My pairs are approaching 60. When they were young, they hung out on diners, or drove around in their cars. My generation hung out in the parking lot after school, or in the mall. My colleague John Biggs often talks about hanging out with his nerdmates in the basement, playing games and making tissue conversations.
Today, young people hang on a virtual island that is suffering from an ever-ending fatality. It's called Fortnite .
The thread above describes exactly what I'm talking about. Yes, people absolutely log on and play the game. Some play it very seriously. But many, especially young people, jump on Fortnite to socialize.
The phenomenon of "hanging out" on a game is not new.
Almost all popular games result in a community of players connecting not only through the game's common interest, but as real friends who discuss their lives, thoughts , dreams, etc. But something else is up on Fortnite which can be far more effective.
The gaming culture has long had a reputation for being highly toxic. To be clear, there is a difference between talking about someone's skills in the game and making a personal attack:
"You're bad in this game." = Fine of me
"You shall kill yourself." = Not nice at all
But many streamers and pro players make offensive jokes, chatter about each other and rage when they lose. It's not shocking when the broader game community trying to imitate them, especially the young men growing up in a world where esports are real, tend to do many of the same things.
A new type of society
] But Fortnite does not have the same type of society. Surely, as with any game, it's bad apples. But at all, it's not the same toxicity that permeates every part of the game.
For what is worth, I have played hundreds of hours with both Fortnite and Call of Duty in recent years. The difference between the way I am treated to Fortnite and Call of Duty, especially when my game-matched teammates discover I'm a woman, is really staggering. In fact, I've been legitimately scared by my interaction with people on Call of Duty. I've met some of my closest friends at Fortnite.
Such a relationship is with a young man named Luke, who is to set up from college this spring.
During our current friendship, Luke revealed to me that he is gay and had trouble getting out to his parents and peers at school. As an older gay, I tried to give him as much guidance and advice as possible. Being there for him, answering his phone calls as he struggled and reminded him that he is a unique, strong person, may have been one of the most rewarding parts of my life in the past year.
I've also made friends with young men who, when they realize I'm older and a woman and have a perspective that they might not, accidentally ask me for advice. They have asked me why the girl they like does not seem to like them back – "Don't try to make her jealous, just treat her with kindness," I recommended, adding "ok, do her a lite jealous "- or waited for how their parents" are idiots "-" they do not understand you, and you do not understand them, but they do their best for you and no one loves you like they do "- or expressed uncertainty about who They are – "You're great at Fortnite, why wouldn't you be good at a lot of other things?" and "have more confidence".
(Though they are paraphrased, there are real conversations I have had with random players at Fortnite.)
There is perhaps no other attitude where I might meet these youths and not one where they might meet me. And even if we met in the real world, would we open up and discuss our lives? No. But we have this place in common, and when we multitask the game and have a conversation, our little hearts suddenly open up to each other in the safety of the island.
But that's just me. I see this mentor all the time in Fortnite, both in small and large ways.
Gaming culture is often seen as a bad thing, and there is a wide variety of examples to support this conclusion. Although this notion is slowly changing, and not always fair, players are usually perceived as lonely people bathed in the blue glow of the screen light, or poisonous brats who cuss and throw out veil and break down women.
So why is Fortnite different from other games? Why does it seem to be a society that at least doesn't actively hate each other?
A map, a million colors
First, it's the game itself. Although Fortnite contains weapons, it's not a "violent" game. There is no blood or gore. When someone is eliminated, their character only evaporates into a bunch of brightly colored bulot. The game feels moody and cartoon-like and fun, full of dances and fun outfits.
Log in to Fortnite feels good, like hearing the opening music of the Harry Potter films. Log in to a game like, say Call of Duty: WWII feels sad and scary, like seeing the opening sequence of Storage Private Ryan .
Furthermore, Fortnite Battle Royale finds on a single large map. That map can be changed and developed from time to time, but there is even more "common" between players. Veterans in the game show noobs new places to find loot or ways to get around. As my colleague Greg Kumparak told me, "every time you go in, you go to the same place. Maybe it shines a little differently, or it's suddenly a Viking ship, but it's at home."
