With the latest season of Fortnite, Epic Games has reportedly removed police cars from the popular game. This comes amid ongoing protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the United States and worldwide.
Launched last week, Chapter 2-Season 3 of Fortnite introduces new water-themed gameplay to the survival shooter, which as of May has more than 350 million players. Amongst an array of advertised features, players took to social media to note the sudden absence of police cars in the game. Epic Games has yet to make an official statement on the removal, which was subsequently confirmed by The Wall Street Journal.
As is currently the case with all cars in Fortnite, police cars existed only as decorative items. However, reports suggest future gameplay may enable players to drive cars and use them to fight other players. If police cars remained in the game, players might have eventually had the option to shoot other players from police cars.
This removal coincides with ongoing protests and discussions around racism and police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, in police custody. On June 3rd, Epic Games released a statement on how ‘recent events’ serve a ‘heavy reminder’ of injustices such as racism against people of colour, expressing their belief in ‘equality and justice, diversity and inclusion’. This came with the Season 3 launch being postponed to give time to the team to process these events.
Other major video games companies have similarly issued responses to the protests and the wider movements against racism and police brutality. Electronic Arts Inc., which presides over popular franchises such as Battlefield, The Sims and FIFA, pledged $1 million to organisations tackling racial injustice and discrimination.
A source told The Wall Street Journal that the quiet removal of police imagery was not a ‘political statement’, but rather a matter of ‘sensitivity’ to current issues. Reactions to the decision across social media have been mixed. While some players have hailed it as a progressive step, others have called it a ‘limp gesture’ that solves nothing. Alternatively, some players have expressed dismay at video games becoming wrapped up in ‘politics’, with one Reddit user condemning the move as demonstrating ‘anti-cop sentiment’.
Several weeks in, anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests show little sign of slowing down. While the movement stays in the public conscience, discussions on what actions (if any) such influential video games companies should take in light of these developments are likely to persist.
Fortnite: Chapter 2 – Season 3 is available now until August 26th.
Words by Gemma Laws