Fortnite Fever

Ben Chanenson

BRYN MAWR—The flu season may have passed, but Radnor is in the grips of an epidemic of its own: Fortnite Fever. Although numerous games have captured the attention of Radnor students in the past, no game has ever found such sustained success.

In 2015, the high school was obsessed with Flappy Golf. Flappy Golf was a mix of the smash hit Flappy Bird and lesser-known Super Stickman Golf 2. The objective of Flappy Golf was to reach the hole in the least amount of “flaps” possible by tapping either the “left flap” or “right flap” buttons. Flappy Golfers could play by themselves or against their friends on the same Wi-Fi network. During its heyday, one could open a game of Flappy Golf and play with 20 other students within minutes. Ethan Lee, a junior, remembers the game as, “the thing that everyone did in every moment of downtime at school.” Yet, just as fast as it arrived, it faded away.

Multiple other games and apps have attempted the fill the Floppy Golf void in the Radnor gaming pantheon, but none has even come close. Sure, there were temporarily enticing games, including Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, NBA 2K, and even board game apps. But each one proved to be little more than a flash in the pan. They quickly disappeared from the lexicon and never gained mainstream Radnor appeal. The high school lacked a common culture for over two years.

Enter Fortnite. Over the past couple of months, Fornite has become the most popular game in Radnor and the world. Fortnite is an amalgam of survival, exploration, and scavenging games that work in conjunction to create a cartoonish Hunger Gamesesque experience. The goal is to be the last player (or team) alive by defeating or avoiding other players.

Each session of Fortnite starts when up to 100 players drop from a floating bus onto a randomly generated map. Over time, the map shrinks and forces players to come out of hiding and confront each other. Players also have the option to build walls, floors, roofs, and traps using an in-game building tool. Ultimately, this grants the ability to create a fort, from which the name of the game is taken.

Senior Bryan Dao has placed second twice and third once with a team. “Fortnite is so popular because it is free,” he said. He does not think the popularity has “subsided” and added that he doesn’t think it will for “a year or two.”

Fortnite flourishes in part because it is free and in part because it breaks down social barriers. Negative stigma attached the label of “gamer” keeps many people out the genre. But Fortnite has become a “giant frat game” according to Dao, “so not just nerds play it.”

Patrick M. Walker, a junior, believes Fortnite became popular “not only because it is a free alternative to PUBG [a similar game], but because it also brings a younger audience into the battle royal game mode with the cartoon art style and building-based mechanics.” He estimates that “60 percent” of Radnor students have played Fortnite.

Fortnite has also caught on because it allows people to play where they want to play. If you want to play on your Xbox One, you can. If you want to play on your PlayStation4, you can. If you want to play on your computer, you can. If you want to play on your iPad during seventh period APUSH, you can.

Walker notes that Fortnite, “provides a stable ground for crossplay not only between consoles and PC, but also the emerging mobile gaming scene.”

Fortnite released on iOS last week for a limited number of players and will release it to the general public shortly. Once that happens, all Radnor students will be able to play the game on their school-issued iPads. The cultural phenomena will continue to grow.

The question, as always, is how long will it last? Will Fortnite join the constellation of once-loved and later-abandoned games? There is a reason to think that this time will be different. As Clarke Piatt III, freshman, put it, “Fortnite is life.”