Fortnite "In Real Life" at the Emporia Public Library

Tiffany Fay /
Recent Fortnite IRL event, photo by Tiffany Fay

More and more libraries are hosting programs that bring people of all ages together for “in real life” or IRL interaction. Building on the popularity of online gaming, these events can help get people off the couch and their screens, provide healthy physical activity and increase face-to-face social connections. Tiffany Fay, Youth Services Specialist at the Emporia Public Library (EPL), Kansas, hosted a Fortnite IRL event at her library and she’s sharing details on how she planned and implemented the very successful program. She hopes other libraries will use her approach to host similar events!

The popular computer game, Fortnite comes to life at Emporia Public Library! We had 23 kids and a handful of parents had at our Fortnite IRL event, and everyone had a blast! Participants scavenged for building materials and weapons (bean bags!) to aid them in the endeavor of being the last person standing.

When kids arrived, they were given a lanyard which they had to wear for the duration of the program. On this lanyard was their player badge and a map of the library. The player badge has a number; this allows staff to keep track of how many kids are playing. It’s also helpful if player names are not known.

The object of the game is to be the last one standing. Like the video game, kids were given the opportunity to scavenge for hidden materials that might help them in their endeavor. The items included:

Cardboard - our building material of choice

In the video game, players use a pickaxe to scavenge wood, brick, and metal to build fortresses to protect them from other players. In our version, we provided cardboard as the building materials for players. Once the player had been hit with a bean bag, the cardboard was returned to staff so it could be hidden again for other players.

Bean bags - our weapon of choice

In place of firearms and bladed weapons, we used bean bags. A player had to slide their bean bag along the floor and hit the feet of another player to count as a hit.

Loot Llama Bucket, photo by Tiffany Fay

Loot Llama

In the game, this llama is like a treasure chest. He is stationary, so players must decide what they can use and what they want to forfeit before they leave the llama for other players to scavenge. The llama at EPL was a popcorn tin covered in paper with the photo of a Loot Llama on the front. It held boogie bombs, med kits, and bandages. It appears unannounced only three times during game play.  Tape and scissors were also included in the Loot Llama to help kids build with their cardboard.

  • Boogie Bombs - when thrown, all players in the vicinity must dance for five seconds and hits count.
  • Med kits - restores a player’s full health
  • Bandages - restore 15 health points

To use both the med kits and the bandages, players had to go up to a staff member and give the item. Staff then removed the appropriate number of yellow stickers. The boogie bomb token also had to be returned to staff once used so it could be put back in play.

See document shared by Tiffany, with scavenge items, V-bucks, llama and event flyer (doc)

Each of the player badges had five velcro dots on the back, and each of the above-mentioned objects had a laminated token taped to them. The tokens had a matching velcro dot on the back. When they retrieved an object, players then took the laminated token and stuck it to the matching velcro dot on their player badge. This is similar to the video game; players may only have five objects in their arsenal at any given time.

All players start with zero hit points and are out of the game when they receive twenty hit points. Hits were represented by yellow stickers that were place by staff on the front of the player badge. There were five roaming staff members who monitored play and handed out hit stickers. If one of these staff members noticed behavior issues, a bright orange sticker was placed on the badge. This was worth two hit points.

While scavenging and avoiding bean bags, players had to be mindful of “the storm.” This aspect of the game shrinks the playable area to force players into confrontation. At EPL, the storm was included as various announcements that gave players x-amount of time to vacate a certain area. If caught in a “no-go zone,” players received hit points until the left the area.

Players could also earn V-Bucks, a form of Fortnite currency, by completing missions such as learning the name of a staff person working the event, locating a certain item inside the library, and other tasks. Our missions included:

  • Mission #1: Return with the name of one of the staff persons working this event.
  • Mission #2: How many staff people are working this event?
  • Mission #3: Bring back the name of another player THAT YOU DON’T KNOW.
  • Mission #4: Name one of the planets in our solar system NOT EARTH.

Missions and V-Bucks were handed out by a designated staff person. A table was set up with a locked acrylic box where the players put their V-Bucks and grabbed the emote. The V-bucks hung from a player’s lanyard and could be used to “purchase” emotes, or “victory dances.” (If you want to use emotes in your game, you can find examples on

Overall, these programs are a huge success! We've had a lot of staff conversation about the difference in interpersonal communication that occurs at an "in real life" event. On the computers, the kids seem pretty ruthless when they play Fortnite. However, in person, it's much harder for them to eliminate players. During both programs we've held, we've seen kids play the last hour with one hit remaining and other kids don't go after them like they would on the computers. Interestingly, they all want to play together and they just don't have the heart to look another kid in the eyes and eliminate them. We've also seen a lot of interest from parents. This second time around, we had five parents who stayed, and one actually starting playing and helping staff. It's a great way for us to connect with the kids about something they're passionate about, and at the same time, we're connecting with the parents, too.

Tiffany Fay is the Youth Services Specialist at the Emporia Public Library. Read about the program in the Emporia Gazette and check out more photos on the library’s Facebook page.