Of course, there are other colorful, bubbling game that still has a big toxicity problem. Overwatch is a good example. So what's the difference?
Battle Royale has introduced a whole new dynamic to the gaming world. Instead of turning into a one-on-one or a five-to-five scenario like Starcraft or Overwatch, Battle Royale is either 1-vs-99, 2-vs-98, or 4-against-4 96.  "It's not as binary as winning or losing," said Rod "Slasher" Breslau, old-fashioned games and esports journalist previously by ESPN and CBS Interactive's GameSpot. "You can place fifth and still feel happy about how you played."
Breslau played Overwatch at the highest levels in some seasons and said it was the most frustrating game he has ever played in 20 year games. It can be colorful and bubbly, but it is built in a way that gives a single player a very limited ability to swing out the result of the game.
"You have all the common problems of playing in a team, depending on your teammates to play their best and communicate and just have the ability to compete, but multiply it because of the way the game works," Breslau said. "It is very dependent on heroes, meta is quite obsolete because it is a relatively new game, and the meta has been found out."
All this, coupled with the fact that Overwatch's success is based on collaboration, makes it easy to get frustrated and let go of teammates.
With Fortnite, several factors relieve the stress. In an ideal scenario, you match up with three other players in a squad match and they are all cooperative. Everyone lands together, they share shield and weaponry, communicate about nearby enemies, and literally pick each other up when one is knocked down. This type of collaboration, even among randos, promotes friendliness.
In the worst case you are like players who are not cooperative, who use poisonous language, who steal your loot or just go off and die, leaving you alone to fight against teams of four. Even in the latter scenario, there are ways to play more cautiously – play passive and hide, or third-party games that are underway and pick players, or lure the teams that are framed.
Certainly, it is useful to have skilled, communicative teammates, but being compared to not-so-big teammates does not send most people to blindness.
And because the odds are against you – 1 vs 99 in Solos or 4 vs 96 in Squads – the high one of winning is almost euphoric.
"The lichen is the problem," says Breslau. "Winning a close game of Overwatch, when the team works together and communicates, feels good. But when you depend on your team to win, the lions are so low.
The more merrier
Fortnite's popularity as a cultural phenomenon, not just a game, means that many non-players have found their way to the island. Young people, a whole new generation of players, are obsessed with the game. But people who may be away from games as they age, still load it down on the phone, or install it on the Nintendo Switch, and give Battle Royale a try. Outsiders, who have not been steeped in the overly common hat found in the common game community, give a sense of perspective to Fortnite. There is only more diversity that comes with a wider range of players, and diversity promotes understanding.
In addition, Fortnite has a solid age distribution among players. The majority (63 percent) of Fortnite players are between 18 and 24, according to Verto Analytics. Twenty-five percent of players are aged 24 to 35, and thirteen percent are 35 to 44 years. However, this data does not take into account players under the age of 18, representing 28 percent of the total players, according to Verto. One way Fortnite is as other games is that 70 percent of players are male.
There are not many scenarios where four people, from different backgrounds and age groups, go together under a common goal in the type of mood lifting that Fortnite provides. More often than not, the youngest little man tries to make a kind of offensive joke to find his social place in the group. But surprisingly, for a shooter played by many people, it is rarely tolerated by the older members of a Fortnite group.
All eyes on Fortnite
The popularity of the game also means more eyes are on Fortnite than any other game. Super popular streamer Ninjas live stream with Drake had more than 600,000 simultaneous viewers, and inserted a disc. The more people watching, the more streamers are forced to see their behavior.
Fortnite streamers set a new example for players everywhere.
Such a streamer is Nick "NickMercs" Kolcheff. Nick has played Fortnite since it first came out and has a great community of mostly male viewers. I consider myself part of, albeit a minority in that community – I've subscribed to his channel and cheered him with bites and participated in the chat. In short, I've spent a lot of time watching Nick and have seen him offer a place of support and friendship for his viewers.
