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I Was Wrong About Fortnite

In 2018, I hated Fortnite. Four years later I'm a believer.

fortnite
I think I like Fortnite now.
Epic Games

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when I decided to hate Fortnite so much that it made my flesh decay like Emperor Palpatine, but I reckon it started around 2018

2018 was a helluva year for Fortnite.

2018. The year Drake played Fortnite with Twitch streamer Ninja and broke records across the board. 

2018. The year I downloaded Fortnite out of curiosity, played one match, got brutally obliterated by what I assumed were obnoxious children before promptly deleting the game from my PS4, never to be summoned again. 

2018 gave me plenty of reasons to hate Fortnite. There was Antoine Griezmann, the French striker who scored a penalty in the World Cup final before sullying the grandest occasion in sport with a celebration that featured Fortnite's Do the L emote dance. Four years later, I still haven't forgiven him.

I haven't forgiven my son either, who -- also in 2018 -- made the decision, in front of all our friends and family, to get completely naked during a barbecue and streak across the garden while doing The Floss.

Fortnite has a lot to answer for.

Mark Serrels grimacing, with headphones around his neck and a TV screen behind him with the words Battle Royale

Me, back in 2018, being wrong about Fortnite.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Since 2018, my son had been begging to play Fortnite, using language familiar to most parents: "But all my friends are all playing it." "I promise I won't ask for V Bucks." "I definitely won't talk to weird men on voice chat."

But I held back. For years. Fortnite was a forbidden word in my household. Mainly because I didn't think shooters were suitable for children. And I was worried about the online communication element. 

Also because I thought Fortnite sucked. 

I thought Fortnite sucked, especially back in 2018, because it felt like the passing of the guard. The harbinger of a new type of video game. A monogame black hole that absorbs all intellectual property and light. Free-to-play nonsense, with microtransactions and endless skins, felt exploitative -- particularly for kids. So I played it safe: "No. No chance. Didn't you hear me the first time? The answer is no."

But four years later, in 2022 to be exact, I broke. All it took was one surprisingly decent report card. I buckled and told my now 9-year-son he could play Fortnite.

And as I watched to make sure everything was on the up and up, I found myself shocked. Fortnite looked… sort of awesome.

The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda in Fortnite

Fortnite is absorbing all IP into one monogame black hole. Sure, why not.

Epic Games

I missed it during my first, ill-fated encounter with Fortnite, but I was surprised by how good Fortnite looked. Its clean, colorful aesthetic. I was admittedly bewildered by the option bloat that occurs when a game is beholden to a zillion, endless updates, but as I watched my son take his first trepidatious steps into a brand new world I thought to myself -- damn, this video game looks fun.

The weapons seemed fun to fire, movement seemed weighty and tactile. It also seemed… appropriate for children. At least for my child, a boy age 9 with limited exposure to video game violence. After watching for around 30 minutes, I wasn't just secure in the fact my son would be safe playing this online video game with his friends, I sorta wanted to play myself.

Which I did. When the kids were asleep, I fired up the Xbox, logged in and started getting some games in. It was great.

Part of the appeal for me was Fortnite's relatively new No Build mode. Normally, Fortnite allows players to frantically build structures during the game -- for defense or traversal. For middle-age folks like me, with deteriorating reflexes and zero capacity for change, building felt overwhelming and terrifying -- a whole new world I had no idea how to navigate. With the No Build mode, I could focus on the stuff I was relatively familiar with: shooting people. 

And make no mistake, Fortnite is a very polished online shooter. 

As someone forged on the battleground of old-school shooters, playing Fortnite No Build was a salve. It was also a great chance to play video games with my son on an even keel. One of the most shocking things about parenthood so far has been how divergent our tastes in video games became. For my children, it's been Minecraft or bust, a game I have no time or patience for. Fortnite has been one of the few times we've been able to connect over video games.

The first time my son and I played together was legendary. Me, still clumsy with the controls and… general understanding of what the hell was going on; him, assured and in control. It was an interesting role reversal: My 9-year-old son was guiding me through an online video game experience. 

Halfway through I got shot; my son revived me and threw me a few spare bandages to heal myself. We stuck together for the remainder, spotting enemies, picking them off one by one. I had eight kills, he had 10. With only three people left on the map, I wasn't sure what would happen next. Would I have to kill my own son? Damn… 

A character in Fortnite wearing sunglasses is surrounded by characters zooming through the sky

Fortnite's whole aesthetic is very cool. I was wrong about that too.

Epic Games

As the third player emerged from a nearby hiding spot, my son whipped round and took him out with a couple of well-timed shotgun blasts. We won! We didn't have to shoot one another, instead we got to share in the spoils of a Victory Royale. Mad high-fives all round. Father-son bonds reinforced.

It was honestly one of the most fulfilling video game experiences I've had in years.

So yes, I am a changed man. Fortnite is good. 

Don't get me wrong. I have residual issues. I still hate Antoine Griezmann. I still think there's a time and place to partake in Do the L dances and the World Cup final is not one of them. 

I still don't understand why my kid stripped naked and did The Floss in my back garden. 

I still have issues with the whole V-Bucks economy and the way folks are encouraged to buy skins and emotes, but I am happy to admit it: I was wrong about Fortnite. 100%. 

And, at the end of the day, at least my kid isn't a Roblox guy. That's a win in my book.