What Mainstream Media Doesn't Get About Fortnite

Image: Epic Games

There's been an uptick in mainstream reporting on video games in Australia this week. It's to be expected following the horrific news of an Aussie streamer allegedly assaulting his wife on camera.

As usual, most of the reporting has centred on the game instead of the alleged abuse. And while that's disturbing - but not unexpected - there's an another crucial detail that's also being lost in the mainstream noise.

Gamers have known for a long time that gaming is a social activity; gamers by their nature tend to form communities, and become very devoted to those communities. That community might be a large guild, or just a small group of friends that happened to come together through a matchmaking algorithm or some other fortunate circumstance.

Case in point: some friends of mine have a particular Overwatch friend that we enjoy playing with. Most of the group knows each other quite well. We've worked together, hung out, played D&D, shared good times. But this one bloke, who goes by the name Couch, is someone we've never met.

Why is he so beloved? Because every time he ended up on the other team, everyone else kept yelling "COUCH NOOOOOOO".

So Couch became one of us.

It's little things like that.

Anyway, I came across a thread from Anoop Ranganath. It's a story that echoes many sentiments you might have seen in Mark and Luke, gaming parents both. It's what happens when your kids grow up and share games, and you start seeing games through the prism of their experiences rather than the decades of your own.

Anyone who's gone deep down the rabbit hole of one particular game - Fallout, Dota 2, the old days of Counter-Strike, the long-time fans of the Quake or TF2 community - will recognise this.

It's an argument you might have heard whenever esports - or competitive gaming as it used to be called - started to get on the mainstream radar. I'm not talking in the last three or four years, but a decade ago when things like the World Cyber Games used to be around.

Aren't you worried about these people playing as terrorists, planting bombs and shooting each other, some reporters would ask.

The answer would always be the same: no.

Because the value of the game isn't actually the game.

It's a social space.

To their credit, Epic seems to have recognised this with the creation of the creative mode. It's Fortnite without the element of competition. The kids that stopped playing Minecraft and just muck around on parts of the map building stuff - the antithesis of what the game, mechanically, is about - are going to love that.

That's something that mainstream reporting has, and possibly never will, ever understood about gaming. The concept of a virtual space as a social space, one just as worthwhile as a soccer pitch, a basketball court or any other outdoor environment, has always been a bridge too far.

But kids get it. Gamers get it. And while everyone continues to digest the horrors from this week, and what that means for a country that is failing to combat or even properly recognise the scourge of domestic violence, it's worth remembering the value of gaming, the benefits it provides that no other medium can accomplish.


    Doesn't surprise me in the least. Kids generally play games because their friends are playing and they want to socialise. It's all about fitting in. For adults, mostly they play because they actually want to play the game. Socialising is cool and all, but adults have many other options for that as well.

      Why just kids?
      I'm 31 and that's also the main reason I play games. Video and otherwise.

      I don't play games to play with myself. I enjoy single player games, sure... but If I had a choice of playing a single player game or almost any other game with a friend, I'll pick the latter.

      I mean... that's really what 7+ years of WoW was about. The challenge of working towards a tough goal together was a big part of it, but the other part was logging on after school or work and knowing that there will be at least a few mates online to chat too.

      Before wow it was MSN messenger. For some reason, facebook and phones don't seem to have that same effect. I still use various online messaging platforms to chat with mates but it doesn't usually feel as relaxed and organic as in game. It feels more like a SMS.

      I disagree that adults have many other options for socializing. Kids see their friends every day at school. Adults don't get that unless you work with close friends which is rare, or like hanging out with work people outside of work, which can often be rare too.

      The older I get the less contact I have with friends. People move away, get new jobs, get married, have kids etc.... It's certainly not the same as it was even last year. My close group used to live all within 5 min of each other. We could often ring up and say "what you doing tonight?" and hang out.
      Now we're a 20-30min drive away, and while it doesn't sound like much it makes a big difference in practice.

      And finally, as people keep getting older and generally have less time for gaming, I also find myself gaming less because all those friends aren't online either.

      That's why I find I play more single player games now.... not because I prefer them to multiplayer ones. But because my friends don't play much anymore and I don't really have the time to hunt around for new friends online.

        I guess the problem with generalising is that there are always exceptions. Fair comment.

      Nah man. Video games is my best avenue for socialization, especially since my closest friends moved cities. I think it's something adults get even more than kids, because they go to school together where as we've all moved away by now.

      I always thought it weird. Kids go to such lengths to "be unique" and "find their own path" Which usually ends up being what all the other kids are doing.... Which makes it not unique at all.