I've seen Nick's audience ask him with so many words, how to lose weight (Nick is a great training man), or share that they have a disease in the family, or share that is heart shirt because her boyfriend was wondering about them.
To a large extent, Nick says he taught me to be a mentor from his own father.
"I remember being in such positions, but I have a nice father who always put me and let me air and then shared his opinion and reminded me that it shouldn't be easy," says Kolcheff. "It feels good to bounce things from other people, and it's always hard to get difficult things when you know you're not alone and I can relate to my chat as my dad is concerned. "
Nick always has something positive to say He reminds the audience that even if they feel alone in the IR, they have a community there in their Twitch channel to talk to, showing an example of how he speaks about his girlfriend Emu and how he treats her on the screen When Nick loses a game and his chat bursts with anger, he reminds them to be cool and not talk about other players.
And it's easy to see his example followed in the chat, where young treat each other with respect and answering each other's questions
Nick was not always so Actually, the first time NickMercs and Ninja played together, they took up the time Nick challenged Ninja for a LAN tournament battle many years ago. But both Nick and Ninja have evolved into something you rarely find in online games: a role model – and it has had an effect.
Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, far from the most successful Twitch streamer ever, decided to stop swearing and by using degrading languages as his influence in society and his sight grew. When the audience said they missed the old Ninja, he had this to say:
I'm the same person, you. 2018 can't handle old Ninja and … guess what, I can't handle old Ninja because the words I used to say and the game terms I used to say … they weren't ok, okay? I've matured.
Jack "Courage" Dunlop is another Fortnite streamer who uses his influence in society to mentor young people. He has befriended a young man named Connor. Fashion helped Connor with his first victory and has since continued to play with him and talked to him.
Not only is he kind to Connor, but he sets an example for his viewers.
"For games like Call Duty and Gears of War and Halo, the best creators like Ninja, Sypher PK, Timthetatman, are a little older now," said Kolcheff. "They've come from other games where they already had the following. If you look at me five or six years ago, or some of us, we've all chilled out. We were more fighting and crazy and had much more words to say, but I think we have just grown up and it is bleeding through to society. "
These guys are the exception in the wider world of games and streaming, but they represent the future of games in general. As the esports explode with growth, players will undoubtedly be held to the same behavioral standards as pro players in traditional sports. not to say that pro athletes are angels, and that is not to say that bad actors do not have the following. Just look at PewDiePie.
A question of time
Esport's world is aware that they cannot leave their professionals Running Your Mouth Without Consequences As the industry grows, highly dependent on advertisers and brand evidence, with a young audience sticking to each word, it is becoming increasingly important for leagues, esports, and game makers to begin to pay close attention to the behavior of the best players  We already see this kind of politicization on Overwatch, both for gamers and amateurs.
There is much more work But the problem of removing toxicity from any platform is incredibly difficult. Just ask Facebook and Twitter. Nevertheless, it is just a matter of time before the esport makers increase their efforts on what they will allow from their representatives, who are pro players and streamers.
Toxic behavior is rejected in most polite communities anywhere (except Twitter, because Twitter), and it can certainly not be tolerated much longer in the gaming world. But the Fortnite maker Epic Games has not had to put too much effort into clearing up on poisonous behavior. The community seems to be doing a pretty good job that remains responsible.
Winner where it counts
Believe in me, Fortnite is not a magical place filled with unicorns and rainbows. There are still players in the game that behave badly, cheat, use toxic language and are simply means. But compared to other shooters, Fortnite is a breath of fresh air.
Nothing makes Fortnite less toxic. A beautiful, mood-lifting game cannot make much of a difference on its own. A large, relatively varied player base certainly makes a belly. And yes, the game limits frustration by just managing expectations. But with leaders who have prioritized their position as role models and all the other factors that work in harmony, Fortnite is not only the most popular game in the world, but perhaps one of the most polite.
We reached out to Epic Games, Courage and Ninja for this story, but did not return at the time of publication.