There’s a lot going on in this post. But, that said, this is the kind of thinking that I adore: a strange lens on what it means to be human in today’s online context. I know very little about Fortnite, and gaming generally (something I need to rectify), but so many of these new possibilities to connect between humans could only come about through the collision of gaming, the Internet and an inventive spirit.
Most “connections” made through battle royale styled games are probably any where from mildly abusive to outright destructive, or following on from friendships made outside the game. I do want to note that I have heard that Fortnite has a generally positive culture surrounding it. I hope that's true but no matter the culture, the mechanics of this digital universe require that competition outweighs cooperation—yes, I also realise there are different team modes, but I don't believe that’s the environment that Robin Sloan was writing about. What is interesting about the article, is the subversion of that default expectation:
Mostly, it didn’t work. I would holster my weapon, throw up my heart, and ... get blasted in the face.
Worse, and predictably: I’d offer my heart and it would be accepted—I knew this because I received a heart in return, sometimes a merry dance emote—and then, delighted with our teamwork, I would turn around and ... get blasted in the back.
I tried this negotiation many times with no success at all and my “Is this it?” curdled into “Is this us?” These were just the rules of the game—its very design—but even so. What a dire environment. What a cruel species!
Then, one night, it worked. And, in many games since, it’s worked again. Mostly I get blasted, but sometimes I don’t, and when I don’t, the possibilities bloom. Sometimes, after we face off and stand down, the other player and I go our separate ways. More frequently, we stick together. I’ve crossed half the map with impromptu allies.
I wonder how deep that final paragraph as a metaphor goes.