    "People get along", while a great thing, is not news worth reporting according to the mainstream media.

    Same as "sporting teammates have a quiet weekend hanging out" is not worth covering as opposed to "teammate punches out another teammate"

    It's when things are out of the ordinary that makes something worth reporting.

      "People get along", while a great thing, is not news worth reporting according to the mainstream media

      It really doesn't sell. The SMH article follow-up today on that streamer caught assaulting his wife was 10% about him and 90% a psychologist talking about game addiction and violence. At the end of the article, I assumed that all gamers just want to start fights with people based on the reporting. The reason? It is a paper-based news medium and I would say a lot of the consumer base are older and this is what they get riled up about.

    Gaming is a normal activity, like many things in this world have little effect on human mental health (most of the world can socially drink without leading to alcoholism or violence), but a normal activity can be a factor in an abnormal behaviour. Attributing cause and effect does not help in cases where the root cause is an issue with mental health of the individual.

    We are talking addiction, depression, narcissism, abuse, isolation, avoidance... the individual found a hook to bury his life in to hide from real life issues until such time it reached a breaking point. I think sensationised blaming does not help the healing or victims.

    I am 40 years old and have been playing games since before my Dad put a handle on my 486 DX 4-100 case so I could go to lan's.. Its always been the social thing.. My son comes home and plays fortnite every friday night after playing cricket with most of the same kids..

    Like most media outlets, their intent is more to push an agenda and generate views/clicks by appealing to what incites the strongest response from people, both negative and positive rather than unbiased and fact-focused reporting. "Man beats wife" while it might still attract a certain demographic due to their feelings on the matter of domestic abuse, is not nearly as topical as "Gamer beats wife" which invokes a much larger and more popular bugbear for gamers and general public alike.

    I thought gaming should be the hero in this story, the guy was caught because he was streaming and gamers reported his crime?

    I don't bother with mainstream news reporting anymore, it's basically a collection of random violent attacks that happened in the last 24 hours, with the occasional panda bear falling over.

      We were talking about MSM at work yesterday, about how its turned from being a neutral source of information to something so heavily biased that its become useless.

      This is no different. The media has isolated the whole event to "gamer gone bad, therefore all gamers are bad" in their efforts to generate clicks. That's not reporting, that's advertising. Which at the end of the day is what most news stories are about - generating ad revenue to make money.

      We no longer get news, we get editorials.

    This is Salmon Run in Splatoon for me. Usually while playing League with others I'm trying to focus on playing the game and filter out any distractions coming from VC, but when we're doing salmons it's very much just hanging out and shooting the shit, while mindlessly mowing down the hordes.

    Great article, and Anoop Ranganath's observations really ring true when I think about how my kids approach gaming.
    The inverse is true for me - I get virtually no time to myself in life. Home, work, commute, weekends. It's all crammed with other humans. My fondest Fortnite memories are from the early days - I'd drop on the outskirts of the map where nobody else bothered to go and just explore, loot, and follow the circle in. I didn't even try to win, I just enjoyed the solitude. Knowing there was some 90ish other people somewhere on that map unleashing mayhem and yet I had that whole chunk of the island all to myself. That was very nice.

      Yeah. Games aren’t social for me. They’re glimpses of other worlds, times and places and scenarios to explore because there’s never ever going to be enough to satisfy me.

        Aren’t... usually social for me, I mean. There’s a small handful that fill that niche for when I want it.

          Yep, I'm with you. I would never turn down an invite from my mates or bro-in-law, but I love the peace and downtime of gaming alone.

    My friends and I spent all day on and off playing WoW today because new content but we rarely did the content together, just sat there s**tposting all day. Anything with a social aspect makes it a social gathering place more than the gameplay itself unless you're doing cutting edge content.

      I will spend hours on G chat with the trolls and other people just chatting on Gen chat without actually playing the game in so many mmos

      Or organising streaking no armor no weapon naked runs across the map to a world boss

      Because actually playing an mmo can be boring as hell, its the social fucking around and being silly is where the real fun is

    Holy cow I'm way younger than everyone in the comments lol

    I was going to say that this is nothing new. The MMO genre has been around for a while. I have to give credit to Club Penguin. It profited by realising this.

    I could probably be one of the commenter's children

    Fortnite is just a monetised game service who cares what anyone thinks of it. It's basically pokies for children.

      While it is a profitable game, all its microtransactions are optional (kids may not understand that and cry they need everything in game... stay strong oarents) they dont cibtain loot boxes or anything that resrmbkes pay2win or gambling which is rare today.

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