Yesterday, Epic added an interactive Martin Luther King, Jr. museum to its popular free-to-play shooter, Fortnite. While the civil rights educational event came with some specific emotes for players to use, it also allowed folks to activate any emote from the wider stable of options. Having this freedom went about as well as you might expect with players, so today Epic has taken action.
The March Through Time Event is an ongoing interactive museum created through a partnership between Epic Games and Time Magazine. While the partnership has inspired many discussions about meeting the youth where they’re at, there’s no denying that the whole thing is a little weird. All of this was made even weirder by the fact that players could attend this event and listen to King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech while dressed as Batman or a Stormtrooper or any of the other hundreds of licensed Fortnite skins, all while doing various dances and emotes. This led to situations where players dressed as Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty were dancing around in the virtual DC’s Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool while Martin Luther King, JR’s speech played in the background. Not great!
So today, seemingly in response to players being shitty and using emotes to be disrespectful or toxic during the event, Epic has now disabled all emotes during the March Through Time experience. The only exceptions are the 8 emotes Epic included by design to be used during the event: a sitting and protesting emote, among others.
Community reaction to this event and its now disabled emotes has been mixed, with some angry that Epic even allowed emotes to be used at all during the event and others confused why Epic is taking what they see as a scorched earth approach to the problem.
It should be noted that Epic actually disabled some toxic emotes, including the ability to toss tomatoes, right at the launch of the event. So it seems the publisher was aware that players using emotes distastefully was a potential problem, making it odd that the company even waited 24 hours before deactivating all non-approved emotes. Kotaku has reached out to Epic Games about the deactivated emotes and if future Fortnite events’ will allow the use of emotes.
Yesterday, Epic CEO Tim Sweeny claimed the studio built this even using “everything learned from the We The People event.” Considering emotes were also a problem during that event, I’m not so sure.
If Epic plans to continue hosting these serious, educational events in Fortnite, the company will need to do more work to make sure the metaverse and past cosmetic items don’t disrupt or disrespect the hard work that is obviously going into creating these experiences. Removing annoying emotes, limiting which skins can be used, and removing loading screen tips that talk about headshots would be a good start if Epic truly wants to use Fortnite as a tool to educate.