Fortnite's coming home

Could England's World Cup success be down to Fortnite?

10th July 2018

Sunday evening. Big man Harry Kane is sat on the sofa in the England camp, World Cup trophy sat to his right, Golden Boot to his left. But he only has eyes for the screen in front of him. His lovely lips, that hours ago formed the words of the national anthem, now say something entirely different.

“Where we dropping boys?”

“Tilted Towers,” Dele Alli’s comforting tones come through his headset.

“Sounds good,” Jesse Lingard and Kieran Trippier are in.

England and Tottenham’s star striker jumps out of a cartoon flying bus, dropping rapidly into a city made only of pixels.

Sure, winning the World Cup was great, as is the inevitable knighthood that he expects upon his return, but for weeks he had been dreaming of an entirely different win. He wanted to be the last alive, armed with a rocket launcher and sat in a fort rapidly made of scavenged bricks, he wanted to revive his England and Fortnite teammates, he wanted to see those words Victory Royale emblazoned in yellow across his screen just one more time.

Fortnite is hugely popular among children, adults, and anyone in between alike, and is one of those games that has transcended from gamer culture into just “culture”.

The free-to-play Battle Royale game makes money from selling in-game currency V-Bucks, which can be used to buy “skins” (outfits) or “emotes” (dances) for your character. It has often made the news for causing unruliness in schoolchildren, causing kids to steal parents’ credit card details to buy V-Bucks for YouTube likes, or being linked to video game addiction.

However, it isn’t all bad. Obviously, these are extreme cases, and while unruliness and misbehaviour at school is never good, is it really anything new? Or is Fortnite just the latest way for rebellious children to misbehave?

In recent weeks, “addiction” is a word that has been thrown about more than Jordan Pickford has thrown himself across England’s goal, but Andrew Reid, a doctoral researcher of serious games at Glasgow Caledonian University, told the BBC that classifying excessive consumption of video games as addiction “would be to stigmatise the medium as an evil to our society, despite a growing portfolio of video games and research that reinforce the positive characteristics of play and interactivity”.

But England’s cool captain Harry Kane didn’t need to steal his parents’ wallet to rake in the likes. He saved up his own hard-earned wages so he could afford to be able to dab when he headshots someone and floss when he wins a game. And you can’t blame him, can you? He’s just won the bloody World Cup, he glances away from the screen for a second to check it’s still there, and now he just wants to no-scope some noobs.

If they can win the World Cup together, they can win a Fortnite match together.

He’s just here to play with his mates, his mates who are all sitting with similar setups, medals around their necks, ready to be the last men standing on an island made entirely of lines of code. If they can win a Fortnite match together, they can win the World Cup together.

If they can win the World Cup together, they can win a Fortnite match together.

Football and gaming have had their histories intertwined since EA released FIFA: International Soccer in the Christmas of 1993. FIFA, and a host of less successful rivals, have had huge amounts of popularity due to gamers wanting to emulate their favourite players’ successes or take Tranmere Rovers to their first Premier League title.

However, FIFA has rarely made its mark on irl football until recent seasons, when clubs started signing professional FIFA players on lucrative contracts due to the rising popularity of eSports, and the prizes therein.

But then footballers discovered Fortnite. Harry Kane discovered Fortnite. He’s got two kills already, but Alli took out an entire team of four, the bastard. Kane’s golden foot is useless now, nobody on this island cares that he scored the penalty that won the 2018 World Cup for England. Nobody cares that he was instrumental in Bringing Football Home. He shotguns a player hiding in a bush and takes his sniper rifle. The game is on. Where’s Alli?

Along with the rest of the world, world-class footballers spent their free time playing the Battle Royale game, and in a way, this affected their football. Atletico Madrid and France striker Antione Griezmann was probably the first player to celebrate scoring one of his many goals with a Fortnite dance, and suddenly, it was cool to like gaming again.

