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‘Fortnite’ takes video gaming world by storm ... literally

March 31, 2018 GMT

For us oldsters, “fortnight” is just a fancy British way of saying “two weeks.”

In the video gaming world, “Fortnite” is the hottest survival strategy game going. Count the unlikely duo of the Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster and rapper Drake among fans.

As of March 17, engadget.com says, about 40 million people were playing across PC and console platforms.

Fortnite is set in present-day Earth, where most of the population disappears in a massive, worldwide storm. Zombie-like creatures rise to attack the remainder, and Fortnite players in teams of up to four can cooperate on various missions to collect resources, build fortifications, fight the storm and KILL ZOMBIES!

Fortnite launched in July 2017 as a paid Early Access game and a PvE (player vs. environment) experience. Players completed levels by collecting materials and crafting elaborate bases to repel zombie hordes.

In September a free-to-play “Battle Royale” mode launched with this premise: 100 people parachute onto an island equipped only with pickaxes. Players, alone or in teams of up to four, forage for weapons and defensive items and hunt rival players.

The game area slowly restricts and players must remain inside a “Storm Eye” to survive. The eye periodically shrinks and players are forced to converge on the same areas.

Why is Fortnite so popular? Forbes.com says it’s visually appealing, the building aspect is unique to the genre and really works, and no other game offers a similar “battle royale” scenario, in which many combatants duel until only one remains.

And the cartoon-like nature of the game makes the violence more palatable for parents of younger players: “Yes, you’re shooting people with weapons, but it’s about as non-violent as a shooter can get, if that makes sense, between the animation style, the absurdity (people in bear costumes hacking at astronauts with pickaxes) and a total lack of blood or gore,” Forbes says.

You know you’ve got something when even morning talk shows are weighing in. NBC’s “Today” offers a “what parents need to know” primer for the game with these four points:

• The concept is similar to the last-player-standing scenario of “The Hunger Games,” but the killing is more cartoonish than realistic.

• It’s free to play on several platforms, although players can purchase specialized apparel for their avatars.

• Kids can play with their friends — but because they’re on a public gaming platform, they may also be playing with strangers.

• It will be even more ubiquitous soon, as it becomes available on mobile devices.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750, smcmarlin@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shirley_trib.