The Number One

I like to say that my taste in games has become more sophisticated with age. That I value a narrative focus or a creative idea that is different from mainstream taste. And, of course, when we came up with the idea for WALL JUMP, that’s exactly what was important to us: an somewhat elitist video game magazine for people over 30 who share those moments of their game biographies that might be evidence of a little more cultural understanding than we had a few years ago.

And now I sit here and write about Fortnite.

As one learns from older relatives, one must of course first take a wide swing when telling stories to the youth. I feel the same way when I talk about my first encounter with Fortnite. It was a relatively ordinary Tuesday afternoon. The apartment belonged to me for a few hours, working from my home office allowed a few minutes of procrastination, and so I did what I sometimes do even more often than playing genuinely new games: I scrolled through the overview of my Nintendo Switch library, sorted by total playing time, and didn’t really feel like doing anything. At some point, very, very far down in this very, very confusing list, I spotted the Fornite logo. I had already downloaded Fortnite when it launched for the Switch, because somehow you were supposed to play it, but I had never started it. Besides, I feel the same with Fornite as with most things that youth celebrates: I do not understand them completely. Somehow Fortnite is not a new shooter for me, but it’s a strange fusion of video games with TikTok, where mostly male teenagers somehow shoot and dance and feel pretty cool. And because my LAN party youth was of course a totally conspiratorial part of an incredibly relevant subculture and Fortnite is a mainstream mass phenomenon with Marshmello concerts and Marvel crossovers, it’s just pretty uncool.

But you’re only as old as you feel, and as I said, somehow you have to play Fortnite at some point. And I wasn’t in the mood for anything anyway. So: I started the app, sold my soul to the Terms of Service of Epic, ignored all this free-to-play madness and went into the game. Mere minutes later I sailed from a bus to an island, just like I had seen it so often in the Youtube commercials. But following all this promise: Me, lost and alone in a corner of the world, with no weapon and no plan how to play this game at all. So I walked through a few abandoned houses until I found a gun. Finally, time for action! According to the radar, some players were in the middle of a battle nearby. But damn it! The fierce battle happened out of range, on a fortress surrounded by water. So for the next few minutes I watched the action from the outside and tried to find a way to get to the island. There had to be a boat somewhere? Well, in short: By the time I realized that you can just jump into the water and swim, the players had already eliminated each other, overlooked me and moved on the map. At least there was still some loot to collect – and still a boat with which I made some rather dull turns. My little excursion came to an abrupt end when the game threatened the approaching purple fog that was constricting the game world. So I fled from my imminent annihilation, always trying to hide behind trees, hills and objects – and suddenly got the information that only 12 players survived. I soon encountered the first two, watched one of them shoot the other and then shot him from ambush. My first kill! Only 10 left! My previous survival instincts seemed to pay off. And my plan was therefore only logical: I hid in an abandoned bus for the next few minutes. And indeed, at some point there were two of us. Me and my nemesis.

The final of my Fortnite game is quickly told: My opponent seemed to be skilled and built complex constructions to be able to take me out from a raised position. Unfortunately, I hadn’t figured out how to build anything myself until then, so I was running around in circles all the time, trying to avoid getting hit. This obviously novel tactic led to my opponent losing his overview at some point – and suddenly having his back to me. A few shots, and – I had won!

Only when the game was over did I notice my adrenaline level. A flush of victory, like after a game of Unreal Tournament, back then with my school friends. I can still do it! The triumph had to be savored, of course: A screenshot of the first place immediately landed on Twitter, was presented to my girlfriend at dinner and published in the company-wide team chat. But the recognition that one once received was not there this time. Disinterest. Only the claim that Fortnite would let you win against bots in the beginning anyway, hit me. I didn’t google it – but since then I never played Fortnite again. Why should I? I am the number 1 after all.

Fortnite from Epic Games is actually more than just a game. In the free multiplayer shooter, not only do millions of young people fight for supremacy, but they also meet for concerts, movie nights – or just to talk.

This post is also available in: German