Don’t get me wrong, gaming is now a very mainstream hobby, far from the nerdy pastime it was seen to be in the ’90s, but Griezmann and co probably did more for Fortnite than any advertising campaign.

Aside from their inspired celebrations, England players have been very forthcoming about their own Fortnite escapades in the camp. It’s no surprise that team youngsters Marcus Rashford and Alli play religiously, or that young-at-heart Raheem Sterling and Lingard log on to Epic Games’ best-seller, but the true revelation has been star striker Kane.

Kane and Alli have previously livestreamed their matches, including one against defender and teammate Harry Maguire.

Kane, or should we say “hkane23”, has racked up an astonishing 110 matches while in Russia, closely followed by Tottenham (and evidently Fortnite) teammate Alli, also known as “Delstroyer14”, who has played 82 times, according to reports. The pair have previously livestreamed their matches, including one against defender and teammate Harry Maguire.

The England team are laid down under heavy fire, occasionally raising their heads to fire warning shots back. They’ve already won one shootout today, so this should be easy. Kane, Alli, and Lingard are crouched in some shrubbery against a team camped out around some suspicious-looking vans. Trippier died a few minutes ago, so now just offers encouragement in their ears like an aural cheerleader using praise instead of pompoms.

“Go on boys.”

They’re used to winning shootouts — they broke England’s curse after all — but they’re another man down. Lingard took a shot to the head, and another before Kane or Alli could revive him.

With nine members of the squad joining in, it’s probably better than any team-building exercise that Gareth Southgate could ever dream up

“Do it for England, Harry,” are Lingard’s last words before he logs off. And Kane will.

Trippier told the Daily Star: “We’ve got about nine players who play it. It’s exciting. We have a lot of banter.”

And a quick game of Fortnite is so often great fun. With nine members of the squad joining in, it’s probably better than any team-building exercise that Gareth Southgate could ever dream up, too. England are too often plagued with the problem that their players are used to playing against each other in the Premier League season, that it’s hard for them to suddenly cooperate. Unlike German teams of the past relying on a spine made of Bayern Munich players or Spain’s 2010 winning squad drawing players almost exclusively from Barcelona, England players play for a variety of clubs across England, and always have.

But now they play together even when they’re not training.

Reid thinks there’s more to it than that. In his article for The Conversation, he explains that Fortnite’s popularity is down to five factors, sensation, narrative, challenge, fellowship, and pastime.

It seems they genuinely like playing with each other. Is it because of Fortnite? Who knows. But it might be

The role of fellowship is the most important here. England players are now teaming up for enjoyment, sharing banter across voice channels, and, most importantly, winning together.

Their enjoyment is palpable on the pitch, too. It seems, at least on the telly, they genuinely like playing with each other. Is it because of Fortnite? Who knows. But it might be.

There are three players left alive, but Alli is bleeding out. He took a ton of assault rifle hits from someone who came running out of the storm before Kane managed to avenge his teammate. If he’s quick, he can revive him, but he’s almost got a clear shot on his opponent’s head from around a tree.

“Leave me, take the shot,” Alli wills. “Take the shot!”

Kane hesitates, before lowering his weapons and running to his friend.

“I can’t leave you Dele, not like this. Besides, we’ve got a better chance with two of us.”

The seconds flick past, the mood is tense. Alli hasn’t said anything. 5… 4… 3…

Kane is urging the seconds to go faster. His eyes, usually focused only on a football flying into the net are now focused on reviving his last remaining teammate.

2…

Nearly there. This is the captain’s duty, to help his team in times of trouble.

1…

The big yellow letters flash on the screen.

“YOU DIED hkane93.”

Silence.

Alli finally speaks. “Some of the guys are getting food, shall we join?”

England World Cup winner Harry Kane glances at the trophy to his right. World Cup Golden Boot winner Harry Kane glances to his left. Fortnite fanboy Harry Kane looks at the screen in front of him.

“One more game?”

10th July 2018