Written by Hector Osegueda.
Graphic by Peyton Cabaniss.
A little over a year has passed since Fortnite: Battle Royale took the gaming world – and popular culture – by storm. Fortnite has swept through and permeated a variety of venues, and it seems that everyone has an opinion on the game. There are few games in recent memory that have stayed around as long as Fortnite has, usually within the initial year of release, gameplay tends to drop significantly. Think any of the Call of Duty installments after Black Ops, or any of the Halo games after Halo: Reach. Fortnite is special, however, because it has managed to maintain its popularity, and this can be attributed in part to its inclusivity.
Understanding how Fortnite is inclusive means first understanding what inclusivity is in practice. Oxford Dictionary defines inclusivity as “the practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.” In an environment where new gaming consoles cost upwards of $350, video gaming is increasingly becoming accessible only to those who have the money to afford the experience. Video game companies have taken steps to increase total costs for the gaming experience. For example, an Xbox game with a retail price of $60 also comes with several additional downloadable content packages, or DLCs, each with a retail price of around $20. The video game industry has saturated the market with new releases and the pricing distribution makes purchasing video games less accessible to those who cannot afford it. An economic barrier is created. For a video game to be relatively inclusive, it has to meet four criteria; it must be free, simple to understand, family friendly, and innovative.
An example of an accessible game takes us back to the summer of 2016, when the beloved Pokémon Go came out for smartphones. Kids and adults alike, wandered around outside, hoping to “catch them all.” However, if there had been an initial cost to the game Pokémon Go wouldn’t be as ubiquitous as it was. Pokémon Go met three of the criteria. It was free, simple and easy to grasp, and family friendly. However, it wasn’t innovative. While it was a summer hit, it simmered into the back of everyone’s minds at the start of that school year. Yes, Pokémon Go has received some updates, but they weren’t fast enough or significant enough to keep the interest of the masses. There are a few committed die-hard fans who still play every day, but today’s Pokémon Go doesn’t compare to that fateful summer of 2016.
Now, take Fortnite. For starters, the game is free to play and family friendly. Instead of killing other players, you merely eliminate them. There is no blood, and no graphic content for mothers to worry about. The premise of the game is simple, to run around an island with 99 other players, all trying to be the last man standing. And to top it off, the game is kept fresh, with continuous updates every two months or so. The developer studio, Epic Games, is always introducing new mechanics or weapons or updates that simply address issues that players are having with the game.
Dr. Leonard N. Moore, Associate Vice President of Academic Diversity Initiatives at UT praises Fortnite’s inclusivity, saying that “the game is highly customizable, you can create your own individual character and play with your friends; my son on a Saturday can be on that game all day.” Moore further explains that, “Fortnite does a good job of including everyone. Men and women are portrayed in the game, whereas before, for example, you’d have games like Grand Theft Auto that limit the role of women in games as prostitutes that the main character can beat on. Women aren’t reduced to sex objects in this game. Everybody can participate in this game, there aren’t any barriers.” Fortnite is open to everyone.
Fortnite, whether intentional or not, embraces inclusion; no matter the person, anyone can pick up the game, for free, and project themselves onto the character, something that might otherwise be hard to do in titles such as Call of Duty. There isn’t a rogue terrorist syndicate that needs to be brought down. The fate of the galaxy doesn’t rest in the player’s hands. There’s no princess to be captured. None of the usual alienating tropes exist in this game. The player merely glides down to an island where pure competition breeds inclusion among ninety-nine other real life players.
Inclusion is a relative and difficult task to accomplish, but an effort to include and represent everyone – no matter sexual orientation, race, socioeconomic status, or ability – can occur even in seemingly unimportant mediums such as video games. Fortnite isn’t a perfect video game, but in the mainstream, it is by far the most inclusive one.