As they wander around the video game through their virtual avatars, Fortnite players have long had concerts and movies to attend. They now have a third option: reenacting Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
The new virtual experience, dubbed “March Through Time,” was released on Thursday as a collaboration between Fortnite and TIME Studios, Time magazine’s film and television division. It recreates the Lincoln Memorial and National Mall, where King delivered his famous speech in 1963, in a virtual world called D.C. 63, described by Fortnite creator Epic Games as a “reimagined Washington, DC.”
“The experience extends with museum-inspired points of interest, and collaborative mini-game quests you complete with others,” Epic Games said in a statement. “These activities progress players through the experience and bring to life important themes of Dr. King’s speech: we move forward when we work together.”
The news was met with skepticism and consternation at first, with several Twitter users questioning the video game’s use of the late civil rights leader.
The Fortnite collaboration is inspired by Time’s interactive project “The March,” which debuted in February of last year at Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History with King’s estate’s support.
In a statement, Eric D. Tidwell, managing director and general counsel of the King Estate, said, “We continuously strive to move Dr. King from the history books and place his legacy directly into the lives of younger generations.” “Presenting his most famous speech in such an interactive format helps us achieve that goal.”
It’s the latest example of Fortnite attempting to present itself as a metaverse rather than just a video game by adding experiences beyond regular gameplay. It hosted musical performances by Marshmello and Travis Scott last year, as well as three films directed by Christopher Nolan.
The metaverse was originally envisioned as a setting for dystopian science fiction novels in which virtual universes provide an escape from crumbling societies, but in recent months, the tech industry has painted a far more optimistic picture of the concept. The goal is to create a space that is similar to the internet, but where users can walk around and interact with one another in real time using digital avatars.
When Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney took the stand in his company’s high-profile lawsuit against Apple earlier this year over the commissions the iPhone maker extracts from app developers, he went to great lengths to present Fortnite as a metaverse and a “social experience.” Sweeney’s argument was an attempt to bolster Epic’s case that Fortnite is more than just a game while undermining Apple’s claim that it is not a monopoly because users can play it on devices other than iPhones and iPads.
Epic, on the other hand, tried to position itself as one of the millions of apps on Apple’s App Store that are subject to the company’s onerous in-app purchase restrictions and commissions. (The case is still pending a decision.)
Fortnite isn’t the only popular game that heavily relies on the metaverse concept.
Roblox, which features user-created games-within-games and has recently expanded into concerts and TV shows, is one of the most notable examples. Minecraft, which is owned by Microsoft (MSFT), has also worked to expand its own metaverse, with Reporters Without Borders recently launching a virtual library within the game that features articles that have been censored around the world.
The term “metaverse” was mentioned nearly two dozen times on Facebook’s most recent earnings call, indicating that big tech is increasingly embracing it. As it seeks to move beyond the world of two-dimensional video calls, the social media company has long experimented with virtual reality features and services, including in the workplace.