Fortnite has, for years now, offered its players a place to escape the worries of everyday life. Its endless multiplayer matches play out in a bright cartoon setting. Logging onto its servers is a departure from the mundane realities of day-to-day existence. The game asks its players no difficult questions; it doesn’t want them to think deeply; it presents itself as idle entertainment—a balm for the stresses of everything else we endure.
As of yesterday, this is no longer the case. Fortnite has exploded, leaving behind a void of infinite nothingness—and a login error message—in its place.
Apparently motivated by a desire to move its players away from focusing on winning battle royale matches to concentrate instead on the dark nothingness that will, eventually, come for us all upon death, Fortnite just wrapped up its most recent in-game season by blowing up its entire virtual world and replacing it with a black hole. The moment of total oblivion is captured in a clip from James Jarvis. Like a Pixar-directed version of Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, it depicts the horrifying last moments of existence for the population of its once-sunny world.
Once players reckoned with the knowledge that classic Fortnite characters like that guy with a tomato for a head and, um, John Wick died screaming in mind-rending terror, they began looking deeper into the void to see what, if any, knowledge they could take away from such senseless destruction. As Kotaku’s Riley MacLeod reports in an article whose frequent updates do little to soothe the existentially-devastated brains of the game’s players, repeated attempts to login either fail or redirect to the uncaring eye of the black hole. The only clue as to what’s going on are numbers that occasionally manifest against the inky void, which can be decoded into a message that ends, reassuringly, with “The nothing is now inevitable.”
These attempts to extract meaning from the unknowable are understandable, but seem to go against the meditative spirit of Fortnite’s avant-garde new direction. Rather than try to unravel the mysteries of a blank eternity, the game’s creators would clearly prefer players take this opportunity to sit down, push their controllers to the side, close their eyes, and contemplate the annihilation of a cartoon world as a tool to help them edge closer to nirvana.
Head to the game’s Instagram page, for instance, to look at a series of posts that show nothing but pitch black images or a video of the swirling black hole presumably hoping to begin absorbing our real, non-digital world into its insatiable maw. Go to Fortnite’s Twitter to watch a livestream of the abyss itself, alien and all-consuming and totally unconcerned with any of the thoughts or feelings that animate human life. Think of these messages and understand that Fortnite now wants us all to stop wasting our time playing Fortnite. It wants us now to gaze endlessly into the dread godhead of a dim future, minds buzzing with recognition that the fleeting hours that make up a life pass too quickly before we, as intended, begin to relax into an acceptance of our place as but a single atom in the fabric of the infinitely unfolding tapestry of the universe itself.
[Note: Gizmodo/Kotaku/Jezebel/Jalopnik/Lifehacker/Deadspin, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Great Hill Partners.]
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