Fortnite llama prank

Please Will Someone Explain Fortnite to Me

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I am not what you would call a gamer. My favorite video game is Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, produced in 1992 for the Game Boy. There was a point in my life where I devoted a lot of time to Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness on my Macintosh desktop computer. This is the extent to which I have played video games.

But I tend to be up on gaming news as part of my job, and I’m generally aware of trends, controversies, and the most popular titles of the moment in the industry. Some of my best friends and my esteemed colleagues are gamers! I may not be a gamer, but I used to think I at least knew about video games.

Then something called Fortnite seemed to appear out of thin air and take over the entire world. From one day to the next, every single video game headline I saw go past began yelling loudly about Fortnite.

What is Fortnite? A video game where people fight each other, I think. “Battle Royale” is in its title, so I’m gonna go with that. I’m not sure how it distinguishes itself from all of the other video games where people fight each other, but wow, everyone seems really into this particular fighting. Or maybe it’s just video game journalists? Either way, I don’t understand what Fortnite is, and those article headlines aren’t much help. Here are a few recent ones:

Dance with others to raise the Disco Ball near Loot Lake (Eurogamer)

Fortnite’s first real vehicle is … a shopping cart (Polygon)

Fortnite Loading Screens Reveal It Was a Movie Set All Along (Game Rant)

Follow the treasure map found in Greasy Grove (PC Gamer)

What the hell is this game, you guys? What?

People really, really seem to like playing Fortnite—disco balls, shopping carts, Greasy Groves and all. They also enjoy watching other people play Fortnite. “People across the world have spent more than 5,000 years watching Fortnite streams on a video game streaming service called Twitch over the past two weeks alone,” Big Think reports. 5,000 years of Fortnite watching! I have not watched 5,000 years of anything.

One of the main reasons I am confused about Fortnite is that this version was apparently released way back in September of 2017, but recently it has become so popular that the game generated nearly $300 million dollars in the month of April alone. Somewhere, Han Solo is crying into his box office receipts.

Related: Fortnite Skins List – All Characters & Outfits! on Pro Game Guides

So what happened to make Fortnite so massive? What is happening in it that makes the game so compelling that you will spend 5,000 years simply watching it be played? And why do so many women love to play it? I suspect it is not for the reasons that The Star suggests, that “Fortnite is also subtly different from existing shooter games, in ways that may specifically appeal to women more than other titles do. It’s relatively easy for first-time players, and it looks more cartoonish and less gory than its rivals,” because all of the lady gamers I know are hardcore as hell and have been playing for decades and love to bloodily blow things up, but okay.

Talk Fortnite to me. Teach me. I must know more. Where do the purple llamas come in?

(image: Epic Games)

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Image of Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.