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I have finally caved and given Fortnite some proper time.
It all started when my 12-year-old daughter noticed it was on my PC. I had downloaded when it first came out, but after one go, decided it wasn’t for me. However, it had been quietly updating in the background, just waiting for my return.
Fortnite is something of a gaming phenomenon, in a similar way to Minecraft a few years ago. It has had an enormous impact on society. It has spawned toys, board games and I am sure a film can’t be far away as EPIC tries to milk as much as possible from its latest cash cow. Of course, it is not without its controversies as well. Claims of gaming addiction, copyright infringements and more.
Anyway, I decided to give it a go and I must admit, it is fun. My daughter and I take turns playing, seeing who can last longest or find the most interesting thing. And, we have a blast.
The game itself is very simple. Survive on an ever-shrinking island, by whatever means possible, against 100 other players. The core game modes allow you to choose to play alone, in teams of 2, 4 or 33. Ther are also many limited-time modes, that happen during special events.
Whatever the mode, the game plays the same. You drop onto the map, scavenge materials and weapons, build shelters and try to avoid dying!
At first glance, it would be easy to dismiss the game as nothing more than a glorified shooter, but that would miss the point of the game. It is actually a masterclass in how to engage the largest number of people possible for as long as possible! In fact, if you look at my User Type Hexad, there is no type that is not catered for in some way.
User Types in Fortnite
Let’s look at how each type is catered for in the game.
Ok, so this one is pretty obvious. The game has challenges, achievements, points, badges and more. All of which give the player user type something to strive for!
Interestingly, to an extent, disruptors are the least catered for group – in as much as there are no boundaries to push or break, It is a well-balanced game that does not really allow for cheating. That said, there are things they can do that will annoy other players! From finding secret camping areas to snipe from, to flossing (dancing) over the bodies of their victims. What Fortnite does to manage the more disruptor like players, is offer them opportunities to harness their interests much more creatively in the game! I have always said that often disruptors are just free spirits looking for ways to express themselves. Unless they are just a total git.
This one seems less obvious than the others. However, when you play in a team, a philanthropist has plenty of options for helping their teammates. Building structures to protect them, healing them, going out of their way to respawn them if they die, dropping items to help their teammates, identifying threats and more.
As a multiplayer game, socialisers are easily catered for. In-game chat, lobby chat, teams, clans, forums, twitch streaming, discord chat and far more are available to those players who want to socialise.
For me, the free spirit engaging mechanics are the most interesting and the ones that I had not realised where there the first time I played. The map is beautiful and full of places to explore, secrets to find and easter eggs to laugh at. Not only that, with the way the games seasons work, the map is constantly changing. During the last few days, I got to watch a giant robot be built and then fight a massive monster. Every few months, things change, offering free spirits plenty of opportunities to explore more. There are even vehicles to help them get around (and protect them as they do). As for creativity, there are countless ways that players can customise their avatar, but not just that, there is an entire building system in the game. You can create incredible structures to help protect yourself, or just reach new areas.
I spend way more time exploring than I do actually “playing the game”. In fact, I find getting a shot at to be an inconvenience to my exploration!
Mastery is key to surviving in Fortnite. Be it getting really good at hiding, incredible at sniping, becoming a master builder or whatever else it is you decide to master! The options are near endless, with players showing levels of skill that bewilder me. In one game a player built a box around me, with a spike trap in one wall, whilst shooting at me. It was incredible (And annoying as hell!)
The Lesson – Choice and Change
As you can see, there is a lot going on in the game! But what it seems to come down to, the key to why it is so incredibly successful is choice.
You can choose how to play. Choose where you land on the map. Then decide if you want to be a sniper, a builder, a foot soldier, a scout, a hide and seek master. You can explore whilst avoid the fight, you can rush in for an adrenaline fuelled twitch battles or you can plot and take you time.
Then you can do it all differently the next time.
This, for me, is the big lesson that we can learn as gamification designers. Give our users choice. Don’t worry about trying to understand what user type they are, give them as much choice as possible so that they are engaged no matter what. Let them experience your system in a way that suits them, no matter if they are an Achiever or a Free Spirit!
The other lesson is to keep content fresh and to change things up from time to time. This will help to fight the boredom that can come from a system that just sits there and stagnates. Just because it is working, does not mean it can’t be better.
Bonus Parent Lesson
One last lesson as a parent. Don’t be afraid to try games with your kids, but keep in mind that the age ratings are there for a reason. We checked the age rating of the Fortnite before allowing our 12-year-old daughter to play. We also checked what the limitations would be if we refused to pay for extras. Thankfully, she can play unhindered without ever paying a penny.
As a parent, it is my responsibility to monitor what my children are doing. It is my responsibility to be sure that the games they are playing are suitable and that they are not coming to harm whilst playing. Constant vigilance is needed for this, and, most importantly, constant communication with your children to understand what they are doing and why. And hell, play the damn game with them – that’s the best way to understand it!
Also published on Medium.