Academically, Fortnite is very little studied unlike other video games. “Maybe because it is too popular”, assumes Yannick Rochat. During a conference at the University of Lausanne in March, Belgian, Quebec, Swiss and French researchers each applied their methodology to this game: on playful identity, analysis of discourse on forums, representations , the evolution of practices, etc.
How is “Fortnite” more than just a game?
It’s primarily social media. It is egalitarian, everyone can access it for free. We play it but we also communicate. We experience things. With a dose of self-mockery and common cultural references. Thanks to the wearing of a headset and a microphone, you can chat with your friends, meet up there, make friends with different people, which you wouldn't necessarily meet in real life.
How do you explain this dazzling success, especially among children?
It’s an amazing experience, there are heroic moments, bravery but also accidents, setbacks. With new products constantly. You have to cooperate to survive, help each other, and put strategies in place. One of the strongest moments is when you save one of your teammates. It’s like making a winning pass in soccer. For the youngest, it is also an extension of the playground: we talk about homework, parents, the last nice thing that we saw. Many are less interested in winning than walking around and meeting up with their playmates.
What do you think of the criticisms regarding the invasiveness of play for these children?
We live in a very safe time when we prefer to keep children at home. They go out less alone. They must have a counterpart. Watching TV is passive, there the child is an actor, it is a space of freedom far from parents, with its codes, its language, its community. Obviously, a child can get upset when we interrupt his game, but put yourself in his place, it's like turning off the TV ten minutes before the end of your movie. If young people sometimes take refuge there, the problem comes from elsewhere, that they are fleeing something. Avoid generalities and think on a case-by-case basis.
Parents should be interested in it, try to understand the codes, but not too much either because that is their thing. In addition, little is said about it, but many children and adolescents play in “creative mode”, outside of the battle royale, they build worlds, develop games. Often what adult players and children experience Fortnite has nothing to do in terms of standards and perception. I dream of a study that, in a few years, would examine the influence of current video game practices, how they will have helped define this generation.