Within four minutes of parachuting onto the post-apocalyptic island and hacking at a few wooden crates to get the resources inside, I’m already about to die. I’m caught in the eye of a fast-encroaching storm and, as a first-time competitor, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. I crawl around feebly as the rain pummels my back and cling to my last few seconds of life before, womp womp, I’m eliminated.
This, my friends, is Fortnite: Battle Royale, or just Fortnite, the intensely addictive game you’ve probably heard about from your younger sibling, their friends, or the kids huddled around someone’s phone yelling about “pumps” and “tacs” on your commute. I’m not a gamer, but after just a few minutes of playing time, I can see the appeal.
Whether you’re actually interested in playing or just want to know WTF is consuming the minds of the game's 125 million players on a daily basis, here’s a basic guide to 2018's Fortnite phenomena.
What is Fortnite?
Fortnite is a game with undeniable similarities to the Hunger Games. At the start of each new game, you parachute onto an island with 99 other competitors. The goal is to be the last one standing, but there’s a lot that happens between landing and making it to the end-game.
Everyone starts with a pickaxe that you want to use to hit objects around you, which contain building resources and other supplies inside. Then, you can use what you find to build hideouts from which you can take out competitors. This is less survival of the fittest and more survival of the person with the most resources and smartest ways of using them (there's also some luck involved). Not so catchy, but there you have it.
You can’t trust anyone — since everyone is ultimately out to kill everyone else — but there is an option to play in teams.
You mentioned a storm?
Remember how the gamemaker in the Hunger Games made environmental adjustments to force all the tributes into one part of the arena? That happens in Fortnite, too. A storm grows increasingly bigger as the game progresses, closing off areas of the map. If you want to stay alive, you need to get to the white circle. Once there, you need to have the best weapons since you'll be trying to kill everyone else who is still alive and has also made it to that small region of the map.
Where can I give it a try?
Will it cost me money?
No. Fortnite is free, which is likely a large part of its widespread fame. You can buy a Battle Pass for $10 or a Battle Bundle for $25 to get more V-Bucks, the in-game money that will get you extra rewards (such as flashy skins and gliders) and help you progress through the levels faster, but you don’t need to.
Why all the hype?
Unlike many other games, Fortnite doesn't take itself too seriously. Sure, you're trying to kill everyone else, but your player is also breaking into silly dances that look anything but threatening along the way, and visiting parts of the island with names like Risky Reels and Dusty Divot. This is part of its appeal, but so is the fun of watching other people play. After dying, the game wasn't over: I saw the action through the eyes of another (still-alive) player. I enjoyed occupying the body of my former enemies, seeing how they used their resources and fought the elements.
Also, Fortnite is raking in a lot of money in the gaming world: The game made almost $300 million in April alone, and it's about to join the world of competitive eSports with a staggering $100 million prize pool. (Say WHAT? Should I quit my day job now? Not to be blunt, but probably not — Fortnite is hard and there are lots of players who are very skilled and know their way around the Shifty Shafts.)