I have a secret fantasy when I play battle royale shooters like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode.
It goes like this: I start a new game. All I have is an axe or my fists. No guns are in sight. Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect that I’m here alone. So, there are other people who are, of course, also unarmed. But instead of beelining for each other in a tangle of useless axe swipes, we instead forge a silent truce based in our mutual impotence. Then, we go our separate ways and, if we must encounter each other again, we will both be armed and the fight will be fair.
It’s a lot to ask for an enemy in a survival game not to kill me on sight. Today, this secret fantasy came true—at least, in part. In a Fortnite battle royale match, I encountered another gun-less player and we made, I thought, that tacit agreement. But then it all went wrong.
It was a typical Fortnite match. I landed somewhere between the Lonely Lodge and Retail Row among parked trailers and cramped wooden shacks, a kind of campsite. I did not see anybody land nearby and, excited, launched into a searching spree, looking for a gun. Weaving between the trailers, though, all I found was a med kit in a cabin. I left, disappointed and still mostly harmless. Then, I spotted a body in an alleyway. Seeing it, it crouched and hid behind a dumpster. Then, it came after me. It was a woman who was also unarmed. Here’s what happened:
After backing up, I held still. She had no gun, but might come at me with the axe. She didn’t, though. I exhaled. Then, I spotted a box. Slowly moving toward it, I opened it up. Agh, just ammo, I thought. I was again expecting her to come at me out of fear I’d get a gun. Instead, she danced.
I ran off, excited that my companion hadn’t come at me and that, finally, there was another person out there who had the same “gentleman’s truce” battle royale fantasy. We did have a truce, it seemed. No fighting as long as we’re both basically unarmed. I ran way, pilfering the playground for weapons, a little desperately, and again found nothing. I tore down a trailer or two for scrap metal to build a sanctuary. Then, as one trailer’s remains exploded, I noticed my friend again. This time, it dawned on me, she had a gun. I hid.
I alternated between taking cover behind the tree and, well, staring at her, daring her to break our tacit, and maybe even made-up, truce. When I ran, she followed me. Then, we had what I could only describe as a stand-off. She aimed her gun at me. I thought, Death is near. I was wrong about you. But then, she slowly walked away.
I scrammed, heading for a tower where a bright, green-outlined item shone brightly from inside. A gun. Please, a gun. Dashing forward, I took out my construction gear to hastily build some stairs I could climb to retrieve the item. Then, I paused. What would happen if I got a gun? Would our friendship be over? Without the power differential, would I simply be an enemy? What did this person want out of me—friend, equal or pet?
The ending of my brief sojourn into a battle royale fantasy was as you’d expect:
Drat, I thought. I should have nailed her back at the campsite.