Fortnite has taken over.
Videos of people playing the game have more than two billion views on YouTube.
Drake has played it with Ninja, a celebrity among Fortnite fans. The gaming expo E3 hosted a 100-player tournament that included the rapper Vince Staples, the actor Jon Heder and the mixed martial arts fighter Demetrious Johnson.
But what, exactly, is Fortnite? If you are older than, say, 30, and not a teacher or a parent, you might have no idea. This is a guide for the perplexed.
All right, lay it on me.
Fortnite Battle Royale is a video game that allows as many as 100 people to meet on a virtual island and battle it out to be No. 1.
Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, reported in June that 40 million people log on to play it each month.
It is available on every major gaming platform, including PC; Mac; consoles like Xbox One, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch; and, most recently, smartphones.
The point of the game is simple: Be the last man, woman or child standing. Kill everyone else.
It is animated in a fantasy style, more “Legend of Zelda” than “Call of Duty.” The effects are not bloody or gruesome. Players can create their own characters and customize them, from what they wear to their victory dances. Accessories and appearances are very important. As in “Minecraft,” there’s a building element.
But make no mistake: You are there to kill. You’re running out of time from the moment your feet touch the ground.
What makes Fortnite different from other games?
Unlike many high-end console games, Fortnite is free to download and play, but watch out for the in-game purchases, which can add up. According to SuperData, a video game research firm, Fortnite made $318 million in May.
Another difference from other popular multiplayer games: You can’t save your progress or spawn again after your player dies.
Dead is dead.
You have to start over, making each match brand-new. Learning survival skills becomes important.
Also important: finding weapons. Your character arrives unarmed on the island via hang glider, dropping into the action.
A shrinking, bubblelike force field overhead corrals players into an ever-smaller area of the island, forcing them to move around constantly. You can’t just hide and wait to ambush other players. You have to stay on the map, creating fresh opportunities for confrontations with other players that reduce everyone’s chance at survival.
“In Fortnite, you don’t know where everything is,” said Clint Burkhardt, 29, a teacher in the Bronx. “You constantly have to watch your back, and it is never safe.”
But what of the children?
For gamers, particularly those under 18 who play in teams, Fortnite became something of a social club.
Most play with a squad of friends from real life or buddies made online. In schools, the game’s arrival on phones meant many distracted students before the end of the recent academic year.
“You can play with your classmates or mostly anybody around the world and maybe you can become best friends,” said Jaden China, 11, of Bergenfield, N.J. They talk over their microphones in the game.
It can be addictive.
Kevin China, Jaden’s father, said that during the school year he limits his son to only a couple of hours a day, or 10 to 15 hours a week.
“He is just so captivated by the game,” Mr. China said. “We have to pull him off of it.”
Mr. China has placed parental controls on the Xbox One he got Jaden for Christmas. He’s not concerned about violence, just screen time — and accumulating in-game purchases.
In four months, Mr. China has spent $140 of real money on things like skins and victory dances for his son. “It’s $20, or $25, for this or that.”
When they are not themselves playing, fans of the game are watching others play. Videos of highly skilled players on YouTube and Twitch, the gaming network owned by Amazon, draw large audiences of those hoping to pick up skills and tips from more experienced gamers.
Mr. Burkhardt, who teaches students from sixth to 12th grade, said he could usually tell when a student had been up all night playing Fortnite. They would fall asleep in class.
“Sometimes when a kid does something bad,” he said, “I’ll suggest to the parent to take their Fortnite away.”
So, you’re telling me it’s here to stay?
Perhaps. Just this month, a new season timed perfectly for the rest of the summer vacation debuted on Fortnite, bringing new challenges every week for 10 weeks, featuring historical scenarios that include Vikings, pirates and ancient Egyptians, and new tools like a cart to drive around.
So, what is Fortnite?
“It’s a good game,” Jaden said.
His father disagreed.
“I’ve tried to play it,” Mr. China said, “but long have been the days since I played my Nintendo in 1989.”
The old Nintendo had simple controls, he said, but the Xbox controller “has so many buttons your hand eye coordination has to be super good. It’s like being in a spaceship now.”
Orignially published in NYT.