Patria Dearest: Fortnights

We found the strangest of places to have our weekly family reunion: Fortnite

I promised a post about the first trip to the beach, but that’s not what you’re getting today. Sorry. While the girls did get scorched under the Vargan sun last weekend, we have a crazy beach trip this week that I’m sure will add value to the chapter. Instead, I’m writing this placeholder post to answer a question that came up thanks to Toyota es Toyota. I got asked a couple of questions about the Fortnite family squad. First question: Do you really play Fortnite, like my 10-year-old? Yes. Second question: Who else is on that squad?

I know many Caracas Chronicles readers don’t even know what Fortnite is (I’ve seen the demographics in the analytics of this internet site). Briefly: It’s a videogame. A third person shooter that you can play online with folks all over the world. You can play in teams of four (a squad), and you can talk and chat with your teammates. The objective is to be the last team standing on the island. Important: Unlike other shooter/survival games, Fortnite is not bloody and it doesn’t take itself seriously. You can play as your favorite fictional characters (I’ve been walking in the skin of Han Solo lately) and the game includes a bunch of pop culture easter eggs and a wide array of funny victory dances to choose from to annoy your rivals. Having said this, it’s mayhem. And quite fun.

Since the first time I played Combat in an Atari in 1986 I never stopped playing video games. Wouldn’t call myself a gamer, though. Today, I feel that title carries much more responsibility than the occasional online melee. I discovered Fortnite a few years ago, as most adults do, through a nephew. It’s not a game that you have to buy, so it’s easy to explore if you are curious. I played by myself for a while, which is okay, albeit lonely. Eventually, I convinced my brother-in-law, who lives in Mexico, to explore the island and fight blood thirsty middle-schoolers with me after dinner. My daughter Rosie (12), a blood thirsty middle-schooler herself, joined in on some of those campaigns with her Switch. 

And then, one day, my sister appeared in the lobby to complete the squad.

Fortnite has become much more than a fun video game that I play with my siblings—reconnecting with those endless Mario Kart tournaments and exasperating Duck Hunt sessions. It’s a new space that I have with my family, separated by the calamity that engulfed Venezuela (almost 8 million of us have left by now), where we catch up with what’s been going on with our lives while flanking a Dragon Ball squad to blast them into oblivion. It’s a new space where my sister can have some quality time with her niece, who’s quickly growing into a teenager.

Papi, cover me! I’m going in!

As a Venezuelan family we were used to having constant contact. We are a big family, I have four siblings and a bunch of nephews and nieces. Back home, we would all have lunch together several times a week at my parents’, something unthinkable for our gringo friends and certainly strange for my two gringuitas (although in this trip they are becoming used to it quickly). So, we’ve been craving the space for the casual conversations, the unrequested advice, and the gossip. Coño, the gossip!

Gracias, Fortnite.

I even dragged one of my business partners into it, and it’s proven to be an amazingly cathartic exercise. So if you want to talk business, it’s not at a golf course or a paddle court that you’ll find us. You better lock and load at the island.

On a sadder note, I’ve also played a couple of rounds with Melanio Escobar and his son. Melanio had to leave Venezuela because of his work as a human rights activist. His story is a painful example of what’s going on in Venezuela beyond the tales of eccentric money-laundering projects y sus playas. Melanio’s identity was erased from Venezuela’s identification system SAIME, he can’t even get a passport. And even if he did, or found a way to return for a quick visit, he’s likely to engross the list of political prisoners. His exile has kept him from watching his son grow. But they have Fortnite. They play together, and they have a fun space to have some quality time. It’s not nothing.

I know this post may sound silly to some. But to us, a couple of nights a week, that crazy island feels like home.

You can find me at the lobby under nixonvega. Join the fray.