I’ve written several posts on the Assassin’s Creed video games, which take place in cities like Venice, Florence and London long ago. Recently, the 13-year-old son of a member of the Pro-Urb online discussion group published on his blog a post called “What Do Cities in Fortnite Look Like?” The first series of Fortnite, “Save the World,” had over a million users in the month after its release in July 2017, but the second series, “Battle Royale,” had 125 million users in under a year. The popularity of Fortnite got it on a segment of at least one of the network evening news shows.
A lot of young people cycle through the places in video games. Reaction to the teenager’s blog post came in from Pro-Urbers. One wrote: “I often wonder if the current lack of beautiful architecture is because the more visually talented people go into computer animation, visual effects, and games.” Another wrote: “It’s not that architecture students aren’t visually talented. It’s that they’re taught to abhor the pursuit of that kind of beauty.”
The urbanism of Fortnite is not as sophisticated as that of Assassin’s Creed, but then again, the urbanism of 2019 is not as sophisticated as that of London 150 years ago, let alone Venice and Florence during the Renaissance, or, for that matter, anyplace anywhere before, say, 1950. Fortnite‘s creators are not as interested in its surroundings as in the battles that unfold within. In fact, Fortnite went viral only after it transitioned from an us-against-them (aliens) theme to an everyone-against-everyone theme. A trailer for “Battle Royale” ends with this motto: “Last One Standing Wins!”
So a comparison of Fortnite‘s settings versus those of Assassin’s Creed may be one of apples to oranges. But that does not make it uninteresting. The latest Fortnite series, called “Fortnite: Creative” encourages players to build whatever environments they desire. Let me see if there’s a YouTube video of that. … I did find “Build the Biggest House Challenge in Fortnite: Creative.” It is 19 minutes long but I could not make it past the fourth. I challenge you to try. Especially horrifying are the opening remarks by the players when they announce they are architects. Watch, if you dare!