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Fortnite’s 50 v 50 mode is teaching players how to be less selfish

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The new and improved game mode encourages players to go out of their way to help strangers

Image: Epic Games

Epic Games’ Fortnite Battle Royale reintroduced its much anticipated “50 v 50” game mode today, a new and improved version of the limited-time massive group combat game type that pits 50 real human players against 50 opponents in a battle to see which team is left standing when the dust clears. Epic has made a few crucial changes this go around. Most noticeably, it now lets players know where the final battleground is located on the map and sends out each team on its own respective aircraft so you can loot, regroup, and prepare for a more explosive final fight.

Like the first iteration of 50 v 50, this mode is readymade to produce high-octane gun fights among dozens of players, testing one’s ability to keep composure, fight and build simultaneously, and collaborate in a large group amid a dizzying number of onscreen variables. But where the mode truly shines — and where it highlights the shared positivity of Fortnite — is in the ways it encourages players to help one another.

In fact, in 50 v 50, players seem to go out of their way to assist strangers and with a borderline self-sacrificial altruism. Because you’re not playing for only yourself or for one or three other people — as is the case in solo or duo and squad games — 50 v 50 incentivizes players to revive complete strangers, gift weapons to spread the wealth of firepower, and otherwise be a nice human being and solid team player.

In the dozen or so games I played after the mode first went live, I noticed other team members specifically breaking from what they were doing to gift me weapons and healing items, revive me when I was downed, and otherwise collaborate toward a shared goal in natural, seamless fashion. That often came through in the joint building of superstructures to protect one another from incoming fire and gain the advantage.

And it’s not just that those actions contribute to your chances of winning the game, though playing nice with teammates certainly does go along way in helping claim victory. Rather, this game mode, when combined with the incentives Epic has built into Fortnite and the general positivity of the player base, creates a special formula where I found my faith in internet strangers warmly rewarded with each new encounter.

Epic has always encouraged players to make their own fun with serendipitously nonviolent suggestions. The developer added a rock-paper-scissors emote so players could engage in friendly contests to settle loot disputes. It also included a friendly waving emote in the game’s original release back in September to let players nonverbally communicate passivity.

More recently, Epic hid three secret dance floors on its map this month so players could throw down their best moves for one another, even when the people you run into there are ostensibly your enemies. One fantastic highlight that went viral this week involved four complete strangers meeting on one of the hidden dance floors, only to have a fifth, nefarious player try and ruin the fun by trying to secure a kill. All four dancers turned on the invader and ganged up on him, successfully thwarting the threat, whereby all four returned to the dance floor to rejoice together.

Beyond the displays of raw skill and fortuitous circumstances that populate the Reddit, Instagram, and Twitter highlight reels, It’s funny and endearing moments like those that most often spread far and wide on social media. And these moments, both pronounced and subtle, populate nearly every game of 50 v 50.

In one game, I bolted into a chaotic battlefield to build around a teammate of mine that was knocked out so I could revive the player and drop him or her a med kit, despite the danger it posed to myself. I also recall players doing the same for me multiple times, each time using a goofy dance move to express their camaraderie and quite often dropping me healing items or shield potions to ensure I could get back into the fray.

At one point early in one game of 50 v 50, a teammate beckoned me into an abandoned gas station mini-mart to gift me two guns and some ammo. In another game, I accidentally took a rare and coveted gold sniper rifle from a supply drop another player had opened. I dropped it back on the ground almost immediately, upon which the player busted out a dance move to acknowledge my lack of selfishness and rewarded me with the next-best gun from their inventory.

Sure, there is the occasional troll who tries to steal the loot you earned from a kill or who flagrantly ignores you when you’re in need of a revive. But I often felt an addictive, almost intoxicating quality to helping my teammates survive a fight no matter what the personal cost was, and even if it meant I was killed while trying. I liked to think that by doing so, I was encouraging others to pay it forward.

Plus, it never gets old to trade pleasantries with some random human being out there in the world, if only by striking a funny pose or busting out a slick dance move in the heat of battle. It’s that recognition that it’s all just a fun game in the end — that winning or losing is less important than the subtle, supremely human interactions you can have online with others — that makes Fortnite such a continuously enjoyable experience.