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Monday, July 6, 2020

Fortnite's Black Lives Matter Event Experiment

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - They were doing it for clout, but it's also an interesting social experiment.

Did you have a nice Independence Day? Here at KoopaTV, we wanted to focus our independence energies towards Hong Kong. Epic Games, the developer of the uber-popular Fortnite, put their just-as-valid independence energies towards a We The People event in Fortnite's Party Royale mode, hosted by CNN FAKE NEWS contributor Van Jones, along with Jemele Hill, Elaine Welteroth, Killer Mike, and Lil Baby. They wanted to talk about systemic racism in media, culture, and entertainment, and unfortunately, Fortnite is a big player in all of those.

Just for a little background, Party Royale is a pretty new Fortnite mode that's being used to feature live shows/broadcast content, such as concerts and movie showings. Players get to sit back and watch, stripped of distractions like weapons and goals. Creative people have a big interest in wanting to showcase their work in front of the massive audience that Fortnite can bring. Previous showcased things include deadmau5, Diplo, Inception, and Batman Begins.

Videogame academics and researchers interested in games as social spaces will be very interested in how the Party Royale develops, if it continues to. It's definitely still an experiment, and I'd consider this specific We The People event to be... a failed experiment. You can watch the whole thing for yourself here if you want—I did to prepare for this article—but you can also skip it and just keep reading my thoughts and a complication the event faced. Warning: Contains some really awful (but safe-for-work) rap music:

Like actual movie theatres, you can see in the embedded video here that there can be obnoxious people jumping up and down in front of your view of the screen. More problematically, the broadcast in some lobbies was sometimes being interrupted by what appears to be bored children that somehow brought in tomato/paint launchers, despite the event's promise of no weaponry. See the following clip to see this in action, which has a few seconds of the awful rap music:

Now, I don't think this was a typical Party Royale lobby experience, since the ability to have items was meant to be disabled and later that actually happened. (To be honest, I gotta give credit to the level of in-game creative expression you can do within Fortnite's world.) But it does demonstrate there is a weakness to using Fortnite to spread serious messages and operate as a game for social change.

Fortnite We the People Party Royale Van Jones Black Lives Matter screenshot stuff
Alright, I screenshotted this.

There's an opportunity cost. At this time, you could instead be playing Fortnite's standard modes. You could be playing any number of actually good games. You could have been watching fireworks. You could have been following the very unfortunate issues going on in the Super Smash Bros. community over the weekend. (That's what I was doing, though I don't wanna write an article about it.)

People—especially Fortnite's audience of children—don't turn on Fortnite to watch social justice conversations. They apparently will come to watch concerts and movies, since at least those maintain the Fortnite spirit of entertainment and don't require you to know big words, but having watched the whole event above, there was nothing remotely entertaining about that.

Fortnite We the People Black Lives Matter kid Pikachu shirt sign dark skin is not a crime
Shout-out to the kid with the Pikachu shirt holding the stupid sign up.
(To “moody hip hop music”)

I talked to a group of Fortnite players I know while researching for this article. They've participated in prior Fortnite events. In fact, they celebrated a guy's birthday that was today by playing in Fortnite together. (Shout-outs to Haunty, who didn't actually play Fortnite with them despite it being his birthday, since he's growing up to be a fine young man and played Super Smash Bros. Ultimate instead.) Despite all of that regular Fortnite involvement, the group didn't even know this event happened. That's... not a good way to get the social justice word out, of course.

Given that, an obvious motivation for Epic Games to run this to begin with is “clout”, or gaining influence and good faith with the social justice folks. It doesn't matter if any players actually engaged with it—the fact that Epic Games tried at all and had the intent of education and awareness and whatever is all that's necessary.

The “virtual town hall” ultimately ended with Van Jones asking the audience to read several books (including White Fragility), watch a movie, and donate to various causes/websites. This was smart, since the Fortnite crowd knows all about spending other people's money (parents’ credit cards) on dubious items and are happy to do so. It was also foolish, because I highly doubt the people who showed up had the attention span to reach the end.

Ludwig won't be asking any Fortnite kid for their money at the end of this article. In fact, Ludwig gives out money to one skilled KoopaTV participant—from his own funds and not his parent’s—as part of the KoopaTV Loyalty Rewards Program. You should check it out and stick around KoopaTV and try to win it. In fact, another alternative to watching the Fortnite event would've been to read and engage with KoopaTV articles. That's free, too!

This article explains why Ludwig dislikes Fortnite. 
This article is how Ludwig knows Fortnite is mostly made up of illiterate dumb kids. If they can't read a EULA, how are they gonna read a whole book about the history of race in America?
Epic Games has stated in court that We the People had 1.5 million viewers.


  1. It looks like the account that shared the clip was suspended from Twitter. At least my ears were spared from having to hear the awful music. Also, if I want to be preached to, I go to church not Fortnite.

    1. Ooof.

      Alright, I embedded a YouTube video (but clipped the beginning and end to just show the action and not the YouTuber's exposition) in its place.

      Some of the awful music is still there.


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