The online game Fortnite is ordinarily an “online shooter” style experience, pitting masses of players against each other on an online battlefield, popular both for its fast-paced action and its highly memeable expressions and dances. While the game allows users to create their own maps and game modes, these generally haven’t strayed from the game’s fast-paced and combat-oriented tone.
A new user created map, however, seeks to change that.
The Voices of The Forgotten Museum, created by Luc Bernard, is a “map,” or user-created virtual space with buildings and other geographical features, in Fortnite. Removing the game’s signature emotes, weapon, and crafting options, the map instead provides a quiet museum experience to visitors. It went live on August 15, 2023.
Bernard says he was inspired to create the map after seeing the statistic that 80 percent of Americans have not visited a Holocaust museum. “I don’t know if museums work,” he says, “but let’s say they do work, I’m like ‘okay, can we just create a digital museum.'”
Currently featuring wings focused on Holocaust-related topics ranging from Kristallnacht to entertainers in the Holocaust and its effect on Tunisia, Bernard says he has plans for new exhibitions, including one launching this week on Romani victims, and another focusing on the story of Israeli survivor Gidon Lev. “We’re just doing update after update.”
Prior to creating the museum, Bernard, 37, made the indie game The Light in the Darkness, released for free on PlayStation and the Fortnite publisher Epic Games’ online storefront. Having worked in game development for over a decade, Bernard notes that he chose to release the game on Epic because the company was able to offer protections against antisemitic attacks that their larger rival, Steam, could not. He says Epic has been supportive throughout the creation of the museum.
The map has drawn unwanted attention from the online far-right, with Holocaust denier and fascist commentator Nick Fuentes encouraging his audience to brigade the museum—gamer parlance for entering en masse and causing a nuisance. “But Epic supported me, and when Nazis went after it, they supported it even more.”
“Neo-Nazis get pissed off, but they can’t do anything, so instead some of them are just jumping in front of the exhibit,” a form of protest Bernard does not consider particularly effective. “People when they’re visiting are just kind of like, ‘okay.'”
Bernard says that it is essential that Holocaust educators take gaming seriously as a medium. “It works, and we need to be taking it seriously,” he says. “But also, you can do things at a fraction of the cost, and reach more people.”