I'm not much of a gamer.
Actually, that's an understatement — I don't play video games at all.
The sum total of my gaming experience includes a round of "GoldenEye 007" I played at a friend's house once as a kid, and maybe a couple of poorly executed games of "Guitar Hero" in high school.
The only reason I sort of know how to use an Xbox controller is because it powers our Netflix at home.
So imagine my surprise that when I arrived home one day a few weeks ago to find my roommate playing a game called "Fortnite: Battle Royale," I was not only interested in watching, I actually wanted to play.
For the uninitiated, "Fortnite" is a third-person shooter video game that's a little like "The Hunger Games." It plops you in the middle of an island with 99 other players, and you're forced to use your wits, weaponry, and construction skills to survive.
You can't choose your own avatar in "Fortnite" — instead, the game automatically selects a person for you.
I played three games of "Fortnite," and each time I played as a different character. My first game, I was a buff, blonde, all-American hunk with biceps each the size of a healthy toddler.
My second time out, I was an equally svelte man of indeterminate race who got me to 30th place out of 100.
By my third game, I got to play as a woman — a tanned, muscular Lara Croft-type who helped me get my best score yet.
And while it was fun to play as someone who at least shared the same chromosomes, it didn't really matter to me whether I was represented by a guy or a girl, or by someone with the same racial makeup — it's just fun to play the game.
By automatically generating the avatars, "Fortnite" helps eliminate racial or gender bias and keep players focused on the game itself.
"Fortnite" is a violent game on its face. You are, after all, in a battle for your life, and you're using grenades and rocket launchers to kill your opponents.
But the violence is bloodless, and mowing down other players never feels like the focal point of the game — in fact, you could probably win "Fortnite" by hiding out in a shed for the entirety of the match. I never successfully killed anyone — remember, I never play video games, so my shooting skills are practically non-existent — but even when someone killed me, it wasn't gory or scary.
When I watch my roommates play games like "Call of Duty," they're violent and intimidating to me. But "Fortnite" is just plain fun.
A lot of shooter games I've seen have been dark, suspenseful, and anxiety-inducing — and they're just not for me.
"Fortnite," on the other hand, is bright and colorful, and looks more like a cartoon than the increasingly realistic video games I've seen.
Playing it feels fun rather than intense, and I like that there are no dark corners or creepy shadows people can pop out of. For the most part, it's just 100 animated super-athletes running around a beautiful island on a sunny day — they just happen to be carrying automatic weapons.
"Fortnite" isn't particularly easy to play. In fact, if I hadn't had someone coaching me, I would have been killed immediately my first time out.
But the challenge makes it more enticing, and kept me engaged and coming back for more. Getting my best score — 28th place out of 100 — felt like a huge accomplishment, and made me want to improve my skills. Plus, there are aspects of the game that I didn't even get to try out yet, like construction. "Fortnite" lets you collect building materials throughout the game to build yourself a fortress, but I never made it to that part.
"Fortnite" isn't so easy that you can beat it the first time out, but it's not so hard you feel defeated or confused.
The beauty of "Fortnite" is that if you die, it's no big deal. You can start a new game in just a few minutes, and the only thing stopping you from playing to your heart's content is a bruised ego. I only played a few games in a row, but I could have kept going for hours on end. Dying is low-stakes, and you won't ruin hours of progress if you get killed in the first few minutes of playing. That structure makes "Fortnite" stress-free and a fun pastime rather than a high-intensity game.
"Fortnite" is available on almost everything — PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac — and it's free to download. It's even coming soon to iOS devices and Android phones. That makes it accessible to anyone, which means it's easy to find people who have played it, or to share it with friends and family. I've always thought games like this were out of reach for me if I didn't own a console, and getting into video games at all seemed like an expensive endeavor. But being able to download "Fortnite" for free on my Mac — and soon, on my iPhone — is a huge perk.
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