Fortnite is the most popular game in the world. We don't need hard player numbers for verification. Drake and Ninja obliterating Twitch's viewer record, the mobile release (which is an impressive port, by the way), and a zero dollar price tag place Fortnite at a golden cross section between accessibility and visibility. And the prime customers for those qualifiers? What kind of people have no money and worship Drake? The kids, of course.
So I turned to them for the real story—the real story being that I'm total garbage at Fortnite—and the kids always kicking my butt probably have some good advice to dispense.
As a former teacher, I reached out to one of my contacts in the old biz and asked to interview their lunchtime videogame club, a rowdy bunch of students in grades six and seven, about how to get better at building and blasting my way to a Victory Royale, and came away resolved to become a more diligent coward than ever before. (Don't worry, they signed permission slips.)
Derrick - Know where to land
Because a room of kids nearly screamed this one at me, I'm placing it high so they don't yell at me again.
"One tip is if you really want to win, don't land at populated areas like [the class joins in] Tilted Towers."
I'm with you there, Derrick. Granted, almost anywhere I go I die, but Tilted Towers is quarantine zone for the most reckless, confident, and dangerous Fortnite players out there. I'll keep a wide berth.
Austin - The next Ninja
This guy doesn't only know how and when to build bases, he has a knack for building an audience too.
"One tip for winning is you gotta like get a feel for building, and I'm going to start a Twitch account so I may be streaming soon. I recommend start out with a small base, and once the circle gets smaller you kind of want to build bigger. And kind of camp, but you don't want to camp too much, you kind of want to push."
Not willing to commit to the camping tip, Austin comes off as one of the more well-rounded Fortniters in the room. Adaptable—a hustler, you might say.
Jack - The Keymaster
The camper tally is adding up, and my cowardice hardens. Finally, an outlet.
Jack backs up his camping dossier with verbal confirmation, and a practical tip for PC gamers, one I hadn't even considered despite my trouble with the building system.
"My tip for winning to just hide and if you hear a gunfight run away, and just wait until there's, like, five people left. I usually just build a huge base and wait and get people as they come in from the storm. And also, change your building keys from F1 and all those to ones that are more around your hand, like V, E, so like that."
Thanks, Jack. I'm rebinding my respect for you to the '+' symbol.
Austin P. - Pickaxe problems
Austin is a spirited young man so burdened with Fortnite knowledge that I could almost see the launch pads and boogie bombs oozing out of his ears.
"My tip is to keep an eye on the other competitors and where they're going so you can keep away from danger from the start, 'cause they could find a gun and you could only still have your pickaxe. And they could beat you easy. Also, you should not try to beat someone with a pickaxe if they have a gun."
This is a mistake I still make today. I see the sharp instrument and instinct takes over—a swing or two should ruin anyone, yeah? Not so. Thanks for the reminder, Austin.
"A trick I know, you should always keep your ground. If you land somewhere try to keep there and raid it and try to sneak up on someone if they're going for your house, kind of, like, hide and when they come in ambush them."
I read this as an implicit camping endorsement. The kids love camping. I love camping. The future is looking bright, but also a little boring and frustrating. I'd say I can't wait, but I'm already hunkered under time's stairs looking at my phone.
Anakin - Charge!
This might be as close to 'git gud' as we'll get from the pre-Dark Souls generation.
"My tip is get a feel for building, like, build a lot, push a lot of people if you weaken them with your guns. Rush them! I mean, that's my playing style."
I don't know that I have the innate confidence or know-how to run headfirst into danger, but I can respect it. I respect it in the same way I respect those strongman competitions where large men pull vans with their teeth. Not going to happen for me.
Wyatt - One with nature
For the enlightened among us, Wyatt has a great tip for becoming an even better camper.
"I like to—when it gets to about five people I bush-camp. You can just sit in a bush. It depends on what your character looks like, cause if you have, like, the astronaut with the huge helmet you'll get downed most likely, but if you have something that blends in, that helps too. Blend in!"
Sometimes function has to rule out fashion, especially if your colors clash with a bush. I'll start thinking green, Wyatt.
Brody - Stay topped off
I get the impression Fortnite isn't Brody's first brodeo.
"Whenever you down someone make sure to reload before you go and find another guy."
Some classic advice, but worth repeating for panicked, forgetful fools like myself. It's the R key, yeah?
Justin - Building confidence
I don't know how to sit still either, Justin. Fortnite makes it possible.
"My tip for winning, even though I've never won a game, is I just camp the entire time. I don't recommend it, because I've never won, so don't take my tip."
An astonishing thing to witness: a camper becomes self-aware. As if he didn't just break through into a new realm of existence, Justin recovers with another essential tip.
"Always check for traps before you go into a room because you don't want to rush into a room and get hit by a trap."
This is good advice because, as he warns against, I quite often enter rooms without a worry only to get eliminated by the floor which is almost certainly clipped and shared on Reddit. Justin followed up with a written account, resolved to overcome his loss streak with a bold new strategy. Aggression.
While Justin is still waiting for that win, I'm digging the newfound confidence. Get out there, man. I'll keep the fire lit back at camp.