The new generation gap

by Matan Heller

Christopher Comstock AKA Marshmello, an acclaimed American electronic music producer, has changed the landscape of Fortnite: Battle Royale from an open battlefield to an online concert hosting 10 million spectators. Although online streaming is an old concept, Fortnite’s game studio has taken advantage of the game mechanics to allow players from around the globe to opt into a concert hall filled with different avatars and enjoy a spectacle available only in virtual space while dancing the ‘Fortnite’ dances.

Baby Boomers (about 60yo today) was the title given to the first generation that embraced a significantly different belief system than their parents, the trend which started at the early 1950s continues to this day making parents baffled at the weird behavior and appearance of their beloved child.
Likewise, Gen Z (born around the eve of our millennium) is influenced by technology to modify their social life to an ever-more connected world leaving their parents with the task to understand this new phenomenon. Although imagining friendships built solely from connections on the game could be alarming, Marshmello’s broadcasted show signifies the potential cyberspace has in bringing people together and to participate in creative events limited only by human imagination.

In an ordinary concert, top DJ’s usually appear in front of a crowd numbering hundreds of thousands but on cyberspace, this limit doesn’t exist. The potential of using games such as Fortnite as a multi-disciplined platform is tremendous both in idea sharing and experiences that connect like-minded gamers almost from all ages. This is especially important with regard to Gen Z as a 2014 study (LINK) states that they are characterized as being loyal, compassionate, thoughtful, open-minded, responsible, and determined. As more and more people feel comfortable with replacing real-world events with digital ones

Despite the hype Fortnite has generated, they weren’t the first to showcase a live virtual show. In 2007 “Second Life”, a virtual world platform, had the world’s first virtual concert premiere in which individual players (called residents) logged to the virtual environment and moved around with their own ‘avatars’ in order to watch the show. the audience could then watch the beamed show and even converse with one another. This show was displayed live to 100 residents chosen at random, this underwhelming number was selected to ensure the high quality of the streaming, just 12 years later Fortnite managed to accomplish the same feat for a crowd a hundred thousand times greater. This change is leaned on two pillars, Technology and the mindset of Gen Z in spreading information and being very flexible to change.

Second Life’s virtual concert hall

Similarly, gaming communication was also enhanced greatly with companies like discord, harnessing technology to make our planet ever so small. We have chats imbedded to almost every live stream provider, apps that allow multiple participants from various locations to speak to each other or hear a guest speaker live and many more. All of those assists in communication in cyber-space, even concerns stating that the internet’s anonymity will create a cesspool of profanity and inappropriate language is slowly fading in light of new speech and text recognition algorithms that block said language in real time.

The big question remains — what lies ahead?
We see the amazing growth in online connectivity, the new mindset that’s slowly changes large scale attitude toward online interaction and companies, like Epic Games, which expand their product beyond its core purpose. We all should expect the unexpected and understand that popular opinion towards gaming is on an accelerated rise.
Alas the answer for what’s to come is unknown and the fate of games like Fortnite is unclear, but it’s important to observe recent trends and visualize the new gaming world as a sport demanding high skills, fast thinking and talent simultaneously with the modern version of a get-together.

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