Creating Change vs. Coping With It: The Humble Beginnings of Fortnite (Joshua 1:5-9)

It is almost impossible to believe that just two short years ago the gaming landscape was COMPLETELY different.  Do you know what you were doing on July 21, 2017?  Unlikely… but that was the day that the juggernaut that has become Fortnite was released in early access to a small group of curious gamers.  I distinctly remember picking up the game case that day, asking the store manager of the gaming store I was in if they knew anything about it (they didn’t), and then placing it back on the shelf without any further thought.  They only got TWO copies of the game in that day for crying out loud.  How good could this game possibly be?  I did briefly wonder who this title could possibly be for.  I mean… it just seemed so ordinary, so basic, so… unremarkable.

And then there’s the gameplay… keeping it real, who would want to stop in the middle of fighting their enemies and just start building some walls or stairs?  WHO DOES THAT?  I mean, who sponsored this game, the Home Depot?  Never once while playing Halo did I think that Master Chief would stop shooting, pull out a T-square, lick his carpenter pencil, and start putting up some drywall.  The one thing I could NOT have expected is that the answer to the question of who would actually play this game would be ALMOST EVERYONE ON THE PLANET.  I would never have predicted that the simple game case I slid back on the shelf with a look of pity would one day make some 16 year old famous, reward him with a 3 MILLION DOLLAR PRIZE, and for all practical intents and purposes take over the world.

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Fortnite did not start out with the kind of hype that would indicate it’s future success.  Its original release did not even contain the Battle Royale mode that would be responsible for it’s global domination.  It launched without fanfare, without a major marketing push, and with very low expectations.  The “Battle Royale” genre was completely owned by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds or “PUBG”, as it is typically known by.  But this space about to get invaded by a scrappy little game with a plan to turn the gaming world on its ear.  So, I need you to do something for me.  Please stop for a second and look at this game case.  Truly look at it with eyes from 2 years ago.  Would you have bought this?  With the knowledge that MAJOR games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Resident Evil 7, and Mass Effect: Andromeda had just recently been released… would you have bought this game right here over any of those titles?  (Well… maybe over Mass Effect: Andromeda.  But they FIXED Andromeda now.  Kind of.  It’s better than it was before, if that helps.  I mean, it couldn’t get worse, right?  Unless you count Anthem.  I should probably stop here and get back on track.)    

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Fast-forward a few short months later and the free-to-play “Battle Royale” mode begins it’s slow and steady march towards taking over the entire gaming marketplace.  Who would have ever believed that by removing the base game and just GIVING this crazy, free-for-all, online multiplayer only game away to EVERYONE for FREE that they would make a BAJILLION dollars off of this franchise?  It’s not a strategy I would have felt comfortable with, but yet here we are.  Fortnite has completely dominated this space and now other titles are being challenged to change the way they think about episodic content, micro-transactions, and the entire video game release structure.

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One of the few constants in the video game industry is CHANGE.  Developers rise and fall, genres materialize out of nowhere and spark a revolution, trends come and go, and studios expand or close as a result.  It can be scary to take on a new challenge, and even more terrifying to take all of your hard work and give it away for FREE, with no idea how it would be received and if it could be successfully monetized through this unproven model.  But Epic believed in their title enough that they were prepared to crack the very foundation of the gaming industry with their bold attack on the establishment, and developers everywhere are trying to catch up with this new paradigm and determine what it means for the future.

In our personal lives it can often seem that our entire future is predicated on such simple but life-altering decisions as well, many of which are not fully in our sphere of influence.  A company downsizes and you lose your job, your friends/surrogate family, your CAREER and all of its aspirations in one short phone call.  You get a text message from a loved one that simply says, “Can we talk?” and your status quo changes forever.  A test result from the doctor’s office, a fluke accident, an unexpected rejection letter received in the mail… and suddenly all of our plans and goals disappear and the only thought you have left is, “What do I do NOW?”

