Fortnite tells its smartest story when you’re unwittingly acting it out

November 26, 2019
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How do you tell story in a battle royale? Fortnite cannot lean on cutscenes and audio logs (although Fortnite will absolutely also break its own rules and use cutscenes and audio logs). It has brief lore snippets attached to its characters and items. It has environmental storytelling and live events. But, smartest of all I think, is its ability to have players act out parts of the story it wants to tell.

Take last week, for example, when Fortnite flipped the switch on a new Star Wars collaboration and parked a Star Destroyer over its island map. At the same time, an Imperial Stormtrooper skin appeared in Fortnite’s in-game shop which countless people immediately forked out for (hello). Suddenly, lobbies were full of Stormtroopers – a genuine Fortnite invasion as if from the Empire’s looming spaceship in the sky above. The game put these pieces in place, but it was its players that ended up roleplaying it for everyone else.

How about a less marketing-driven example? Back in Season 5 – the Road Trip season with Drift and Brite Bomber dubbed “Worlds Collide” – rifts brought all sorts of new things to the Fortnite map. But as the island filled up, a fleet of masked time cops named Enforcers dropped in to sort it all out – like the Reapers in that Christopher Ecclestone episode of Doctor Who.

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