How ‘Fortnite’ Became the Most Popular Video Game on Earth


When Kylie Milligan met her boyfriend in their high school’s parking lot in May, she found him holding a sign that would be nearly incomprehensible to anyone who has not recently spent a significant amount of time around teenagers. “Now that I’m John Wick, get this John Dick @ PROM,” the poster read, also featuring a yellow “#1” and a man in a suit. Milligan, naturally, understood the sign immediately. This was a “promposal” — an elaborate ritual modern teenagers undertake when asking dates to prom — written in the language of Fortnite, the most popular video game on the planet. The “#1” is what players see when they win a match. The man in the suit is “John Wick,” known officially as Reaper, a Fortnite “skin,” or costume, that could be unlocked only by the most dedicated players. The message was clear: Now that her boyfriend had conquered Fortnite, it was time to focus on prom. Milligan, a 17-year-old from Peterborough, Ontario, told me she found the promposal “actually really hilarious.”

Since it launched in July of last year, Fortnite has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence. The 100-player, last-man-standing video-game shooter is obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high-school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people. All this, not because of a major technical or graphical breakthrough, or for a groundbreaking work of narrative depth, but for, essentially, a simple, endlessly playable cartoon. On a colorful island peppered with abandoned houses, towns, soccer fields, food trucks, and missile silos, players don colorful costumes, drop out of a floating school bus, and begin constructing ramshackle forts that look like they’ve popped straight out of a storybook, before blowing each other to smithereens.


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