It is hard to describe how bizarre Fortnite can be. While I was waiting for the virtual Ariana Grande concert, three identical Ricks from Ricks and Morty approached me and began dancing. Later, I saw two Marshmallows sitting in matching yellow beanbag chairs as I walked past them. The first show I attended was Travis Scott. Later, I wore a Toronto Raptors jersey with a dancing baby Groot attached to my back.
Fortnite‘s commercialism can be a bit off-putting. It involves a clash of fictional and real-world celebrities during a battle royale. It can also lead to some very cool moments, especially when it comes down to live events. The Ariana Grande concert was not only an exciting live music experience, but it also built upon Fortnite‘s rich history in fascinating ways.
Fortnite is a game where you drop onto an island and kill people. Epic’s constant experimentation has made Fortnite a fascinating game. If you stay for a while, you will be able to recall key moments that shaped Fortnite, such as when a mysterious cube moved around the island or when a rocket crashed into the sky or the time a black hole created a new map. These moments can even make all of the heavy-handed licensed aspects of the game feel strangely natural, like when the island was inundated with iconic Marvel locations.
This kind of integrated storytelling culminated in the Ariana Grande tour. Unlike previous concerts like Travis Scott and Marshmello, which were one-off events, Grande’s concert was tied to multiple aspects of Fortnite. Right now, the game is in the midst of an alien invasion. You can play new sci-fi weapons, as well as flying saucers that can suck players and an impossible mothership floating above the island. Before players even knew a concert was happening, one of those saucers parked right above the centre of the map and projected a holographic countdown clock teasing something big on August 6th.
The event was unlike any other Fortnite concert. It was more than music. Before Ariana Grande even appeared, players were ushered through a portal, where they saw glimpses of some of those significant in-game events, like the erupting volcano. The next series of mini-games featured a series of experiences that included sliding down a slide covered in paint, flying around a fluffy world, and taking down the Storm King, Fortnite’s former raid boss.
In a dark room lit by stars, the Grande, a tall, towering Grande, appeared. She took players through a surreal world. You could ride on a glittering llama or take a giant floating bubble in the sky. Escher-style castle, and then finally, the pop star emerged from the ground to smash her fans with a bejewelled hammer.
It was great fun. It felt like Fortnite. It was part of Fortnite’s growing mythos, from the tour’s announcement to the tie-ins between aliens and the iconic Fortnite imagery and moments; this time, a pop singer was involved. Grande looked even like a Fortnite player with glowing white eyes and a gown made of shimmering shards of glass. You can buy a skin to play as Grande in-game. There are still many in-game quests that players can complete after the tour.
Epic’s chief creative officers Donald Mustard and David S. Smith described Fortnite earlier this year as “an opportunity almost to create a new medium.” This meant that Fortnite does not have a traditional plot or characters. Instead, Fortnite uses actual events and the ever-changing world to create a long-running story. Almost every aspect of Fortnite has been relegated to this storytelling focus, including the many licensed tie-ins. Fortnite is a game where there is little to no difference between Ariana Grande performing and Galactus attacking an island. A concert in Fortnite is more than just a concert. It’s lore.