Join us in trying to think of something more gross than a nation’s army using a children’s video game as a recruitment tool. That was the plan of the British Army, who thought it might be rather jolly to recruit some influencers to play Fortnite, to promote joining their ranks. However, it looks like they’ve since ordered the retreat.
“Check it out,” began the @armyjobs Twitter account of the British Army in its usual, comfortable voice, adding an eyes emoji like the army does. “@elzthewitch and @yungfilly1 battle to Be The Best on our new #Fortnite experience Operation: Belong.” This event was due to take place on January 24, on Twitch.
The tweet, along with its accompanying lavishly produced trailer, has since been entirely deleted, as noticed by Eurogamer. Elz and Yung Filly (he typed, pretending he’d ever heard of either) have also removed their own social media utterings on the matter, and it seems everyone would like us to pretend it never happened.
The idea, it seems, was that a new island, built by the British Army, would be added to Fortnite, featuring an obstacle course, puzzle rooms, training grounds and other army-related features. Then, YouTuber (and sometimes BBC presenter) Elz The Witch and musician Andrés “Yung Filly” Barrientos would battle each other in exchange for payment, live on Twitch. Viewers would become so thrilled with this that they’d immediately abandon all hope and join the army.
The UK army is in a bit of a fix just now. Reports last week showed that the numbers in the force are set to drop below 70,000 within two years, down 40 percent since 2010—numbers that have raised concern in the U.S. It seems His Majesty’s forces believe the answer lies not in any attempt to make the UK’s armed forces less of a fucking shitshow, and instead to see if they can get a bunch of Fortnite kids to sign up because that man off of YouTube was paid to play on a pretend assault course.
The trailer, a full-on CGI affair, rather troublingly featured Fortnite’s Jonesy, implying some sort of direct affiliation with Epic. However, it also sported a disclaimer saying, “This is not sponsored, endorsed, or administrated by Epic Games, Inc.” Eurogamer asked Epic about it all, and were told, “This island has not yet been published to Fortnite…and is undergoing moderation.”
We’ve got in touch with the British Army to ask whether the event has been entirely canceled, and if so, why. We also asked Epic how Jonesy came to be such a central part of the campaign’s promotion—the publisher got back to us to explain that the island is entirely third-party, and nothing to do with Epic.
“This island was not created in collaboration with Fortnite or Epic Games,” a spokesperson told us. “It is created by a third-party Creator using tools available to develop independent games inside Fortnite.”
Epic added, “The island has not yet been published to Fortnite (i.e. it is not accessible to players)… Since the Island is in moderation right now, the situation may evolve and we’re in touch with the creators.”
Updated: 00/00/24, 00.00a.m. ET: Added Epic’s response.