The Hartford Yard Goats lost to the Erie Sea Wolves Thursday night. Top Rockies prospect Brendan Rodgers went 1-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs, and two runs scored.
Later on, Rodgers did what a lot of people do. He went home, relaxed, and played video games — Fortnite in particular. But unlike most other people, he also decided to broadcast his gaming session for all who cared to see. This was the siren call that drew us in and resulted in delight and confusion:
I’m live on Twitch - Watch me at https://t.co/rqChQt56ne— Brendan Rodgers (@Broddddd3) June 15, 2018
Of course we watched. We also decided to live tweet along, even though the person handling the account didn’t really know what was happening, only had general awareness of Fortnite, and offered some extremely noobish commentary. (We’ll call that person Meric Karcia McGinley.) Other current and former Purple Row staffers had a little more knowledge, and now those that were unaware are more filled in.
Here is an edited conversation between two Fortnite vets and two curious newbies that teases out all of the delightful and confusing things that emerged on Thursday night.
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Eric Garcia McKinley: Let’s get the basics out of the way first. What exactly is Fortnite?
Nick Stephens: It’s a Battle Royale style game where 100 players drop in out of a flying bus onto a giant island. Weapons, material, shield potions, etc are scattered around the map. You can use the materials (wood, brick, steel) to build forts, stairs, whatever. Every few minutes, a circular storm moves in closer and closer, and if you’re in the storm too long, you die. Your goal is to be the last person standing.
EGM: So when I tweeted that Rodgers was shotgunning a beer he was drinking a healing/empowering potion?
NS: A shield potion, yes.
Jordan Freemyer: Also, in addition to the every man for himself mode, you can play in teams of 2 or 4.
EGM: One thing I didn’t get while watching Brendan Rodgers play was the auto-construction of ramps etc. in front of it. What’s happening there?
NS: You can basically build while on the run. You can choose between a wall, a floor, stairs, or a roof. It takes a few seconds for it to completely build, but you can still run on it while it’s building.
JF: Well, you saw him chopping up the trees and buildings with the basketball hoop axe, he’s harvesting those materials to build fortifications, which is where the “fort” in Fortnite comes from.
EGM: What other sorts of weird tools are there other than the basketball hoop axe?
JF: The two main ones are your axe and your glider, and you can purchase or earn skins to make them look like all sorts of things.
Renee Dechert: I’m interested in all of this. I set up an account this morning and have been playing around with it. I have a pick ax I’m pretty excited about. I downloaded it on my iPad this morning. I don’t have a console (and I do have rural internet...)
NS: There’s a bunch of different ones, but they’re purely cosmetic. They all do the same thing. Some are spiky axes, there’s a stop sign one, a paint brush, etc.
RD: So, Nick and Jordan, why is this game all the rage? What appeals to you about it?
JF: Part of it is that it’s totally free to play. The only things you pay for are cosmetic.
NS: It’s a play off of a game called PUBG where there are 100 people as well, but it’s much slower and more tactical. A lot more realistic. But Fornite is free and much more fast paced. I think it’s way more appealing for the less “hardcore” gamer, and anyone can play it.
It’s also playable on every single console, PUBG is only on PC, and it’s on Xbox, but it has lots of issues. Fortnite is much more accessible.
JF: Nick made a good point about it being less hardcore. That’s a big part of the appeal, I think.
EGM: In that it doesn’t take a huge time commitment?
NS: I mean, if you play a full game and win, it’ll take you a good 15-20 minutes. But it’s just so fast to hop back into a new game if you die.
EGM: And you’re not creating a character that you’ll live with for a long time. It’s just in and out.
NS: Yep, exactly.
JF: Yeah, no huge time or money commitment and it’s hard to take a game with such a cartoon-y vibe super seriously.
NS: You can purchase cosmetic skins and such in the game though, which is how it’s profitable. (I’m guilty of spending ~$60 since I’ve had the game).
EGM: When you play do you talk to the other people on headsets?
JF: I personally don’t, but you can.
NS: Yes, I play with my fiance most nights, and have a few friends I squad up with as well.
EGM: You guys both watched Brendan Rodgers last night, right? What’s your take? I know his team won the last one so he must be pretty good, but I don’t know why.
