Fortnite has always existed just slightly off my radar. I'm a battle royale person, but I typically spend my time in Call of Duty: Warzone or Apex Legends, not the pop culture melting pot that is Fortnite. Then came the Ariana Grande Rift Tour, and my Grande fan status meant I had to download the game and spend $20 on the popstar's cosmetics bundle.
I made sure to attend the Rift Tour several times as well, and while the Ariana Grande Fortnite concert wasn't the fanfest I expected, it has caused me to become fully embedded in Fortnite. I've played it almost non-stop since the first night of the Rift Tour, and I'm showing no signs of stopping.
Bang bang into the battle royale
There's something about the way Fortnite plays that relaxes me. Both Warzone and Apex Legends have such highly competitive player groups that every match feels like a life or death situation both inside the games and out of them, but Fortnite is just so much more chill. Yes, I'm definitely still in the lower-tier matchmaking groups, and yes, the game is only chill so long as I keep my mic muted, but it's demonstrably less stressful than either of the two battle royales I've spent so much time in. For once, Fortnite is letting me play competitively without raising my blood pressure, and I've got Ariana Grande to thank for that.
How many other Arianators popped into Fortnite to catch a concert and stuck around because of the action? While it's difficult to get a clear answer to that question, I can tell from my TikTok feed that the girls and gays have flocked to Fortnite – many for the first time ever – and are donning their Ariana Grande skins in battle. And while streaming the Rift Tour for GamesRadar, several people in the comments expressed a renewed interest in Fortnite that's entirely thanks to Grande's in-game appearance.
The Rift Tour helped bring new and lapsed Fortnite players into the fray, but it also enticed a group of players who have been reluctant to download the free-to-play battle royale – players like yours truly. For years, I avoided Fortnite like the plague, claiming it was "too busy" or "too bright" or "too full of kids" to be worthy of my time. But as I played a few rounds waiting for the Rift Tour playlist to open up, I found the entire experience oddly soothing.
Yes, Fortnite is soothing. It's a weird thing to say about a game that's full of wildly gesticulating emotes, snippets of songs from Gen Z rappers I can't name for the life of me, and piercing yells emanating from elementary schoolers begging me to pick them up when I'm halfway across the map. But somehow, despite every facet of this game trending towards chaos, it's the only competitive shooter I've ever played that doesn't piss me off.
Calm before the storm
Part of the reason Fortnite is so relaxing to me is that there's just so much going on. This may seem like the opposite of a chill time, but the existence of so many side quests, dangerous wild animals, and glowing jump pads takes the pressure off of my skill set. I don't have to worry about getting better at sniping after spotting an enemy 10 yards away, because it's more than likely I'll walk near a Ferrari I can run them over with.
And even if I don't run over that enemy and ultimately die thanks to a bizarre combination of alien ray guns, wolf bites, and SMG fire, I can't get mad about it – it's just too absurd. How can I get angry at The Mandalorian for killing me and building a wooden shack over my dead body? How can I rage quit over Ariana Grande doing the Renegade dance next to my kneeling figure? Every time I die in Fortnite, I let out a little chuckle, because it's impossible not to laugh at such a cultural hodgepodge. Venom flossed on my grave, for god's sake.
Fortnite is also a surprisingly relaxing world to just wander around in. During a match, I landed along the outer edge of the map in an area I had yet to explore. As the storm moves closer and I leisurely make my way to the safe zone, I trudge through sand and across fields as myriad bird sounds emanate from the trees around me (the seagulls are my favorite). A gentle wind echoes in my ears as I continue to walk across the map, and I don't realize I've completely zoned out until a foghorn sound emanating from an overhead alien spaceship startles me. In all my years playing battle royales, I've never had the luxury of aimlessly wandering around a map and taking in the sights and sounds. It's bizarre that Fortnite is the battle royale world to afford me that – but it is.
Fortnite offers me respite from being hyper-competitive and frequently working myself up into a frothing rage at Warzone's invisible Roze skins or Apex Legends' gas traps. I can't believe I'm finding solace in a game world as vibrant, loud, and young as Fortnite, but I am. Thanks, Ariana Grande.
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