Fortnite is getting around faster than mono in a college dorm. Everyone’s playing it—some nights you can catch Drake online, other days you can read about NBA All-Star Andre Drummond’s obsession with it. Your kid sister plays. My kid brother plays. Why shouldn’t they? Fortnite is free. It’s also fun—but maybe you don’t see how. Maybe you’re trying to understand. Maybe you have questions. Questions like:
How do I get into Fortnite, Joshua?
Glad you asked! The good news is, it’s not very hard, partly because the game is free, as I mentioned before. It’s also everywhere—on computers (with pretty reasonable system requirements), on Xbox One, on Playstation 4, and soon, on iOS and Android. The first thing you have to know, though, is that Fortnite is actually two games in one: Save the World is a cooperative survival game that, for the time being, you have to pay for. Fortnite: Battle Royale is the game everyone’s talking about, myself included. So know that there isa version of Fortnite that costs money, and if you’ve found it, you’re looking at the wrong one. Then you jump right in!
You make it sound easy. Did you notice there aren’t any instructions on how to do….anything?
Correct, there are none. Not to split hairs, but Fortnite is technically in what’s called “Early Access,” which means it’s not “done,” and things might be jankier than you expect. It also means the game is still being actively worked on, with new additions and modes to try out all the time. That helps keep the whole thing fresh. But yes, the biggest drawback to playing a game still under construction is that said game expects you to know what you’re doing. That’s okay. Just jump in the pool, wave your arms in circles, and kick real hard.
That’s not how swimming works.
I live in New York, it’s been a while. The thing to understand about Fortnite is that, despite its simple premise—battle royale on an island—there are a lot of ways to play it. And we’re not just talking about solo/duo/squad. You can be super confrontational, free-falling towards where the most people are for a tense-as-hell firefight the moment your feet touch ground. Or you can be more devious, holing up somewhere and setting up traps. Or you can do what I do, which is just be a generally relaxed person running through the woods until someone spots you and you are forced to wreck a fool. (This never ends well for me.)
So I should keep trying? That’s a lot of work.
It’s not as much as you think! Fortnite makes it tremendously easy to jump right into a new game the moment you lose, but I’d also avoid doing that every once in a while. The game automatically goes into spectator mode when you die, and you should linger here a bit. Pay attention to how people play, and you’ll start to get a sense of what to do yourself. But that’s not the biggest trick to enjoying Fortnite.
Are you going to tell me to play with friends?
I’m going to tell you to play with friends. Fortnite is tense when you play it solo, but it becomes exceedingly swell when you’re rolling in a squad with three other people watching your back and talking in your headset. Remember what I said about how there are a bunch of ways to play Fortnite? Those lanes widen a bit when you have people with you. You can try wilder stuff, be more aggressive, and be much more chill when you’re chillin’. Fortniteis also—with its long lulls and short spikes in tension—a good game to just chat during. And you don’t ever have to deal with random people in your ear unless you really want to.
Okay, but do you have any real advice? Strategies that work?
Decide what kind of game you want to play, and free fall to that game. If you want something confrontational, dive right where everyone else is diving—usually this means the Tilted Towers region, which is full of buildings and good loot. If you want something less intense, whip out your hang-glider right away, survey the scene, and casually drift towards where everyone else isn’t.
What about when I’m on the ground, running for my life? What then?
I refuse to do this because I am dumb, but at least get comfortable with the idea of building stuff? Spectate a few games to the very end and you’ll see that they quickly escalate into spontaneous shoot-‘n-build parties, with walls and staircases being instantly conjured to hide behind and build into vantage points. Try and get comfortable doing this quickly—Fortnite makes it pretty easy—and always be harvesting materials with your pickaxe when you’ve got some downtime.
Another tip comes from my teen brother, who has much more time to play Fortnite than I do: “Don’t stop for every piece of loot,” he texted me. “Sometimes you’ll be looting or you’ll kill someone and they have really good guns—nah bro, hit the road. ‘Cause as you spend time looking at it, someone will see you and it’s over.”