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The one weird trick that transforms Fortnite

I am 35 years old and play Fortnite.

That’s not really strange – many adults are Fortnite fans. But for those of us of a certain age, Fortnite is just a game we sometimes play, while for younger gamers it’s part of their social fabric. That’s where they live. We are only visiting. Or maybe overkill? A particularly rowdy 8-year-old I met in-game not long ago yelled that I’m way too old to hang out in Fortnite. Was he wrong?

No of course not. But given the perception of Fortnite as a kid’s domain, it’s only natural that we adults fear going beyond the battle royale surface. And that in turn means those of us who want to dive in are going to have a hard time getting started because our Friends don’t understand it and can’t explain it either.

But I put the work in. I’ve spent a lot of time in the wilds of Fortnite, dancing and watching the stoners and kids in the game’s weird social underbelly. It’s actually not that scary as long as you know a few do’s and don’ts.

First, Not Voice chat with people you don’t know. It’s actually pretty easy, because unless you’re into Battle Royale LFGing, there won’t be a pressing need for it. And in Party Royale and Creative modes, it’s rare to see anyone in open play voice chat. So that’s good news if you’re the kind of person who didn’t want to explore Fortnite because you’ve seen Dunkey’s Fortnite Daycare video and really would rather not talk to kids. And hey, there’s even a non-language version of Among Us mode.

With that we come to you should to do: Learn the basics of Fortnite non-verbal communication.

The pillar of communication in Fortnite is a movement many people are familiar with from other online games – crouching repeatedly as a general gesture of friendliness. Fortnite players use it that way too, but there are Fortnite-specific nuances.

This movement, which I call a “crouched nod,” has a kind of “aloha” quality to it – it works as “hello” and “goodbye”, “please” and “thank you”, an apology, or just a general affirmation. A polite way of “I see you, I know you, I’m trying not to be a jerk.” Fortnite players use it so often that it’s essentially an in-game etiquette.

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If you’re in a more normal social situation, in the social hub of Party Royale, or in a creative world, nodding while crouching is etiquette, and that’s where contextual nuance comes into play. In a lower-intensity environment, crouching quickly over and over again seems weird at times, inspiring the people you see to repeatedly crouch and spin in circles in some sort of silly but often hilarious ritual. At times it plays as if Lassie is trying to tell everyone that Timmy got stuck in the well again – or in other words, that you want others to follow you so you can show them something.

Here’s a fairly common scenario. You’re on the Party Royale Social Hub, making your Obi-Wan dance to Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now.” A Darth Vader approaches him, starts doing the same emote for about half a second before breaking it off and quickly ducking. It basically means, “Hey, I’d like to dance with you, let’s sync our emotes.”

So you Obi-Wan cuts off the emote and ducks back. It takes a few tries to sync your emotes, but now you’re getting the Kinect Star Wars vibe you’ve been looking for. But you don’t want to stand there forever. When it’s time to move on, interrupt your emote with a trigger, then crouch and nod Darth Vader and Gangnam Style with a single polite apologetic nod. There the meaning is basically “I want to do something else now, but not because I hate you.”

These examples pretty much sum up the feel of the squat motion, and that’s what you really need to understand. Specific situational meanings are largely something you’ll have to figure out for yourself. But that’s the easy part, because just knowing was half the battle.

While nodding while crouching is enough to guide you through most interactions, there’s a more advanced level of this language that involves emotes – although that level isn’t necessarily one you should use in most situations. I’m talking about what I consider “awesome” emotes.

There are three main types that fit this bill: Ride the Pony, Eagle, and Bring It Around. There are other less common ones too – any emote that starts with your character extending their hand outward in a way that might appear like a groping when another person is nearby. But it’s usually these three.

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Like the crouch nod, these emotes have some contextual nuance that they don’t have Necessary mean something strange or negative. But if you’re wearing a women’s skin and someone comes up behind you and does one of these three emotes, then you’re likely to be sexually harassed.

More broadly, these emotes aren’t just used as literal declarations of horniness — there are ironic meme usages too, like a kind of joking way of saying you think someone is wearing something cool. Most people just use a heart or fire emoji for this since they are less ambiguous. But others just can’t stop themselves from trying to be “hilarious” – your mileage may vary.

Additionally, people usually don’t try to communicate anything complicated with emotes. Usually a dance is just a dance. A heart emoji is a positive expression. There is nothing to decipher. It’s just people being silly, and in Fortnite people are almost always out for silly.

Last season I was in a solo match and I was chasing someone at the truck stop north of Rocky Reels when the Storm Circle was coming at us fast. So my target jumped into a big semi and started driving, and I just jumped in the passenger seat and went with it. And that wasn’t the early game here – there were only nine players left when we started this little journey.

We drove in peace until we reached Coney Crossroads where we met another player. This one also tried to get into the big rig but couldn’t as it only has two seats. After a moment of confusion, this third player climbed onto the booth and we continued our pleasure ride.

Unfortunately the next person we encountered opened fire and killed our outside passenger so I got out and killed this new person and then our driver killed me and then two other players who were hiding nearby snapped at the Driver. Step aside, Bilbo Baggins…This was the real unexpected trip.

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Another time, I hung around in a user-created team deathmatch mode called Summer vs. Winter, where two teams start at each end of an arena and try to push the other back to its home base. My team had been dominating and we had ended up completely blocking the opposing team, unable to do anything. And that’s boring, so I took advantage of the fact that this mode gives each player an infinite stack of Chug Splash healing items and started throwing them at the other team’s spawn area while frantically nodding into a crouch .

This move very quickly turned the whole match into a restless emote session with people occasionally shooting at each other but mostly just joking around. I had fun with these guys for about 20 minutes before we all started leaking out. It was lovely.

The Fortnite language is probably at least a little more polished than I give it credit for – I’m still an old man with no kids to guide me through this mess. Or maybe not. The crouch nod and Fortnite specific contextual things are things that most people need to learn as they play, as each “word” of this language means 10 different things and you need to use the context to know which definition is the correct one.

In a way, that level of nonverbal communication is ideal — I don’t need to know about anyone else’s politics or beliefs that I might hate, and it’s incredibly easy to permanently avoid someone who annoys you because you can just block them.

But perhaps most importantly, seeing all of these cartoon characters communicating with primitive gestures like cavemen is just too endearing. I don’t have to ruin this by meeting the real people who control it.

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