Fortnite (2017) is a multiplatform player-vs-player video game, wherein you’re invited to pit your luck and skills against up to 99 other participants in the oldest race of all – that of staying alive. It’s been controversial in a hysterical parent kind of way – all that violence! – but its cartoony graphics and aversion to gore ensure that it’s pretty inoffensive, in terms of gameplay. Its central theme – kill or be killed – is where things get dark.
Fortnite is a Battle Royale game, a term adopted by the gaming community for set ups that see multiple players fight each other until one of them emerges victorious. It comes from a film of the same name: a Japanese cult classic, released in 2000 to delicious and delirious reception and censorship. In Kinji Fukasaku’s epic, amoral morality tale, Battle Royale sees a class of teenagers set to fight to their death(s) on a deserted island as part of a dystopian government initiative to deal with the disobedient Youth of Today (at least, with the Youth of The Near But Non-Specific Future.) Its opening hour or so is devoted to the backstories of characters who will soon tear each other to pieces – to their tragedies, large and small; their crushes and friendships and squabbles, their ambitions and apathies. As the kids come to terms with their situation on the island, allegory-come-to-life, variable degrees of protest against what they will have to do are expressed. Some just want to be friends! Others are clearly thrilled at the license to enact what we’ve all fantasied about, at one time or another. And so the games begin.