How can Fortnite help us understand Generation Z?

Fortnite has taken the world by storm. With over 200 million registered users, it has become the world’s most popular game. Those ranging from age 10 to 23, otherwise known as Generation Z, have claimed the phenomenon as their own.


Amber Feitsma

14. marts 2019 · 5 min reading

A massive, dystopian world, including an apocalyptic storyline and a destructible environment, where an intense player-against-player battle is fought between up to 100 members – last man standing wins. Fortnite was one of the biggest trends of 2018. In this article, we examine how Fortnite’s popularity reflects on other general trends for Generation Z that can help us understand the characteristics of this young generation.

Over the past few years, the gaming world has transitioned from being a space for nerds to a more refined subculture. Gaming has developed into a sport that demands high-profile events, capable of filling a world-class stadium with prize pools of $25 million. Fortnite is the current front runner of this trend.

Fortnite re-invents the virtual hangout

Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite, managed to recreate the way in which teenagers socialise. Whereas many of us gathered at skate parks, basketball courts, or cafes, Generation Z experiences community differently – by virtual meetup. Fortnite is a social environment with its own slang and behavioural norms. Not only does this community exist online, but also in the living rooms of Gen Z’ers who get together to play with their friends. Whether physically or virtually, it is the after school gathering place for many of today’s youth.

Fortnite is free and available on all platforms making it easily accessible for everyone. Players can participate using their mobile, laptop, or PlayStation. We can easily attribute Fortnite’s viral success to its accessibility and socially engaging community. This tells us a lot about Generation Z’s desire for a network, and their willingness to engage with others in new ways. Although they may not know each other, they do the ‘floss dance’ together and feel a common enthusiasm when Epic Games announces a new release of their favourite game.

Fortnite kan lære os ting om Generation Z

Floss dance

Climate research and Fortnite?

The platform is used for much more than animated avatars winning battles. Many Fortnite users film themselves playing while providing commentary and stream their video content via Youtube or Twitch. Video commentary has developed far beyond the usual explanation of tactic and strategy. There is a Twitch channel where climate scientists play Fortnite while teaching their viewers about climate change. This developed from a tweet posted by researcher Katherine Hayhoe, in which she complained that her webinar on climate change reached only 1000 views on Youtube. Meanwhile, her 11-year-old son’s Fortnite clip reached about 10,000 viewers in under 48 hours. This inspired Henri Drake, a climate researcher at MIT, to create a Twitch channel that combined the two.

A strong, versatile community is built up around Fortnite. Large virtual communities have existed in the gaming world for years now – for example, in Second Life or World of Warcraft. The difference between Fortnite and others is that the community exists on a much larger scale. In its prime, World of Warcraft had 12 million active users – peanuts when compared to Fortnite’s aforementioned popularity. Gen Z’ers tendency to mass-adopt is especially interesting, as it tells us something about their general social expectations. Fortnite is a solid example of how a quickly and enthusiastically these digital pioneers can build a community online.

Influencers and raw, two-way communication

This popular form of community is also found on streaming platforms like Twitch and Youtube, where millions of viewers follow their favourite influencers closely. The biggest star in the Fortnite universe is ‘Ninja’, who has just over 20 million Youtube subscribers and 12 million followers on Twitch, where there is no doubt he is the most popular streamer. Aside from his blue hair and exceptional gaming skills, he does not distinguish himself as different from his audience, therefore making him popular due to his relatability.

Ninja publishes a massive amount of content daily. His content doesn’t result in large production costs – it usually consists of 12-hour, unedited streaming sessions. These sessions are raw and authentic on a level very few influencers can reach. An influencer that is popular with Generation Z doesn’t let the public watch passively. They include their audience and engage with them by answering their questions and comments live.

So how can Fortnite help us understand Generation Z?

Fortnite is among the first of its kind to combine gaming with social experience on such a large scale. It is a trend that strongly resonates with Generation Z, telling us without a doubt that today’s youth expect to communicate differently than those before them. When it comes to understanding Generation Z’s characteristics, it must be acknowledged that the virtual world is just as familiar to them as the real world.

Of course, it is difficult to predict how platforms such as this will develop in the future. One thing is for sure, the youth of today have already embraced the concept of virtual community and online companionship. If we are to understand the trends, slang, and characteristics of Generation Z, we must meet them where they are. They are no longer found on the football field – they are online.

CompanYoung has over a decade of experience researching trends of upcoming generations, and we are happy to discuss them with you. If you are interested in how today’s youth think, how they interact, as well as which trends we can expect to encounter in the future, find out more about what insights we have to offer.

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