Fortnite is teaming up with TIME Studios to create the March Through Time creative event. This event will celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., the nobel prize-winning civil rights activist and minister who served as a spiritual authority and leader of the American civil rights movement.
During the Marth Through Time experience, players will have the opportunity to enter a Fortnite creative map and visit Washington D.C. in 1963 to witness MLK's famous "I Have A Dream" speech at a simulated Lincoln Memorial on the U.S. National Mall as a spectator.
To address a rumor right off the bat, there is no Martin Luther King Jr. skin in the game, despite the dozens of posts on Twitter implying there is one. This is simply a digital museum exhibit.
"Inspired by the work of TIME and their partners — JuVee Productions, Digital Domain, V.A.L.I.S.studio, and Ryot — March Through Time would not have been possible without the contributions of American Family Insurance, the DuSable Museum of African American History, and the Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr.," the fortnite team explained in a blog about the new event.
They continued: "For further in-depth reading and to educate yourself, family, or friends about the historic struggle for Civil Rights, please visit TIME’s The March website. We also hope this experience helps equip students to have meaningful discussions not only in the classroom, but in their personal lives as well. "
While at first a Fortnite event about MLK may seem odd, this kind of education has been commonplace in the American school system for a long time, but with movies. There are numerous animated and live-action kid-friendly movies that have been produced over the past 50 years to introduce school children to the life and times of MLK and his struggle for racial, social, and economic equality. This feels like an extension of that same type of education.
It would seem that TIME and Epic's collaboration here is attempting to bring the same accessible storytelling to a video game.
Player reactions to the new MLK digital exhibit mixed
Some praised the innovative format of the content, some were bewildered by the decision to add an MLK event to Fortnite, and others are criticizing the implementation of the event.
Perhaps the largest group of respondents were confused by the decision, with many seeing the exhibit as trivializing the moment instead of elevating it, as was TIME's stated intention. This group wasn't offended so much as scratching their heads as to why the MLK digital Fortnite exhibit happened at all.
Combat is disabled for the event, but several players online have pointed out that emotes are not disabled, which opens space for players to potentially be disrespectful during a piece of content that is supposed to engender reflection and empathy. Especially with emotes like the laughing emote and the loser emote in the game, it seems wise to disable those completely.
Many players also criticized Fortnite as the forum for such an event, given the cross-promotional nature of their skins and cosmetics. It is definitely odd to see a Xenomorph running around an MLK digital museum exhibit. With so many types of different skins available for use in the event, it can be easy for many players' skin choice to come off as dismissive. Like with emoting, this could easily be solved by removing custom skins for the mode and assigning players an appropriate skin.
Finally, some people were also upset at the prospect of Fornite and TIME using MLK in a for-profit product. This group was particularly upset at the use of MLK, a black socialist, as what they saw as a token to advance sales and profitability of Fortnite.
However, this complaint is not unique to Fortnite, considering this speech has been used across entertainment from TV, to movies, to now games for the past 50 years. The Cosby Show even showed the whole speech in one episode, despite being a show designed to make money.
Such an unorthodox event was sure to create some controversy, and it did. You can play, or watch someone play, the event right now to judge for yourself how tasteful or quality it is.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.