It’s usually 12:30 a.m. when I hear the soft clink of a spoon and the tinkle of Cheerios being poured into a bowl— it's time for my brother’s midnight snack. He’s just emerged from our basement, the place where he can comfortably shout commands into a headset without fear of waking up our entire house. He just finished his first year of high school—an experience completely altered by COVID–19—and, now, has a lot of free time. 

During the day he’s pretty active, spending most of his time outside: he plays tennis, has socially distant hangouts with friends, and goes for bike rides. But at night, he holes up in our basement in front of the TV screen to enter a world I’m embarrassed to admit I know absolutely nothing about: the world of video games. 

His favorite? Fortnite

My brother isn’t the only one obsessed with this game. It seems to have taken the world by storm, and has been a trustworthy and entertaining way to pass time during quarantine. So from one confused observer to another, here’s everything you need to know to hold a conversation with Fortnite fanatics without sounding like you’ve never played a day in your life (even if, like me, this may actually be the case).

Fortnite was officially released in 2017 after it was created by the video game developer Epic Games. The game itself is free and can be accessed in many ways: on an Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, iOS and some Androids. Basically, Fortnite can be played almost anywhere and everywhere. 

But how exactly does one play Fortnite? Well, it is essentially comprised of three game modes: Fortnite: Save the World, Fortnite Creative, and Fortnite Battle Royale. The original model of the game was Fortnite: Save the World. In it, one attempts to complete various missions and is able team up with three other players in order to do so. By completing missions, you can earn various prizes and items that will help you build yourself a virtual home base. 

Fortnite Creative is a way to do just that: get creative. In this world, you can create whatever you want on your own private island using the game’s building tools—and then you can virtually invite some friends over to admire your creations and partake in some unofficial friendly activities.

But Fortnite: Battle Royale is the mode that is most popularly played. When people say they “play Fortnite,” they are most likely referring to this. Battle Royale is just as it sounds: a huge battle. The goal? Be the last one standing out of 99 other players. You can also opt to play on a team of two to four instead of just flying solo.

Though the game itself is free, Fortnite makes a profit off of its make–believe currency “V–Bucks,” which allow players to purchase items for their character. One hundred V–Bucks is equal to one American dollar. You have to buy this currency in order to buy cool new tools for your character, but you can definitely get by without buying anything. Players are given some V–Bucks when they first start, as well as other essential tools, but enhancing their avatar and its arsenal has a price. But if my brother can brag about how he’s never had to buy anything and still crushes it, you can probably get by too. 

Fortnite may be a whole new world, but Epic Games is sensitive to the reality of its audience. Recently, many players noticed cop cars vanishing from the game. This wasn’t a programming glitch, it was Epic Games’ way of “being sensitive about the issues many people in our audience are dealing with,” and standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

This act is a testament to the fact that, for many, Fortnite serves as an oasis of sorts, a place to go to escape reality rather than be reminded of it. Perhaps, it’s time I give the game a try.