Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several New England newspapers.
Fortnite is the hottest game going.
The survival video game has swept the nation — and world — and eaten up countless hours of kids’ and adults’ time.
But, since it is such a huge phenomenon (with well over 3 million players), I have to somehow relate it to birds, of course. I did something similar in the summer of 2016, when the Pokémon Go craze was at its peak. That was a fun column to write and may be found here.
Here’s a quick description of Fortnite for those who may be unfamiliar. It is a video game that can be played on a computer, PlayStation, Xbox, and now even a mobile device. The most popular way to play is the person-to-person mode — you can play solo or as a duo or squad (four-person team) — and the point is always to be the last one standing.
Other players may be eliminated by a variety of weapons that are picked up in towns and cities on an island where the game takes place. Players can build shelters for protection or run around the island seeking out (or avoiding) opponents. It’s cartoonish in nature and, unlike so many video games out there today, there’s no blood, gore or screaming when someone gets killed.
After watching them for weeks, my boys forced me to try it. I think they knew I was going to be terrible at it and so it would provide them with a good laugh. They were right, of course. I was — and still am — hopelessly pathetic at the game.
When I was growing up, video game controllers had a joystick and a button. Now a controller has two bumpers, two triggers, two joysticks, four letter buttons, a directional pad, a guide button and two tiny buttons I don’t even know what to call. That’s 14 buttons for those keeping track at home. Oh, and the joysticks can move directionally or be pushed in to serve different purposes.
Yes, I’m terrible at it and my kids still laugh at me. But I keep playing.
While birds do not visually make an appearance in the game, you can hear them from time to time. I can’t match up the bird sounds with a specific species, but to me the calls sound crow-like. They come at appropriate times and locations as well — usually while running through the woods or across a field.
Butterflies do appear from time to time, especially as you approach an abandoned home. While I appreciate the visual, they usually startle me at first because I think it’s someone running around the corner to eliminate me.
It wouldn’t be too hard to add birds into the scenery. With all the “eliminations” that go on — the game starts with 100 players and only one wins — I would suggest adding in a few vultures. They can easily be added soaring in the air or perched ominously in a leafless tree by a hillside.
Or, they can just follow me around. It’s usually not too long before I’m reduced to carrion.