With Apex Legends coming out of nowhere at the start of February and amassing 25 million unique player logins in one week, there’s a new game in the spotlight erupting in popularity at a similar rate that Fortnite did. Whether or not the game will actually supersede Fortnite is anyone’s guess, but it’s worth taking the time to think about Fortnite’s contributions to gaming and its cultural impact. Fortnite’s success and popularity allows games like Apex to shine along with it, and Fortnite truly changed everything we thought we knew about video games. As we’re now all caught in this video game and Battle Royale craze, how did we get here?

Game Mechanics

An easy to learn, hard to master game, Fortnite at its core resonates with many because of its flexibility and open-endedness, allowing for satisfying play at every skill level. Through combining the simple mechanics of a shooting game like Call of Duty with the focus on creativity of a sandbox game like Minecraft, Fortnite welcomes every gamer of every skill level to solve problems their own way. Being a Battle Royale game – think “The Hunger Games” in video game form – the main objective is to survive and be the last one standing. By design, the game welcomes players to reach the end goal in any way they see fit. This gameplay emphasis on “win how you want to” becomes further emphasized through Epic Games’ implementation of a game mechanic that flipped the Battle Royale genre and shooter genre on its head: building.

Being able to make your own cover, pathways, or buildings provided the typical shooting game player with a level of open-endedness that made any play-style you can think of viable. As long as you had the materials, brains, and skills to build effectively and creatively, you can swing any fight you got into in your favor. Fortnite, through building and doing away with the linearity and set-in-stone rules of the competitive shooting games before it, gave players a level of freedom that was previously either rarely seen or done poorly. From a gameplay perspective, it’s not hard to see why it would resonate with your typical gamer.

Bringing Us Together

On the gamer side of things, Fortnite was historic in that it is the first fully cross-platform video game, allowing anyone playing the game on any platform of their choosing to play together with no restrictions. Even more historic is that the game’s influence was strong enough that it made Sony lift their long-time restriction on cross-platform play with their rival Microsoft, a move that would’ve been unheard of not even a year ago. Rocket League has recently followed suit and is now the second game to be fully cross-play, hopefully starting a movement towards blurring the divide between gaming systems. As far as bringing gamers and non-gamers together, it goes back to streamer Ninja’s historic, record-breaking livestream.

On March 15, 2018 Ninja squadded up with Drake, Travis Scott, and Juju Smith-Schuster to play Fortnite. At its peak the stream reached a peak of 635,000 concurrent viewers, bringing gamers, rap fans, and football fans together to root for some of their favorite people to win in a video game. The stream was momentous not only in the amount of people that tuned in, but in how it served as a moment of convergence between what seemed to be completely separate communities of people. The stream challenged the notion of who was and wasn’t a gamer, and challenged what people thought possible in terms of watching someone else playing a video game. The stream made it loud and clear that video games are pop culture and left any remaining doubters with the question, “If they find video games cool, why can’t I too?”

A gaming phenomenon and pop culture mainstay today, it is impossible to deny that Fortnite has made an impact on everyone that’s interacted with the game, gamer or not. Fortnite challenged what gamers thought was possible in a shooting game, and its popularity and widespread appeal challenged the general public’s perception of video games and its preconceived notions of the average gamer. Through a shooter that allows you to build your own bridges, Fortnite builds bridges between gaming veteran and casual player, between Playstation and XBox, and between gamer and non-gamer. Fortnite changed everything, and brings us all together.