Kids These Days, With Their Fortnite
I have always been massively into music. I’ve prided myself on the variety of my musical interests; that many of the bands I loved, I could pay $10 to see them perform at a bar because I had done the work to ‘find’ them before popular culture exposed them to me. Hell, the hunt itself had always been a thrill, and the reward of hearing something bold and fresh and new was sweeter still.
Then, in 2015 – at age 29 – I read this headline:
It flat-out frightened me. In four years, I would very likely stop trying to find new music – a trait that I thought partially defined who I am. What will that be like? Why will I do that? I mean, why does ANYONE do that?? It didn’t make sense. Yet, in thinking about my experiences with the older people I knew, this pattern of behavior became obvious across the board. Older people watch older movies. They often roundly dismiss new technologies, sometimes even choosing never to try and learn them. They don’t understand what kids are into these days, and I’d be lying if I said it seemed like that bothered them. And yeah, of course, they listen to older music.
I think that, for a lot of the older games crowd, this is happening with Fortnite. We see it in all of its frenzied, cartoonish chaos, and maybe we compare it to the methodical “realism” of PUBG, and we, consciously or unconsciously, apply the “for young people” label to it. Maybe we even recoil from it on-sight. For some of us, I think that also means that we dismiss it out-of-hand, because we are reaching a point where, when we can’t immediately come to grips with what the kids are into, we are more willing to acquiesce to our knee-jerk reactions to those things than put in the work trying to make sense of it. That’s okay (we don’t need to try everything), but it also means that a lot of dismissals coming out of my age group – of things that young people absolutely fucking adore that we “just don’t get” – should be taken with a grain of salt.
Since Fortnite’s release, I’ve heard these dismissals from games writers across the spectrum, and I know I’ve heard them from my own mouth, too. We’ve quickly decided we don’t like it, and we’ve spent more time trying to reason our way to a conclusion that matches that initial impression, than we have spent actually playing the game to decide what doesn’t work for us.
I’m 32 now, and I am keeping an eye out for this response in myself every day. Though I know it’s a battle I’ll never be able to stop fighting, I hope I don’t end up giving in to that impulse to dismiss new things. Fortnite still hasn’t clicked for me the way it’s clicked for millions of others (the pacing is just not what I am looking for at the moment), but I’m not going to write it off entirely just yet – I’m making an effort to give it a fair shake. I’m fighting this impulse the most direct way I know how: when faced with a new thing we aren’t really interested in understanding, we should resist the urge to step back and validate our knee-jerk reactions, throw impulses aside, and just dive head-first into the unfamiliar. We may not always like what we try, but we are always richer for having had the experience.