NS: You can tell he definitely has picked up on some of the pro players strategies. He uses the Builder Pro configuration on his controller (which sets hot keys to each type of building option) so you can build much quicker. It’s also super impressive he plays as well as he does on Playstation, since most of the pros play on PC (which is much easier with a mouse). He posted a screenshot a while ago on Twitter and it showed he’s played nearly 200 hours, so he’s definitely had practice. He also had a few hundred wins I think, too.
RD: So here’s a remedial question. (You should understand that I’m better suited to doing crosswords with McMahon and Ottavino.) What’s the attraction of the public nature of this game? Nick, you said something really interesting: You “squad up” with your fiancée and friends. What’s the attraction to that?
JF: I suppose it’s the same as anything else, always more fun when you’re doing it with friends. Especially when you’re all working toward a common goal.
RD: So teambuilding?
NS: My fiancee and I are huge gamers (we literally play 3+ hours every night after work) and it’s one of the few games that anyone can just pick up and play. It takes teamwork and strategy, but the ultimate objective is simple — just stay alive. It creates some hectic and stressful moments, but tons of exciting and funny moments as well.
RD: What’s a funny moment?
NS: There’ve been a few moments where I’ll hear someones footsteps coming up to me and I panic that I’m about to die, but it ends up just being my teammate.
JF: Also any time someone disguises themself as a bush.
EGM: Are they able to move when they do that?
NS: There are bushes planted around the map that you can hide in, but there’s also wearable bush suits you can find around the map as well.
RD: There’s just something exhibitionist about it — and I guess professional sports are inherently exhibitionist — about encouraging strangers to watch you perform online. But I guess with the rise of eSports, that’s not unusual.
EGM: I bet terrible players don’t go with streaming so Rodgers must be pretty good.
JF: As a terrible player, I can confirm that.
NS: I think one of the main reasons it’s also so popular among sports stars, is the game is very mobile. You can play on your phone, laptop, whatever, while on the go.
RD: I can see where this would be a good way to relieve stress and virtually hang out with friends in other places. Plus, you get to be someone not yourself, which would be pretty nice if you are a public figure who’s always recognized. And there’s not actually running involved although I was exhausted after following Brendan’s avatar around.
JF: Nick, did you watch the stream with Ninja and Drake where they broke the Twitch viewer record?
NS: Oh yeah. Ninja is sooo fun to watch. They said he makes somewhere around $400k-$500K per month from streaming. It’s insane.
JF: Yeah, he’s great.
NS: You definitely have to have a fun personality in addition to being good to have a successful stream. Which I think Brendan did well, everyone in his squad was talking and making it enjoyable.
EGM: I’m watching Ninja now and I can’t tell what makes it different than Rodgers. Other than Ninja’s axe is a samurai sword stuck through a toilet plunger.
JF: Oh yeah, if he wasn’t a top baseball prospect he could definitely make a go at it as a streamer.
NS: Ninja is the best player there is by far. He just outsmarts everyone he plays against, and never misses his shots.
EGM: If Renee’s going to give it a go as a Fortnite player, what advice do you have for her?
RD: Please. Send me advice. I’m going to need it.
JF: Don’t discount the importance of building stuff, look for the purple or gold weapons, but most importantly just have fun with it.
JF: It’s fun when baseball and my other interests run into each other.
NS: Yeah I was super pumped to see him streaming last night. I was playing on my left monitor while watching the stream on my right monitor.
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For those who had to catch up, it’s not like Fortnite and baseball was completely new. The AP covered Fortnite among baseball players in April, and in May USA Today posted an excellent piece about how Fortnite serves as a bond among players, even ones who haven’t met in real life. The Brewers played a session on their jumbotron in May. And, in fact, this wasn’t the first time Brendan Rodgers has invited engagement around Fortnite. He even offered to play with Cespedes Family BBQ with Brewers prospect Brett Phillips back in February.
It was exciting to discover the intersection of Fortnite and baseball in such an unexpected because it brought up a lot of other things as well — the appeal of the game, becoming a public figure, and what the game can do beyond kill time between eating and working, if that space even exists. At the very least, everyone now has a little more insight into the daily life of the Rockies top prospect.