Fortnite is popular for tons of reasons, but chief among it is the "battle royale" style of combat -- 100 random players dropped on an island, foraging for defenses and weapons, and killing each other until only one is left standing. There's no in-game chat, so you have to assume that anyone you encounter is a threat. In such a situation, it's necessarily dog-eat-dog, yes?
Nope. As Robin Sloan -- one of my fave writers and thinkers -- discovered, it's also possible to hack a form of cooperation.
It works like this: Sloan unlocked an upgrade that lets you display a "heart" icon above your head. So he tried using it as a single-bit mode of game-theoretical communication. When he was dropped into the game, upon encountering another player, he'd refrain from shooting -- and instead toss up the "heart" icon.
At first, it didn't work. The other player kept on killing him anyway. Until ...
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Then, one night, it worked. And, in many games since, it’s worked again. Mostly I get blasted, but sometimes I don’t, and when I don’t, the possibilities bloom. Sometimes, after we face off and stand down, the other player and I go our separate ways. More frequently, we stick together. I’ve crossed half the map with impromptu allies.
When it works, it is usually because I have a weapon and my potential ally doesn’t. When (shockingly) I do not blast them and (even more shockingly) do not pull a bait and switch, a real human connection is established, on a channel deeper than any afforded by the interface.