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In praise of Fortnite’s Playground mode

Fortnite doesn’t have to be violent to be fun, but you can still be violent

Fortnite - players diving in Epic Games

The “rules” for the Playground mode in Fortnite are pretty simple: You can bring up to three friends into the map, resources are enhanced so you can amass materials to build very quickly and friendly fire is most definitely on.

“I have a rocket launcher because I don’t want anyone to shoot at me,” our own Ross Miller said during a recent session. “And shit, now I understand why countries have nukes.” No one shot at him, at least for a while. We all learned a valuable lesson about mutually assured destruction that day.

It seems like it would get boring, as a game mode, but we were facing the hour time limit before we knew it. We build ramps to the sky, and then connected them. We raced in shopping carts, and practiced sniping each other. I built a tree house and announced that no Jeff Ramos’ (Polygon’s engagement editor) were allowed in, and Ramos blew up all the supports until I fell to my death. It was a good time.

Fortnite’s building options, wealth of items and traps turned us into scientists. Could we put bounce pads on the ground and then jump onto them from the game’s height limit? The answer: Some of us could! Those who didn’t aim well enough hit the ground with a splat and a splash of brightly colored weapons and items. We cannibalized our own supply of equipment over and over, sometimes shooting each other in the head if the other person had something we wanted and weren’t using it. You jump right back onto the map if you get killed or fall to your death. The stakes are low.

And it’s remarkably fun. You build together, you explore the map without worrying about hostiles, and you get to try out different weapons and interactions between items and players. All those times you wondered what would happen if someone did something with an item can now be answered — if you have the time and are willing to hunt for the right equipment. The proliferation of llamas around the map in this mode was very helpful in this regard.

This is another area in which Fortnite excels over other Battle Royale games: There is enough going on (in terms of physics and the building system) to sustain a sense of adventure and exploration on the map without having to fight other players. After an hour of play I want to jump back in, because Playground mode kept feeding me ideas about what to try next as I raced through all the scenarios in my head.

“This feels really tranquil,” Miller said at one point, and I agree with that assessment. Fortnite is just as much fun as a cooperative experience where you hang out with friends and build your own tracks or mazes or just have fun blowing stuff up.

“This is a mode that needs to be in the game permanently,” I thought to myself as I stuck a clinger grenade on video producer Jenna Stoeber’s character and watched her explode. It’s the non-stressful, peaceful way to play Fortnite. The whistle of the rocket headed toward me was just a sigh of contentment. Ramos picked over my items after I blew up, and then I drifted lazily down to the map to shoot him in the head with the drum gun.

This was definitely the most peaceful way to play the game.