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A 43 year old non-gamer plays Fortnite for the first time

Words by Rob Chilton

A 43-year-old man who last played video games in 1998 (GoldenEye on Nintendo 64) plays Fortnite for the first time. Here’s what happened

The first time I heard about the video game Fortnite was during the 2018 World Cup. Harry Kane revealed that he and the rest of the England football team played in tournaments together during their plentiful downtime – not the kind of shooting practice I thought Harry and co were used to.

With an experienced gamer by my side offering gentle instruction, I sit in front of a laptop (in this case, a super smooth Asus ROG Strix G gaming rig) as he loads up Fortnite for my debut outing. I clutch the ergonomically contoured mouse nervously and fumble with the ‘W-A-S-D’ keys.

The first thing that strikes me about the game is the sheer amount of stuff on screen – boxes, grids, symbols, maps, icons – I don’t know where to look and can feel the beginnings of a migraine.

Epic Games More action in one screenshot than in 10 minutes of my play time.

Man of little action

My character appears on screen. I am a blond man with the grin of a Disney hero and NFL-sized biceps and I appear to be doing some sort of dance. I gasp with horror when I see I am wearing combat trousers – don’t game designers know they went out of style in the 90s?

Anyway, I have no time to think about changing my trousers as I’m suddenly flying through the air on something called a Battle Bus. I leap out of the bus and begin skydiving towards a lush green forest. This is fun. I hit the spacebar to activate what looks like a high-tech umbrella and glide to Earth. Hang on, am I even on Earth or have I landed on some exotic alien planet?

It doesn’t matter because now I’m smashing a parking meter with a giant pickaxe and picking up a six-pack of something called Chug Splash, which looks like a disgusting energy drink. Will it come in handy? Who knows, but I stash the turquoise cans in one of the pockets of my combat trousers – they may look ugly, but at least they have some purpose.

I run around a bit and investigate a cabin, a lorry and a campsite. The controls are overwhelming and I get confused easily. At one point I panic and start jumping for no reason – it looks like I’m in Riverdance.

I sprint down a track surrounded by more forest – it looks rather pleasant and I start thinking about how much I should organise a camping holiday this winter. I find a luggage trunk and destroy it with one swing of my mighty pickaxe to reveal… an assault rifle! Let’s lock and load, baby.


My coach suggests I find some cover as I’m the last of 29 other players and should play safe. I think what he means is: ‘hide in a shed and just stay alive because at the first sign of trouble you’re going to get annihilated.’

I nod and take his cautious approach on board – before charging towards an enemy in the distance, jabbing the mouse button and firing my assault rifle like Rambo who’s just shotgunned six cans of Chug Splash.

My enemy’s makeshift metal shed disintegrates under my furious barrage and I dare to dream that I might win Fortnite at my first attempt. And then – bang – some sort of creature called Michael63516 springs out from behind a tree and splits me in two with a pickaxe. At least, I think it was a pickaxe – she moved so quickly that all I saw was a blur of blue latex and the swish of a ponytail.

I unclench my hand from the mouse as a message on screen informs me that I finished in 11th position. My first Fortnite experience only lasted seven or eight minutes but I enjoyed it and I totally understand why the game has gripped millions of players worldwide. Even from my quick cameo I see that the world you can explore in Fortnite is huge and varied.

With improved keyboard/mouse skills, more tactical knowledge and an increase in my street smarts I might survive a bit longer. Lookout Michael63516 – I’m coming for ya’ – but next time with better trousers.

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