Yesterday, Epic has added an interactive Martin Luther King, Jr. museum to their popular free-to-play shooter, Fortnite. While the civil rights education event came with specific emoticons for players to use, it also allowed people to activate all wider options stable emote. Having that freedom went as well as you might expect with gamers, so today Epic has taken action.
The Walk in Time event is a permanent interactive museum created through a partnership between Epic Games and Time Magazine. While the partnership has inspired many discussions about meeting young people where they are, it is undeniable that this is all a bit strange. This was all made even stranger by the fact that players could attend this event and listen to King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech while dressed as Batman or Stormtrooper or one of the other hundreds of licenses Fortnite skins, while doing various dances and emotes. This has led to situations where players dressed in Rick Sanchez from Rick and morty danced in DC’s virtual Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool while Martin Luther King, JR’s speech played in the background. Not great!
So today, apparently in response to players being shit and using emotes to be disrespectful or toxic during the event, Epic has now disabled all emotes during the Time Walk experience. The only exceptions are the 8 Epic emotes included by design for use during the event: a sitting and protestant emote, among others.
Community reaction to this event and its now-disabled emotes has been mixed, with some angry that Epic even allowed the use of emotes during the event and others confused why Epic is adopting. what they see as a scorched earth approach to the problem.
It’s worth noting that Epic actually turned off some toxic emotes., including the ability to throw tomatoes, upon launch of the event. So it seems the publisher was aware that players using disgusted emotes was a potential issue, making it odd that the company even waited 24 hours before disabling all unapproved emotes. Kotaku contacted Epic Games regarding disabled emoticons and if the future Fortnite events ”will allow the use of emoticons.
Yesterday, Epic CEO Tim Sweeny said the studio built that even using “everything we learned from the We The People event”. Whereas emotes were also an issue during this event, I’m not so sure.
If Epic plans to continue hosting these serious educational events in Fortnite, the company will have to do more work to ensure that the metaverse and past cosmetic items don’t disrupt or disrespect the hard work that is obviously necessary in creating these experiences. Remove annoying emoticons, limit the skins that can be used and removed loading screen tips that talk about headshots would be a good start if Epic really wants to use Fortnite as an educational tool.