Over the last 2 years, Fortnite has become one of the most popular video games of all time. With over 250 million players, from middle schoolers to NFL athletes, Fortnite has captured the world’s attention and represents a new age of gaming in the United States. But as a parent, it might be tough to understand what the game is, why it’s so popular, or how it could ever be productive. All they might see are the crazy dances, zany cosmetic “skins,” and hours spent in front of the screen alone.
At N1 Esports, we believe Fortnite, like many other esports games, offers an incredibly complex and multifaceted competitive experience. Like any good sport, it challenges a player’s ability to maintain excellent mechanics, make rapid decision, and develop intricate strategies against other competitors. In this post, we provide a quick overview of the game and some of the main features that can help cultivate life skills and offer an enriching athletic experience (we’re serious).
What is Fortnite Battle Royale? Fortnite is a battle royale game in which up to 100 people drop onto an island and attempt to be the last team standing. Players farm resources that are used to build elaborate structures and battle other players. Over time, the game’s safe zone (representing the eye of a storm), decreases in size, and players caught outside the zone (in purple below) will take damage. This directs the surviving players into tighter spaces, forcing player encounters. All matches begin on the same map and every player starts each game with no resources. The map randomly places “loot” across the map and players must gather materials and weapons to help them battle other players. Where you land, how you play, and who you battle changes with every game, making it dynamic and fun.
Mechanics The two core mechanics in the game are aiming and building. The basketball equivalent would be dribbling and shooting. Without these two mechanics, you have no chance of becoming a decent basketball player, just as you have no chance of becoming a good Fortnite player without aiming and building.
Aim Good aim requires blazing reaction speed and tight muscle control. At the professional levels, a few centimeters could mean the difference between life and death. That’s why they devote a considerable amount of time on aiming drills, just as Air Jordan spent countless hours practicing his free throws. Below is an example of what standard aim training looks like:
Building Building is a very special mechanic that separates Fortnite from most games. Players are able to harvest wood, brick, and metal from interactive objects in the game and “build” structures using walls, ramps, floors, and roofs. These structures serve multiple purposes, allowing players to traverse the map quickly, build rapid fortifications for cover, and even trap other players.
A common tactic is rapidly building up to gain high ground during a fight, which minimizes exposure while maximizing vision. When people first started playing Fortnite, building up meant placing one ramp after the next to move upwards.
Since then, players have constantly developed new techniques to build up faster while providing more cover. These innovations are shared with the community and often a new technique is named after its creator. Just check out the one below to see the difference. If you can hardly follow, you’re not alone. The pace of innovation in Fortnite has been stunning, which in turn has increased the average skill level of all players dramatically.
Players are also able to “edit” builds, which allows them to change the shape of existing pieces and utilize an infinite set of tactics. For example, a player may edit a wall to create an opening but close it back up rapidly to trick the opponent into taking a shot. Then the player edits again to hit their opponent while they reload. At the pro level, these mind games are often akin to a high-speed chess match, where players will predict 8 moves ahead and spring a beautiful trap, all within half a second.
Map movement Another key strategic element in Fortnite is how you move across the map throughout the game (rotations). Where you land on the island at the start can greatly impact your chances of winning games and is usually discussed thoroughly days before a match begins. Teams must consider factors such as opponents’ tendencies and surrounding environment when deciding where and when to move. Carelessly wandering into a crowded area could lead to an early defeat, no matter how good your individual skills are.
The consequential nature of map movement forces players to study each other via VOD reviews (film analysis). Professional teams have analysts who will pour through hours of opposing team films to draw insights into play style, favored map movements, and even edit tendencies. And the analysis is no joke - just check out a sample page from a VOD review done by our own Chief Gaming Officer for a professional team:
Teamwork Last, but certainly not least, is teamwork. The most popular competitive modes are duos or squads (4 players on a team), which require an insane level of communication and joint decision making. Players will constantly call out movement of opponents, ask for support during engagements, share resources, and heal each other.
Players take on specific roles based on complimentary skillsets. For example, one player may always cover the rear, another may start engagements, the third may look to flank, while the fourth will find a good vantage point and call the shots. Listening to good communications is an awesome, if slightly hectic, experience.
This is great and all… but is this actually athletics?
The term esports is often met with derision from the traditional sports world, and not without reason. It can seem outlandish to place 100m sprints and competitive Fortnite within the same sentence. However, it could be equally strange to say that basketball and golf both count as sports. Yet Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods are considered to be two of the best athletes of all time.
We believe that athletics is defined by more than how physically strenuous the activity is. At its core, being an athlete also means having a strong competitive drive, developing as teammates and leaders, learning how to practice, and continuously improving the self. Esports has that in spades.
That’s not to say that mindlessly playing video games for hours on end means you’re an esports athlete. Esports is still in its infancy with a great deal left to improve.