Imbalanced Equity in Fortnite

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Sometimes the practical wisdom of children — who can see past the hangups of adults, if only because they lack the experience that makes those hangups justifiable, even wise — brings a unique perspective.

By coincidence, on the same day that Rhode Island’s Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo swore in the fifth adolescent winner of her sexist girls-only “Governor for a Day” contest, I asked an early-teen boy of my acquaintance a question about his choice of characters in the video game Fortnite.  If you’re somehow not familiar with it, the game places characters on an island for a “Battle Royale” in which only one player can survive.  It’s a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, meaning that all of the other characters are people playing on their own devices somewhere in the world.

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Earlier on in the game’s life cycle, players were cast randomly as female or male and had no choice.  Recently (it appears), the designers have made it possible to choose the sex of one’s character.

“Why have you been using that girl character?,” I asked.

He replied, “Because the girls are smaller, so they don’t stick out when you hide in bushes.”

Ah.  See, the male characters are all large, muscular types, which is a liability if you’re crouching in a bush or behind a rock.  Yet, they gain no advantage from their size.  They can’t carry any additional weapons or materials.  They can’t run any faster.  They have no advantage when it comes down to a pickax fight.  They can’t jump any higher or withstand more of a beating.

By social necessity, the game is a level playing field between the sexes, except in the one way that would be visually unrealistic, and that one way is an advantage to females.  Yet, it is a competitive environment in which players will make rational decisions.  Where the qualities of men provide no advantage, even as the attributes that would more-realistically produce those qualities create a liability, competitive boys will co-opt the advantages of women.