Battle Royales Are Changing Gaming
Fornite is more than just a step forward, it has started a movement.
Battle Royales have become the newest cultural phenomenon in gaming, and just like with every phenomenon in gaming’s past, it has only pushed the form of entertainment further onto the world’s stage.
When I was growing up, before I owned a gaming console, I remember listening to my friends talk about playing Call of Duty and Halo. Although I was thoroughly enjoying the ignorant bliss of my Wii gaming experience, I was always intrigued by my classmates’ enjoyment of their competitive, far-too-mature shooters. Listening to “KD”, “Care package” and non-stop onomatopoeia gun noises (which now seem like they should have been stopped by my teachers), I was confronted by the all-too-familiar middle school feeling of being left out of some fun. Despite this, in my optimism, I held onto the fun I was having with my Wii, but upgraded some years later to a PS3. Considering it’s overall worse performance in the US than its Microsoft-born counterpart, I began to find my way into single player titles like The Last of Us and Bioshock. Having followed games media for years, I was more than familiar with these titles and they excited me like nothing else. They showed me a new version of storytelling. Where my parents wouldn’t allow me to watch R-rated movies, I could play games with more mature themes. These games felt meaningful — they felt powerful.
But, at the end of the day, I wasn’t playing many multiplayer games. I went through bouts of Minecraft with some friends and I had a brief run of playing the Goldeneye remake that landed on Wii, but overall I spent most of my game-time in single-player, story-driven titles.
Now, amid a pandemic and following a massive surge in interest in online multiplayer games, I’ve been pulled right back into gaming, but this time I’m getting the multiplayer experience I had never had before.
Playing Apex Legends, Fortnite, and more, I’ve become immersed in the same multiplayer culture that was so prevalent during my younger years. But this time things have changed. Over the last 10 years, games have made marked steps forward from originating as mostly niche interests and moving to globally recognized entertainment. Where Minecraft was seen as a global hit, it was mostly recognized for the impact that it had on kids. Alternatively, Fortnite’s success seems to be a slightly different version of this success. Although mainly focused on the interest it has garnered from kids, Fortnite has become more successful to a mainstream audience, bringing with it other battle royales as well as gaming culture on the whole.
So while I never had the opportunity to play the competitive shooters that surrounded me during my childhood, the games of the modern age have helped me to catch up on some things that I missed. Although the days of Mountain Dew-drinking, Doritos-eating gamer stereotypes are behind us (thankfully), many of us are now able to create some of our own memories with games that we now love. Battle royales have given gamers an opportunity for a new kind of gaming pleasure and it’s a welcome change.
The attempted gritty realism of Call of Duty’s Team Deathmatch has now been replaced by character-driven, near-comedy shooters. Cartoonish characters and a clear aversion to displaying blood on screen, instead opting for popping animations and quick changes in character positions, have made modern shooters, especially in the battle royale space, much more friendly to a wider audience. The mechanics are just as good, but the animation seems to better understand the breadth of maturity that these games are reaching — clearly not to the detriment of more mature audience’s enjoyment of the games.
Games still aren’t taken as seriously as they deserve, as anyone who has played a recent PS4-exclusive blockbuster will tell you. And although making games more cartoonish may seem to be pushing that reality further into the future, I think, in fact, it will only serve to gather more fans into the medium, allowing people of all backgrounds to immerse themselves in a world that many had not previously known.
When it becomes more rare to receive a “no” in response to the question “do you play games?” than it is to receive a “yes”, then we will know we are well on our way to making this goal a reality. If I can see a difference in this in my lifetime, it is sure to be just around the corner.