Currently one of the largest games of all time is Fortnite (next to Minecraft). I was at the ground floor of its’ launch, well before it became the sensation it is today, and have been able to watch it evolve into the juggernaut it is today. Released in July of 2017 the game did not originally intend to enter the Battle Royale circuit of games. A Battle Royale-esque game is based on a japanese movie (and manga/comic) that released sometime around the year 2000? (I believe? Someone can fact check me), In this movie – and I vaguely remember it, as I watched it ages ago – students are put into an arena of sorts, and are told to fight amongst themselves, where they must kill each other, and only one can come out victorious for some prize that I can’t remember. Thus Battle Royale was born.
The Hunger Games is often seen as the very first Battle Royale property due to its’ popularity, but it is the Japanese Movie “Battle Royale” that really catapulted this genre (and it was adapted from a 1999 manga). Minecraft is actually credited as the first video game property to make survival mode based around this concept. It was then followed by DayZ, and the rest, my friends, is history.
So as I described before, Battle Royale is a mode where generally 100 (200 in some cases) human players drop from an aircraft of many sorts into a tailor made arena style map. These players then land in their own self-chosen locations, and loot randomly generated weapons, armor, and other gear. Bigger iterations of this genre include vehicles for players to get around. Also the consumer usually can choose to play with one other person (Duos) or multiple other people (Squads). The objective is to battle it out amongst the other players, until one person, or team, rises victorious. A storm, or other similarly designed creation, forms a circle around the arena, and closes in around the players on a set time frame, to get outliers corralled into a set area. If you stand in this “storm” you die after a set amount of time, so the limiting of space is a conscious player concern.
So this concept sounds amazing I’m sure, to those of you who probably haven’t ever touched a game like this. What makes this game, and game type – the largest gaming franchise in the world? Simple – Dopamine.
Let me preface this very quickly, I am not a scientist, or a major in biology or psychology. This is a blog. Not a thesis or report. I may say something a bit wrong, or a little scientifically incorrect. That’s okay – I’m not here for that. If you don’t like my somewhat politically incorrect descriptions or explanations about something, then my blog isn’t for you.
If you look up Dopamine, you’ll see it’s what your brain does to make you feel good. Similar to sex, eating, and other things you probably enjoy, Fortnite manages to get you brain to “feel good” and in turn, you want more of it. This borderlines, and sometimes does in fact, tailor into addiction. Most human beings have the primal instinct of victory, or wanting to be the best. Battle Royale games cater to this immensely, and I think that’s obvious. You drop in with 100 – 200 people, and your instincts take over, you have to win, you have to be number one – and that climb plus the need for survival is instantly a sense of gratification to you.
As you progress, and maybe kill other players, your sense of “accomplishment” is fed with with shots of chemicals in your brain. You feel great, amazing. It’s such a rush – already the adrenaline is pumping, and now you’re eliminating others, and it’s feeding into it even more. The ultimate hit, is the victory, if you manage to win, your brain may equate that to a small orgasm – in terms of chemical release. And so you see, Fortnite, and the Battle Royale genre in general, is a recipe for success, and it touches on so much of our human DNA, it’s almost alarming.
Fortnite has also learned to feed into our other weaknesses. Our wants for advancement and our wants to stand out with special skins, and emotes – which they obviously fill the void with in microtransactions.
The cultural success of Fortnite is amazing to look at, if you stand back and view it from start to finish. As time goes on it’s almost like they had many “eureka” moments, and built pillars around subsystems, and the like – feeding into more and more of our mental ‘weaknesses’ so to speak.
But hey, even though today you may have learned games like Fortnite just abuse our brains, it is still a good game – and I have touched anything about its’ tight gameplay, fun systems, and clever mechanics.
Until next time,