Kevin Arndt, Contributing Writer

Like most 20-something-year-olds, recent college graduate Eugene Weiss spends most of his free time playing video games and hanging out with friends, usually at the same time. Twenty years ago, this would have looked like several people in the same room playing Mario Kart on one screen, using one console. Not anymore. Not with Fortnite, the massively popular multiplayer game where 100 players engage in a mass online brawl until only one is left.

In the past, when someone heard the term “video game,” certain characters and titles came to mind such as Mario, Donkey Kong or Pikachu. But with advances in gaming technology and the advent of social media platforms such as YouTube and Twitch, the video game industry has shifted into a much more dynamic experience, rather than just one where players attempted to beat the final boss.

So, what makes Fortnite different and better than traditional video games? According to Weiss, it’s the mechanics of the game as well as the battle royale gameplay, a genre that blends the survival, exploration and scavenging elements of a survival game with last-man-standing gameplay. Another feature he finds appealing is the building feature.

“Unlike most first-person-shooter games where you use the surroundings as cover, Fortnite allows players to build structures as defense, using materials gathered from around the map. It’s a new style of combat that I haven’t seen in any other game,” said Weiss.

Another striking difference between Fortnite and video games of yesteryear is the way in which the players interact with each other.

“I play regularly with my friends. While the game is loading you can interact with the 100 players that are in the match. During that time period I will try to do emotes, such as dances and emoji’s, with my enemies. I will occasionally watch people livestream on Twitch, and I do enjoy watching people play if I’m hanging out with friends,” he said.

Weiss attributes the success of Fortnite to Epic Games, the company behind the game, as well as Twitch, the streaming website where gamers play in front of a camera from the comfort of their own homes.

According to Weiss, “Twitch is the biggest game streaming website. All the top streamers were playing this game for months on end which turned their fan bases onto it. The developer Epic Games did a great job at creating a community for Fortnite. They hosted Fortnite tournaments, have a subreddit to interact with players, and even sold Fortnite related products. Fortnite can also be team based, which makes you want to play with friends. Friends interact in real life and talk about the game.”

Veteran video game player and journalist for Medium, Keith Stuart, says the spectatorship aspect of the game has helped make the Fortnite world feel more friendly than the typical online multiplayer experience.

“This is illustrated in one fascinating feature: When you’re killed in Fortnite, your in-game camera starts following the person who got you—you become a spectator to their progress,” said Stuart.

Fortnite is clearly more than just a video game; it’s a place where people create, hang out and spend time with their friends. Stuart compares the camaraderie and other aspects of the game to popular subcultures. “Just as skaters in 1980s Los Angeles developed their own style, language and signals, Fortnite offers a range of emotes, gestures, and dances which have become part of the game’s lore. If you’re a parent, you may have heard of the Floss, the Electro Shuffle and Orange Justice, even if you have no idea what they are. But like the language and apparel of the iconic surfer dude, these emotes are slipping into the mainstream.”

As of May 2018, Fortnite had 125 million users and had raked in an astounding $1.2 billion in revenue. Weiss says he’s not surprised, and that its mass appeal is why it has garnered such success.

“Fortnite is just fun to play. The overall cartoony look and never before seen game mechanics make it interesting for people who might just like the art or are competitive players.  Regular updates make the game refreshing to play each week,” said Weiss.