Bob Dunn | Game On: Fortnite is anything but fun

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Everyone else, save for myself and my cat, Gonzo are sleeping soundly, blissfully unaware of the misery that's been going on in the living room.

Gonzo, a normally ill-tempered beast, has a look on her face that, if I didn't know better, almost resembles sympathy.

My eyes hurt, the last unsullied piece of my soul aches, fun is dead.

"Fortnite" has broken me.

If you have kids, chances are, I don't need to explain what "Fortnite" is. For everyone else, it's a game released in 2017 and its most popular mode, the free-to-play, 100-player, "Battle Royale," quickly became a sensation, making its way to virtually every platform that can support it and worming its way into popular culture, well beyond the confines of the screen.

"Fortnite" is a virtual license to print money for Epic Games. The free game still managed to make up to $300 million a month during the first half of 2018, according to Forbes. The game generates revenue by allowing players to purchase in-game currency that can be spent to customize your character.

The NFL even took note and recently entered into a short-term arrangement with publisher Epic Games to allow players to purchase NFL uniforms for their in-game avatars.

The Battle Royale mode drops players (either individually or in a squad of up to four) onto a map where they have to collect resources, find weapons and survive until they're the last one standing. The playable area shrinks during gameplay, to eliminate those who would just hide at the edge until the other players succumb.

That dire scenario is offset by the game's cartoon aesthetic and bright, primary color palette; like if the "Hunger Games" film adaptations were done by Hanna-Barbera.

It sounds simple enough and, for a man of meager means like myself, the price (again, free) certainly has its appeal, so I figured I couldn't let the year end without at least seeing what the fuss is about.

I have no illusions of "winning" a round; I have no experience and even beginner's luck won't overcome 99 other players, some of whom log in for hours at a time. The problem with a "community game" like "Fortnite," is, if you're late to the party, the learning curve becomes that much steeper while you learn to overcome the well-worn strategies of the more seasoned players.

I'm not saying that kind of effort isn't worth it. It just takes longer.

I come from an era in gaming where games came with physical instruction manuals, which would at least provide an overview of the basics, if not deeper strategy. That's not the case here.

To paraphrase the late, great Prince: In "Fortnite," you're on your own.

But, that shouldn't be a problem. I mean, I know how to do this, I've got experience, gaming is kind of my "thing," right? (It better be, after all, I've been allowed to do this column).

My first few rounds end quickly. My avatar skydives onto the map and is almost immediately cut down before I can get my bearings or find a proper weapon beyond the pickaxe every player gets when they spawn in.

The axe, by the way, can work as a melee weapon, but is better-suited for creating materials by destroying in-game objects with it. Those materials can be used to build walls, ramps and other objects.

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I'd get more into detail on that point, but I didn't really get much a chance to indulge that aspect of the game, frankly.

Nope, after a few failed attempts to salvage my pride, I feel like I've walked into a casino, surrounded by 99 3-card Monty tables, with a $100 bill stapled to my forehead and wearing a T-shirt with the words "I trust anyone" written on it.

The next hour or so of repeated failures begins to take its toll and at this point I loathe every single decision I have ever made in my life that has brought me here.

A few minutes later, and I'm now considering just drinking all of the paint in the basement just to make the frustration stop and I start to see the appeal of the sweet release of death.

Another failed foray and I now hate pie.

Mind, you, all I want to do here is score a few points, or at least perform well enough to convince myself this isn't a cruel joke or some sort of enhanced interrogation technique, abandoned for being too cruel.

Fun now seems like a completely foreign concept; something that only happens to other people.

At this point, I've developed a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, which makes me start to empathize with the developers and realize, I somehow deserve this relentless beating, and if SOMEbody would just DO WHAT THESE PEOPLE WANT, all of this would stop.

Then, I accept what's happening and realize this is karmic payback for all of times I virtually pummeled my brother in Atari's "Combat" by trapping his tank in a corner and relentlessly firing shot after shot until the round was over, frustrating him to no end, I'm sure.

Hopefully, all of this at least begins to correct that wrong.

Then, I realize, it's just time to walk away and admit defeat.

It's OK, I tell myself. Nothing is for everyone, and this will just have to be one of those things that I acknowledge from afar and give a wide berth and leave it to the fans.

I feel about "Fortnite" the same way I feel about strip clubs. I'm not going to begrudge anyone their fun, but it's just not how I'm going to choose to spend my time.

But, there are plenty of other games to play, experiences to have and new, virtual worlds to explore as this new console generation hits its peak, with the first notions of what the next-gen hardware will be able to deliver starting to emerge.

So, with that, let's all resolve to laugh a little more, complain a little less, appreciate what we have, share what we can and protect what needs safeguarding.

And, as always, game on.

Bob Dunn is The Eagle's courts reporter. When he's not hanging around the courthouse, he can usually be found playing "Destiny 2." You can reach Bob via email at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com and at @BobDunn413 on Twitter.


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