The Battle Royale genre is all over the place as of late, and the gaming community just can’t seem to get enough of it. One of its latest incarnations is Fortnite, and it’s also the biggest – beating out PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in total revenue this February by making over $126 million, and boasting a player base that includes the likes of renowned rap artist Drake and professional athlete 'JuJu' Smith-Schuster (I don’t know who that is but he’s apparently important).
Like its fellow Battle Royale games, Fortnite draws its influence from, well, Battle Royale. It’s a 1999 novel by Koushun Takami about a dystopian world where Japanese school children have to duke it out in a last-man-standing fight to the death. Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, which itself drew inspiration from Takami’s creation, has had a large role in popularising the formula in recent decades. In The Hunger Games, main character Katniss Everdeen is reluctant to kill her fellow tributes, forcing a tie at the very end of her debut game,and inspiring a violent revolution.
I'm a big fan of revolutions – I’m a filthy Communist after all – and I’m always eagerly looking for opportunities to dish out some Marxist rhetoric, especially in video games. With revolt and rebellion so heavily-ingrained in the Battle Royale framework, it wouldn’t be out of the question to assume that one could follow in Katniss’ footsteps (albeit in a more radical way) and amass a revolutionary force in Fortnite. To call for players to lay down their arms in the name of Communism, and set a precedent for decades to come. Right?
I wanted to get an idea of my chances for success, so I consulted the Fortnite Subreddit, and asked people what they thought about my revolutionary prospect, as well as seeking out clarifications over how the game worked. What would even happen if everyone refused to kill each other at the end of a match? Would they all just… die? It’s likely not something that anyone has gone out of their way to try before. User TheLoonerGhost provided answers: 'Whoever got tagged by the storm first would die first and reward the other player the win.' A bit of a blow to the odds of my success, until another user, LM_x847, said that 'I would totally do that if someone actually tried,' which quite frankly was all I needed to hear.
I fired up Fortnite, joined a match, and began plotting my revolutionary strategy. I had my work cut out for me as the game doesn’t support proximity voice chat, or even a text channel, so I’d have to build an icon so bold that it’d convey the message I wanted to deliver all on its own. I’d have to land somewhere that met three criteria: plenty of trees for building materials, a large and high-up space to build on, and a low population to give me time to construct my symbol of Communism. For whatever reason, very few players parachuted near the Wailing Woods, and it was situated just by some large valley terrain – perfect for what I required.
I got to work harvesting plenty of wood from the cluster of trees nearest the valleys (the less time spent in construction, the better) and after getting to grips with the building mechanics, drawing out some planning sketches, and fiddling around with one or two mock-ups, I knew what I was going to build, and how I was going to build it. It needed to be bold, it needed to be iconic, and it needed to say exactly what I wanted to say.
So obviously I made a giant hammer and sickle.
It'd only be a matter of time before other players caught sight of it and the rumblings of class consciousness would commence. Or so I thought. Minutes passed, and the map boundary was set to shrink, so I reluctantly made my way to the safe zone and began rebuilding.
An effort proved unfortunately fruitless, when just as I had began the overhead curve of the sickle, another player (in an expensive cosmetic costume, the bourgeois pig) gunned me down while my back was turned. At the very least, I wanted to note my killer’s reaction to what I had been constructing – for my research – so I stuck around in observer mode to watch. It wasn’t finished, but the spirit of the thing was there. He approached the monument, stared at it for approximately five seconds… and left.
I wasn’t going to let this minor hiccup deter me, however. If there are two things that Communists are damn good at, it’s effective propaganda and iconic martyrs. And I had the capacity to fulfill both, and kill two Capitalist birds with one working-class stone. I’d taken screenshots of my hammer and sickle, and immediately uploaded them to the aforementioned Fortnite Subreddit (with a motivational caption) and went to have a sandwich, with the intention of coming back later and observing the results.
What began as a sarnie break eventually turned into a Netflix binge and a nap, so I wasn’t able to harvest the fruits of my labour until the following morning. I booted up my computer, popped on a Red Army Choir playlist, logged into Reddit… and to my gleeful astonishment, my call to arms had been quite the success. With a 90% upvote rate and over three thousand views, a lot of people had a lot of different things to say, and it was fascinating to document the reactions.
Initially, I encountered a lot of confusion. The first comment simply read 'Wtf.' Others were a lot more apprehensive and open about their opposing perspective, with cries of 'fucking commies,' and even a lot of Redditors quoting Liberty Prime of Fallout 3 fame: 'Death is a preferable alternative to Communism.' There was, however, a lot of positivity to counteract this. There were many a comrade in the thread dishing out Communist rhetoric, jovially celebrating 'the fight against capitalist pig dogs,' and engaging in rabble rousing chants of 'сука блять' (which actually translates to 'fucking bitch' but I took it in this instance as a statement of approval). It wasn’t an all-out revolt as I’d initially hoped, but I had been successful in sowing the seeds of Marxism, which I’d consider an accomplishment all on its own.
But where does this leave Fortnite? Will this Proletarian energy continue to ebb and flow in the games community? Will the player base unite, and reclaim their means of production from Epic Games? Will Battle Royale transcend violence and the fight for survival, and evolve into a Socialist Utopia where people just walk around and talk like in Second Life or Gaia Online? Only the tides of time will tell; and as history shows us, all it takes for a revolution is a little push. I mean, there’s more to it than that, but that’s basically it. Honest.
If you try to start your own revolution in Fortnite, or indeed PUBG, let us know. Only together can we throw of the chains of our oppressors!