The first of Fortnite’s Movie Nite events took place this morning, allowing players to watch a full-length Christopher Nolan movie from inside the game. For those in the United States, that movie is Inception, and I watched a significant chunk of it myself, only to find it was a far less strange experience than I had imagined.
The showing happens inside Fortnite Party Royale, a playlist introduced earlier this year that disables combat and throws players onto a smaller, custom island with a variety of activities that don’t involve shooting each other. If you haven’t jumped into this mode before, it’s a bit confusing as to where you need to go, but look around and you’ll quickly see spotlights in the distance calling attention to The Big Screen. As I approached and could see a corner of the screen from around a rock, I was worried the quality of the video would be low, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it was actually quite smooth, with no stutter or issues to report.
Of course, the logistics of watching something on a screen in a third-person game required an adjustment period. A series of small, ascending cliffs are located in front of the screen, and you need to position your camera in such a way that you’re not blocking the screen–something other players wandering by or paragliding in front of the screen did a few times. There are also elements of the HUD on screen by default, including your fellow party members and inventory selection, although from the distance I was watching, they never got in the way. There was no option to take the film full-screen, probably because that would defeat the purpose of this unique experience.
The awkwardness of this setup made the first few minutes feel as odd as you’d think. But before long I was content with watching the movie (which I admittedly do very much enjoy) in what felt like something akin to a drive-in movie theatre–albeit one I was attending solo, as the other players standing around were all strangers.
This is by no means the optimal way to watch a movie, and I certainly wouldn’t want to see something I cared about for the first time in this way. But particularly in these times of social distancing, I wouldn’t mind having the ability to rewatch a movie like this with friends as a sort of interactive take on Netflix or Hulu’s Watch Party.
That I wasn’t immediately turned off and disinterested from ever taking part in a Fortnite Movie Nite again is a genuine surprise to me, and a success for Epic. (David Lynch would probably not approve.) Debuting a new trailer for Tenet in Fortnite is one thing, but expecting people to sit through the full duration of a movie inside of a game is quite another. Fortnite has already shown itself to be a venue capable of hosting a unique concert-style experience. And while something like the Travis Scott event–which featured a great deal of custom design and was more interactive than watching a static screen–is undoubtedly the more impressive showcase of what’s possible in Fortnite, Epic may have just found yet another way to draw people into its game and get them spending on skins and dances to show off in the crowd.
If you want to check this out for yourself, there are additional Fortnite Movie Nite showtimes later today, June 26.
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