As a battle royale shooter, Fortnite stands out from an increasingly saturated market by giving players the ability to craft structures, traps, and objects. Any player worth their salt will also probably tell you that you need to build in Fortnite if you want to be any good. And yet, dozens of hours into Fortnite, I still haven’t really learned how to build much. I’m not alone.
I am a Fortnite numbskull. Sure, I’ve built a makeshift ramp to get to a chest at least a few times, and I always pick up whatever resources I can, but for the most part? Fortnite is primarily a standard shooter for me. I largely use the strategies I’ve learned in other games to survive for as long as I can. The biggest difference is that I’m hyper-vigilant because Fortnite is a game where you can get shot at from seemingly anywhere. Otherwise, I drop down, I find some guns, and I go on the prowl for enemies. I know this isn’t how you’re supposed to play. I know that I’m ignoring one of the biggest mechanics in the game. But I can’t stop.
Apparently, there are people out there who are just like me. I asked my Twitter followers if they build in Fortnite, and was shocked to discover that nearly 60% of respondents claimed they never build anything at all.
I'm curious: how many of you playing Fortnite have actually learned how to build? Do any of you play without building?
— Patricia Hernandez (@xpatriciah) March 5, 2018
Granted, 427 players is an extremely small sample size of the millions of fans who enjoy Fortnite. But, my gut tells me that there must be a not-insignificant population that doesn’t make use of Fortnite’s defining mechanic—we just don’t typically talk about it because it’s too embarrassing to admit. It’s like saying you’re the person who plays the “soldier” class or the “warrior” class in a RPG. It’s not a bad way to live, but… isn’t it kind of boring?
This shooting-focused strategy largely works for me. I’ve yet to get #1, but I’m regularly in the top 20, if not the top 10. I experience all of the ruthless highs and lows of fighting against 99 other players. I feel the rush of nearly being a contender. Fortnite is a perfectly satisfying experience for me as-is. That’s the problem, really.
Every time I stop and try to learn how to build, it feels like I’m starting from zero. I have to figure out the “when,” I have to figure out the “how,” and in the middle of that, there’s a whole lot of death. I don’t survive when I’m fumbling around with the crafting system, because I haven’t yet built the muscle memory for it. Building, right now at least, means eating shit. And as someone who basically grinds IRL to become better at an actual sport, coming home to a video game and having to learn how to crawl isn’t very fun. I like it when I’m good at something. It’s comfortable. Maybe that’s pathetic, but there it is. I’m fine not getting #1. Getting close to it is cool, too.
I realise, of course, that Fortnite is a completely different game once you’ve learned how to build. I see the fun people have building stairways to heaven. I admire the sneaky traps people make to wreck their enemies. I know it’s useful to be able to build some protection for yourself no matter where you are, because it means you can survive for longer. I haven’t had the thrill of using a jump pad when the storm is closing in. I haven’t had the satisfaction of creating a clutch play that was only possible because I built the right thing at the right time. That’s the difference between me and the player who gets #1: they build. I’ve never been in a game where that wasn’t true. I might be satisfied now, but I’m also holding myself back.
And so, eventually, I’m sure I’ll put the time in to learn how to truly play Fortnite. It’ll be like a whole new world has opened up before me, and I’m sure the game will be ever better once I master building. Until then, I’m perfectly happy continuing to be a Fortnite meathead.