Fortnite dance craze is overwhelming schools but a ban would be straight out of Footloose
By Seamus Byrne
Fortnite. By now everyone has heard the name and depending on who you are, it can mean many different things.
A fun and exciting free-to-play video game, or a plague on our children? An inspired business model that got its target just right, or a copycat upstart that dumbed down a hardcore game genre?
But a dance teacher? That’s something that has flown far below the radar for most observers, but I think this is one of the most important aspects of what the game has done to the culture that surrounds not only the game, but playground culture everywhere.
The game is about a lot more than shooting other people to become the last person standing and win the game.
Yes, that’s the essence of how it works, but what makes any game different from another is a question of style, mood and flourish.
For Fortnite, the game is filled with over-the-top comedic style and pop culture references.
And one of the biggest is giving characters a huge collection of dance moves.
Like outfits in the game, you have to either earn dance moves through playing the game or buy them from the in-game store.
There are dozens to collect, more than 50 at latest count, drawn from across the history of popular dance as well as TV and movie references.
Have you seen kids doing The Floss? It started elsewhere, but after it landed in Fortnite it was signal boosted far beyond those who knew “Backpack Kid” did the move with Katy Perry on Saturday Night Live.
Maybe you’ve seen football stars doing weird dances this year as part of on-field celebrations too?
The odds are strong that dance was popularised by Fortnite.
And just like The Floss, there’s dozens of other dances kids have been trying to perfect thanks to the influence of Fortnite too.
In schoolyards, at family picnics, and during any waking moment when standing still would be an option, kids are busting out their dance moves to keep perfecting them at every possible opportunity.
How far have the moves spread?
I put out a call to parents and school teachers to check how far beyond the gaming circles I know the moves have spread. And they really are all pervasive.
Many parents flagged that school discos have been holding Fortnite dance competitions to give kids a chance to show off their moves.
And that their boys who had never shown an interest in dance were eagerly trying to be the best.
Speaking to a teacher at an all-girl high school (who didn’t want their school named), the dance craze had hit there too.
When I asked if they’d seen a lot of new dancing going on, they told me they were seeing a lot of dancing but weren’t sure if it was Fortnite related.
After I shared a YouTube clip that compiled the many dance moves, they replied: “I’ve seen The Floss, Electro Shuffle, Sauber, a little bit of Hype, Orange Justice, Zany, The Dip, Swipe It, Freestylin’, Dance Moves, Rambunctious…”
When dancing takes over
There does seem to be a “dark side” to the dance craze too. Some schools often move to ban fads that start to overwhelm the playground, and Fortnite has been targeted in a number of schools in this way.
But that has also included a ban on performing dances that feature in the game too.
Video games are notoriously a category of entertainment largely seen as something that doesn’t encourage kids to get any exercise.
So when a game comes along that has kids on their feet and busting moves until they’re sweaty, it seems like a move straight out of Footloose to tell the kids to stop dancing.
One teacher from such a school (who also didn’t want to name their school) flagged that some kids were dancing so much they couldn’t even stand still in line at assembly.
The itch to floss, dab or hootenanny was too much.
But as the breakout hit game of the year, a game that has received a lot of bad press in tabloid media for its violence and perceived addictive qualities, it’s important to note that it is also the cause of a global dance fever.
Seamus Byrne is a technology journalist and the editor of Beyond at ScienceAlert.