“Remembrance island”– Legion’s Fortnite endeavour gets more than 15 million views

December 4, 2019 by Stephen J. Thorne

The Royal Canadian Legion joined forces with Fortnite to create “Remembrance Island,” a special way for gamers to think about the sacrifices of veterans.
Royal Canadian Legion
A Royal Canadian Legion initiative aimed at engaging youth and connecting them to Canada’s military history through the online game Fortnite has proven a smashing success, garnering more than 15 million views on Remembrance Day.

“We are so pleased with the positive reaction to the initiative,” said Nujma Bond, communications manager at Legion National Headquarters in Kanata, Ont. “We are definitely exploring additional projects like this one in the future, to complement other online innovations that appeal to a younger audience.”

Developed by North Carolina-based Epic Games, Fortnite comes in several versions. The free-to-play Fortnite: Battle Royale, in which up to 100 gamers at a time fight to be the last one standing, has become a cultural phenomenon since its release in 2017.

The game has been played by more than 250 million gamers and has earned more than $2 billion.

“We have been watching social trends and the ways younger generations are spending their time,” said Bond. “In talking with our partners, we realized that working with this popular online platform would be an excellent approach. With it, we were able to reach young people and help teach them about Canada’s military past and promote remembrance—a key part of the Legion’s mission.”

Embracing new technologies has been identified as fundamental to expanding the Legion’s membership and further engaging young people, thus assuring the organization’s future.

A Canadian soldier follows a trail of poppies to sites on Fortnite’s “Remembrance Island.”
Royal Canadian Legion
Last year, the Legion introduced the digital poppy, which people can obtain online, dedicate to a veteran, and share virtually in their e-mail signature or social media posts. But the organization, with more than 1,400 branches across the country, is looking to do more.

“The Royal Canadian Legion has a hard time sharing its message with younger folks,” said Ari Elkouby, creative director at Wunderman Thompson, the Canadian digital marketing company that came up with the Fortnite idea. “We knew the wildly popular game Fortnite was where all these young people are, so we wanted to find a way to deliver our message to them.”

Fortnite actually encourages content creators to design their own “islands” as part of a customized gaming experience. So, Texas-based creator Jadan Allen, 19, created “Remembrance Island” for the Legion free of charge.

Allen, who consulted his own veteran grandfather before completing the project, told CBC News he sees Remembrance Island as more of a digital museum where youth can stop in for a moment of calm on their own time.

“You take this island at your own pace,” he said. “You embark on the journey of “Remembrance Island.”

Fortnite is all about battles and war. So it’s kind of a good thing to just settle down sometimes and think about the past.”

The island features recreations of First World War trenches, D-Day beaches, a Canadian military cemetery, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial and more.

Unlike standard Fortnite gameplay, the only objective for gamers is to discover the 30 museum-like information plaques and follow the poppies until they reach a memorial cenotaph at the centre of the map.

“Remembrance Island” has no fighting, damage or weaponry, but it recreates key moments and places in Canadian military history, giving visitors a taste of life on the front lines in ways that encourage them to pause and think about the sacrifices veterans have made.

An action figure storms Juno Beach in Normandy, running between anti-tank obstacles.
Royal Canadian Legion
In addition to real-world Remembrance Day ceremonies and The Silence at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, gamers were encouraged to visit the “Remembrance Island” cenotaph at 11 p.m. and have their own moment of silence and salute, then share images or streams using the hashtag #SaluteThePoppy.

“Moving the ceremony to 11 p.m. is another way to meet the gaming community on their terms,” said promotional materials released two days before Remembrance Day. News media latched onto the story in a big way.

“The feedback was phenomenal,” said Freeman Chute, a senior program officer at the Legion’s National Headquarters.

The Legion plans to expand the island next year as well as explore other initiatives.

Legion membership is about 260,000, half what it was at its peak when first and second world war veterans were abundant.

At its core the Legion is a service organization dedicated to helping veterans gain compensation and benefits and serving the communities. Its signature poppy campaign raises more than $20 million each year to aid former Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP members.

The Legion’s athletics program, which culminates in the National Youth Track and Field Championships each August, is its primary youth outreach initiative, attracting more than 700 Legion-sponsored and club participants.

“When the Legion spends time with Canada’s young people, we see the sincere honour and appreciation they hold for our veterans,” said Bond. “At the same time, we know some youth are losing the emotional connection to, and meaning of, Canada’s military past.

“An educational tool like the Fortnite project is one way to help share a greater understanding of that history.”

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