In a shocking and logic-defying twist, Epic Games put an interactive Martin Luther King, Jr. civil rights museum in Fortnite. It seems like a well-intentioned effort to spread awareness of Dr. King’s legacy and racial injustice and I also cannot think of a worse place for it to be rolled out than Epic’s metaverse battle royale.
“Celebrate the life and work of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a new interactive experience presented by TIME Studios,” the company announced today. “Developed by members of the community in Fortnite Creative, March Through Time immerses players in the entirety of Dr. King’s monumental ‘I Have A Dream’ speech and the history surrounding it.”
Here’s, uh, the trailer:
The March Through Time mode transports players back to 1963's Washington, DC during the Civil Rights Movement’s March on Washington. In addition to a recording of King’s historic speech, the interactive museum will also have landmarks and mini-games. “These activities progress players through the experience and bring to life important themes of Dr. King’s speech: we move forward when we work together,” writes Epic.
Completing these Civil Rights challenges will also net players loot. Specifically a “D.C. 63 spray” they can use to tag things in-game, in-between shooting one another. It’s...a whole lot.
If it sounds like I’m sighing a bunch it’s because the tribute, however noble on paper, seems completely out of place in a multiplayer moneymaker most famous for licensed crossovers, that let you do everything from kill Superman to swing Star Wars lightsabers.
On the one hand, Fortnite’s sheer reach in terms of its massive audience and popularity could make the mode a very effective educational tool. On the other hand, some people are already reporting that players appear to be circulating out of the mode before even finishing it.
“I think Rick Sanchez and the xenomorph from Alien learned something today, and have been given a lot to reflect on,” tweeted video game critic Chris Franklin alongside a screenshot of the two characters watching King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
Franklin also pointed out that as soon as he dropped out of the interactive experience he was greeted by one of Fortnite’s random load screens informing him that “headshots do significant damage.” While normal in the context of an online shooter, it’s extremely “not great” in this new context. King was tragically assassinated in 1968.
In addition to Time, Epic says it collaborated with the DuSable Museum of African American History and the Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., among others, to create the new mode. It comes over a year after the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020, sparking a new wave of Black Lives Matter protests. At the time, several game companies came out in support of the movement. Epic did not explicitly mention the movement during its remarks on Floyd’s murder at the time, but later held a series of discussions on race in-game called We The People.
The new museum also comes a year after Epic CEO Tim Sweeney compared his company’s fight against Apple over App Store fees to the civil rights movement.