In 2017 the iPhone X was launched and everyone was shocked to see a promotional photo showing off the phone’s new screen tech by displaying a shot from the Christopher Nolan film, Dunkirk. Now that doesn’t sound too shocking, until you remember this was showing a Nolan film (an avid activist for cinema, big-screen experiences and traditional forms of filmmaking and film-viewing) with rounded corners, on a small screen, with a pretty large notch cutting into the screen. Memes at the time caught onto this, asking for people to check on Nolan to see if he was ok and maybe if he needed therapy after Apple’s truly atrocious way of showing his film (FYI, I am a huge Nolan fan but memes at the time did tickle me). You may be wondering why I am opening an article about Fortnite with iPhones and Nolan? Well, three years after that promotional picture was revealed, you can now watch Nolan films exactly how he always pictured it, via fake cinema screen in the battle royale game, Fortnite. Quite the jump in three years isn’t it?
That is the impact Fortnite, developed by Epic Games, has had not just on modern gaming but online communities, whilst also now looking to revolutionize how we consume media, advertise products and participate in forms of social media. Released in 2017, amongst a whole host of other battle royale games which have now grown massively in popularity, Fortnite has stood out as one of the most played games in the world. Free to download, in-game purchases aside, of course, it has drawn millions of players, and now viewers. In recent months Fornite has gone from simply a game to a whole new form of entertainment platform. From Travis Scott’s CG performance and concert within the Fortnite game world (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYeFAlVC8qU), we have now reached a place where Fortnite players have viewed Nolan films (how this got past Nolan who knows?!) free of charge on in-game cinema screens. What a weird concept really, but it has blown up what Fornite has, and could continue to, become
In a world where most people think of social media as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Fornite has suddenly blasted open the doors starting to hint at a world only dreamed of in films such as Ready Player One. Quite easily and quickly, many people could be using Fortnite to meet friends and watch a film together, jumping straight into a game of battle royale 10 minutes later, and then watching a concert from one of the worlds largest acts 10 minutes after that. Therefore, in a world where Coronavirus is still a risk to many, could we see cinema not only shifting to streaming sites but also Fortnite? For some, cinema is the big-screen, best way to watch a movie experience, something streaming and definitely Fortnite cannot touch. However, for other cinema is a social occasion, and no matter the film it is all about the experience of viewing it together. This is where Fortnite, and other games, could begin to step in and fill some of the gaps in this new Coronavirus world.
Alongside this, Fortnite is only one bow in the quiver of modern gaming communities and interaction. Networks such as Discord and Twitch (still the market leader, even with the rise of Youtube and Facebook Gaming allow more people to come together in new ways than ever. Gaming communities have not always been the most extroverted, and sites such as these have allowed safe and supportive ways for gamers to come together and interact. These worlds are now opening up, breaking barriers to become leading social networks and ways of consuming media.
I use Twitch and Discord myself to chat about games that focus on story, and I love to discuss and debate these stories. These are opportunities I find hard to find on Twitter now, which can so easily fall to hate speech, so I stick to Discord where chat can be more focussed and understanding in ways. When we look at these new gaming-focused mediums they see a bit more limitless, where ‘traditional’ social media is beginning to look more and more limited. This truly is a new world.
So having said all of this, is Fortnite the future of cinema? Overall probably not in its entirety. It cannot recreate the experience of being in a cinema screening, but instead, it can break out of those limits and create truly social online experiences, open to all. It cannot replace cinema, but it can be quite a unique, and futuristic, alternative. Now I am off to watch Batman Begins on a virtual screen, via another, real-life screen, what a wonder the modern world is!