself. This moment does not last long, because you soon hear gunshots and explosions that drive you back to a state of blind panic.
You bolt for a nearby log cabin. You see a familiar character entering at the same time — it’s your knight friend. You try and greet him, looking for some shred of connection to ground you in this bizarre place you’ve found yourself in. He, like before, swings his pickaxe into you. At first, you think Fred (the name you gave him in your mind the first time you met) is playing the same strange game you played on that first island, but this time… it’s different.
As the axe strikes you this time, it hurts. A whole lot. Bleeding and stunned at the loss of your immunity to pickaxes, your fight or flight kicks in and you desperately try to create distance between yourself and Fred the knight while you plead for your life. Backed into a corner, you notice a lone handgun hovering inches above the nearby floor. In self-defense, you pick up the weapon and fire reluctantly, blindly in the direction of your best friend, unloading the entire clip.
As the smoke clears and the ringing in your ears comes to an end, you look up. Fred is dead. Well, at least you think he is. Fred isn’t there anymore, and where he once stood is just a pile of bricks and a wooden log. Why did Fred attack you? If not your closest friend, who can be trusted? Understandably shaken, you peer out the window and see a man rushing towards the cabin, shotgun in hand. You pick up some of Fred’s brick body and place them in your pockets, which you’ve just noticed you can’t find the bottom of. Not wanting to take anymore lives today and very much wanting to keep your own, you bolt out the back door away from the new attacker.
You’re not really sure where you’re going, but it’s definitely not towards the big purple death wall that seems to be moving closer and closer to you by the minute. You find a small abandoned warehouse that you think may be a good place to camp out. As you make your way to a glowing, singing chest calling out to you like a siren, you accidentally brush against a rubber car tire. For reasons beyond your comprehension, this interaction launches you head first into the ceiling of the warehouse. When you find yourself on the floor again, you decide to ignore the chest and move on, away from the demon tire.
Act III: Yours is a fate worse than death.
Some time passes, and after a series of close calls and the more or less accidental murders of many of the people you considered to be friends 25 minutes ago, the big purple death wall is upon you. In fact, you can now see the entire circumference of the narrowing circle of safety created by the wall without too much effort. You hide behind a tree as you see the maybe 6 people left in this hell build for themselves impossible structures, increasing rapidly in height from the inside out. As everyone is pushed closer and closer together and tensions rise, you get the feeling that if this has been some sort of twisted game, this is the endgame.
You watch as someone attempts to build an impossibly thin bridge from their tower to their target’s. Before they can get very far, an unseen third party intervenes with well-placed rocket and the bridge builder, halfway between towers, loses their support. You wonder if you even want to win this sick game. Will the purple death wall close forever? There is no good option. You hear the sound of another rocket. You see a flash of light. And then, nothing.
You could have accepted that fate. You barely knew anything about yourself or the existence in which you found yourself. The vast majority of your remembered 35 minutes was nothing but pain, suffering, trauma and confusion. Unfortunately, yours is a fate worse than death. About 60 seconds after that flash of light, you wake up. What was before you confirmed it — this was no dream, nor was it the sweet embrace of death…
This was another group of 99 dancing strangers.