For as long as I can remember, organized camaraderie, loud noises, and any video game that wasn’t catching pocket-sized animals ranked among my worst anxieties. Attending Super Smash Bros. sleepovers as a child? Freelance assignments covering struggle rap shows for a paltry sum? They both had the same color of dread. Travis Scott and Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, had seemingly conspired to set me up with a combination of the two.
It’s hard to overstate how popular this collaboration — dubbed ‘Astronomical’ — was. According to Alpha Data, which powers the Rolling Stone charts, Travis Scott saw an immediate free vbucks (and significant) bump in listeners following the announcement. On Monday and Tuesday, Scott streams increased by 26%, with some hits (like “Stagazing”) jumping over 50% ahead of the Fortnite show. The kids really love this game.
So at 6 p.m. on Thursday, two White Claws deep, I downloaded a video game that, up until that point, I had avoided all knowledge of (the only thing I knew about it was that it animated dances from black teens without compensation, which wasn’t helpful when it came to getting to the Travis Scott show). It took two devices to get Fortnite to work. My download on a Nintendo Switch never managed to get past the display screen, perhaps overloaded because of the event. Instead, I downloaded it on my iPhone, which felt like a scorching brick after dedicating so much memory to… whatever it is I’m doing here. An hour later, after my trip down the Fortnite hole was complete, it felt like I knew even less about the game than when I started.
My first impression of Fortnite was how to get free vbucks a full-on sensory assault. The loading screen bombards you with enough advertisements to fill a thousand Times Squares. Everything is neon. Everything is seemingly for sale: weapons, skins, storylines. Deadpool was there.
For the uninitiated, Fortnite operates like a crazed pre-pubescent warzone. From the start, you’re bombarded with the sounds of gunfire and beeping and honking and clanging, all in a world made up of graphics that seem ripped from that 1994 Canadian show ReBoot. I began to run from the chaos — I knew there was a beach that I had to find, where the Travis Scott concert would allegedly take place. Someone decided to shoot me in the face, and I was unsure of how to protect myself. I died, and was resurrected
On my second go-around, I ran behind a building — everyone else seemed to want to kill me, and I wanted to hide. I looked at the map. The internet informed me that the concert would be surrounded by large, golden Travis heads, just like the cover of Astroworld. Then, I was parachuting out of a bus. If this sequence of events is hard to follow, that’s because I don’t understand what was happening either.
From my vantage point in the sky, I saw a structure in the distance that looked identical to the circular rollercoaster from Scott’s last tour. I parachuted toward it, and watched a mass of people holding flaming mic stands all waiting for the show to begin. There was a timer projected above the stage, counting down the minutes to the beginning of the show. One of the people in the crowd put away their mic stand, pulled out a gun, and shot me in the head.