Epic Games included a We The People presentation discussing racial discrimination in Fortnite, only for players to pelt the screen with tomatoes.
After the protests and subsequent riots across the US over the death of George Floyd, several video game developers and publishers took action. These included delays, postponements, and in-game messages of support by PlayStation, EA [1, 2], EA Sports, IGN, Guerrilla Collective, along with Activision and Infinity Ward with the Call of Duty franchise [1, 2].
A Riot Games executive had reportedly resigned, after an internal investigation due to a Facebook post he made highlighting George Floyd’s criminal history. Ryan “Filipino Champ” Ramirez (also known as FChamp) had also been banned from all Capcom fighting game tournaments globally, after he made a joke about “Watermelon Lives Matter.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that a source “familiar with the game’s development” stated that they “wouldn’t say it’s a political statement. I think it’s just us being sensitive about the issues many people in our audience are dealing with.”
On July 3rd, Epic Games announced they would be hosting a special Big Screen presentation in Fortnite. These Big Screen presentations have featured movies being played on a giant screen in the game world, with weapons disabled.
This Big Screen presentation was OPUS United’s We The People. OPUS United describe themselves as “a multi-disciplined, high-performing collective of strategists, creatives, executives, athletes, and entertainers who know how to power world-class brands.”
The We The People presentation featured “a series of conversations that advance the dialogue around race in America with prominent BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) voices in business, sports, media, music, and entertainment.”
Guests included activist and rapper Michael Render (“Killer Mike”), author journalist Elaine Welteroth; and hosted by journalist and writer Jemele Hill, and political commentator and CEO of the REFORM alliance Van Jones.
The event took place on July 4th and repeated every other hour throughout the day. However, Big Screen events in Fortnite also include vending machines filled with infinite tomatoes near the screens. Players use these to pelt the screen during movies for fun. This had not been disabled for the event.
Soon, photos videos of players pelting the screen began to circulate on social media [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Other photos and videos have shown the video being watched without being pelted by multi-colored tomatoes.
Some suggested players were making light of the video from detracting from the game, others felt it was an act of protest to putting “propaganda” into a children’s game. Others suggested it was not taken seriously due to the young age of most of the player-base.
As of this time of writing, neither Epic Games or OPUS United have issued a statement. For those who wish to watch the entire We The People presentation, you can find it here.
Fortnite is available on Windows PC, Mac (both via the Epic Games Store), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android, iOS, and Holiday 2020 on PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X.