The Loop

A beginner’s guide to Fortnite, from a clueless holiday father

November 19, 2018
Epic Games Hosts Fortnite Tournament At E3

Christian Petersen

If you’re noticing more teens driving into telephone poles and elderly pedestrians in your town lately, there’s a perfectly logical reason: They’re driving while playing Fortnite! As you know if you’ve recently parented, interacted with or literally laid eyes on a human under the age of 32, Fortnite is the planet’s hottest video game, teen social event, cultural touchstone and reason Kentucky’s governor thinks the world is lapsing into decay and sin.

We at The Loop are no stranger to video games—you just watch what we can do at Lee Cavallo’s Putting Challenge—but between the holidays, keeping up with Jim Nantz and getting into occasional beefs with Phil Mickelson (HE KNOWS WHY), we frankly don’t have as much time for Fortnite as most people. That’s why we’re only now offering this Highly Researched, Expertly Played, Adverb-Decorated and Only Slightly Middle-Aged look at the fieriest competition in all the land. If you are new to Fortnite, and want some advice on how to die slightly more gradually, read on:

What is Fortnite?

Do you know The Hunger Games? Do you know Ready Player One? Great, because Fortnite is essentially a virtual mix of the two! If you don’t know either of them, congratulations on your ability to live free of the internet, enjoy your “non-basement air” and “human relationships” or whatever. Fortnite is a first-person shooter game in which 100 competitors are dropped onto an island and the last player standing wins.

What are the rules?

Kill everybody else!

That seems dark

And yet Fortnite is kind of wacky and cartoony about all the violence! There’s no gore, no bloodshed, and though technically yes it is probable that a 12-year-old girl whose avatar looks like Roadblock from G.I. Joe will use a shotgun to separate your brains from your head, the general vibe is a lot sillier than other more violent games, such as Red Dead Redemption, Call of Duty and Ms. Pac-Man.

How do you play?

Put your thumb on the phone, and your other thumb on the phone, and one thumb makes you run and the other thumb makes you look and both thumbs make you fall off of staircases. To pick up a gun, tap on it when you’re close, then find out you’re too close, then back up and tap again, then realize you’re too far away, then run in circles until, through no effort of your own, you accidentally obtain it. To switch between guns, tap the pathetically small eight-square-pixel box on your screen that will either toggle between guns or accidentally open Lyft.

What’s a good strategy?

I can’t speak for others, but I found this to be pretty effective:

You can try all manner of strategies. You can play alone, or with friends. You can rage Mad Max-style into a crowd of enemies and hope you make it out alive. You can hide in a bathroom until everyone else mows each other down and hope you somehow get lucky against whoever’s left, which you won’t. Or you can follow your 14-year-old son and his cousin around and hope to pick up pointers.

Oh God, you made kids help you with this article, didn’t you

YERP. To engage in what my journalism professors would be horrified to hear me define as “research,” I enlisted my son and his eighth-grade cousin, with whom I “squadded up” and “readied up” and “got slayed by what appeared to be Lara Croft with a pickaxe.” You know that feeling you got when your hapless goon dad wanted you to teach him Super Tecmo Bowl? That feeling is so much worse on this side.

Yeah, well, I only play golf video games.

You MISSED YOUR CHANCE, hater — in the now-defunct Season Five, Fortnite inexplicably included a golf mini-game that was weird and addictive at the same time. It wasn't much: Basically, you had to glide to the course on the island and hack away at a few balls before, in all likelihood, running away from dozens of people trying to shoot at you. A weird little Easter Egg, but hopefully some sort of precursor to Fortnite: Phil vs. Tiger.

What happens when you kill somebody?

I am thrilled to report that in a dozen games of play, I successfully killed one (1) enemy! I celebrated this feat of manlihood by coolly shouting, “Guys, I killed somebody!” to my family, who failed to share my enthusiasm for some reason. Some psychiatrists may argue that it’s bad for fathers to proudly celebrate their murders in front of their young sons, but those psychiatrists are losers.

What happens when you win?

Jesus wept, who knows! It’ll be two years before I make it into the top 10, at which time we’ll have all moved onto some augmented-reality Star Wars game that reads our minds and automatically picks our favorite bounty hunters (what up, Bossk). For now, it’s enough to say that as gratuitous, probably medically addictive time-wasters go, Fortnite is pretty great! It’s collaborative, it’s cartoony, it’s social, it’s free (you can spend money, but you don’t have to), and when things start feeling too serious, alien mercenaries start doing little funky dances. As with most things on your kids’ phones, it should be monitored by parents, evaluated properly and undertaken with guidance. But also like most things on your kid’s phones, it sure as hell beats reading the news.