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In the book of Joshua we find a good man who is about to embark on a massive and undesired change of his own.  The book that bears Joshua’s name begins with the death of Moses, the beloved leader of the entire nation of Israel for the last several decades.  The man who spoke with God and LIVED was no more, and the largest part of the mission was still incomplete.  See, Moses had successfully led the people out of slavery to Egypt, but they still needed somewhere to GO.  And that was not the mission for Moses… it was passed on to Joshua.  Joshua was not Moses’s son, nor did he have any familial connections that planted him in charge of the people.  He was just his faithful assistant.  There wasn’t an election, or even much of a ceremony.  He was simply the man God had chosen to complete the work of CHANGE, in this case conquering the entire Promised Land one kingdom at a time.

Have you ever conquered a country?  Based on my lack of reader feedback from world leaders and dictators, I would assume probably not.  It seems it would be a pretty massive, overwhelming undertaking.  And considering that they had never done anything like this before, they were also travelling into uncharted waters.  It would have been easy for Joshua to turn to the people and say, “You know, Moses had kids.  Let’s put one of them in charge of this and see how it goes”.  Or he could have postponed it and just went on another wilderness walk for 40 more years.  He was clearly nervous about leading the people into the great unknown.  How do I know that?  Take a look…

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Joshua 1:1-9 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

THREE times in the space of one paragraph we find a version of the phrase, “Be STRONG and of good COURAGE”.  Now, my experience with God is that He does not waste words and He never repeats Himself just for His own amusement.  Clearly, Joshua needed to be TOLD REPEATEDLY to be strong have courage.  And here is why he (and you) should feel the same way no matter what you are facing ahead of you:

First, He has an INHERITANCE for you (Joshua 1:6).  It is not something you can earn, and it’s not something you deserve.  It is something of HIS that only HE can lead you into.  It is what you are destined to possess, and regardless of any detours you have taken it still belongs to YOU as long as you are bold enough to embrace it.  As a matter of fact, all of those things that may have seemed like the ending of your journey was simply His means of getting you to the position you are destined for.  Many times in their wilderness travel leading up to this point it seemed as if the people would die of hunger, thirst, or were simply wasting time travelling in circles (well…that’s because they WERE).  But God’s timing is perfect, and this was part of His plan to insure the right person (Joshua) was leading the right army into the Promised Land at EXACTLY the right time for its successful overthrow.

Now in the case of the Promised Land, the inheritance was not vacant, nor was it simply sitting there gift wrapped and waiting to be opened.  That is why it required COURAGE.  Because your inheritance may be waiting for you out there, but you must still follow Him into it and boldly seize it.  Whether it is a job, a health need, finances, relationships, or any other good thing which the Lord WANTS you to have… it will require you to courageously walk towards it.  Just like the Promised Land itself, what you are meant to possess may currently be possessed by others.  Believe it or not, Fornite was not the first video game ever created.  It’s not even the first Battle Royale “style” release.  But the ground the other games were walking on belonged to Fortnite… they just needed to be told that.

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SECOND and MOST importantly, you are NEVER alone (Joshua 1:9).  We are not being SENT, we are travelling TOGETHER with the Lord.  He said He is with us WHEREVER we go.  But ONLY if you choose to bring Him with you.  Bring Him to the job interview… talk to Him in the doctor’s office.  Invite Him into your relationships and begin your conversation with prayer.  Give Him access to your bank account and let Him have input on the choices you make.  He is as present in your time of need as you allow Him to be.  The one time Joshua chose not to bring the Lord with him into the conversation, he was deceived and a disaster occurred (Joshua 9).  So heed that warning and bring Him with you, even if you feel like “you got this”.

If you feel like you are free-falling, that is evidence that you are heading somewhere NEW.  The question is not how to land on your feet, but if you are prepared to conquer wherever you land?   If there is one thing I have learned from Fortnite, the ending of the round is not determined by where you chose to land, but what you chose to do once you landed there.  God is still with you just as much as He was before you got booted out of whatever comfortable plane seat you were riding on… and He is taking you somewhere new, somewhere you have never been.  You have something new to conquer… and the reason I know that is because you are still here reading this.  You are still in the game.  So be strong and of great courage… your “Fortnite” still lies ahead.  For those who are still concerned about what lies ahead, I have one final thing to say to you… kind of a personal paraphrase, but I hope it encourages you in whatever lies ahead!

”Until you see me worried, you are not authorized to panic”

– God

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