Creative Sensemaker: What to read, watch and listen to this weekend
A rundown of the latest books, films, music and more by Tortoise Media, the slow news agency
By Xavier Greenwood
On Monday the Epic vs Apple trial wrapped up in California. Frankly, it’s been a doozy. Epic Games are the creators of the free-to-play game Fortnite, arguably the biggest cultural phenomenon of the past five years. Apple are, well, Apple.
Here’s the case in a nutshell. In August 2020, Epic updated Fortnite on the App Store to allow users to buy stuff with its own virtual in-game currency, V-Bucks, without going through Apple’s payment system (Apple takes a 30 per cent commission on in-app sales).
Apple, as you’d imagine, wasn’t happy about this, so it removed Fortnite from the App Store. Epic was similarly unhappy about that move, so it sued Apple.
In the trial, Epic claimed that Apple was a monopoly-operating ‘overlord’, because iOS users can’t download apps (legitimately) without using the App Store. Apple said that wasn’t the case because it’s in competition with things such as consoles and the gaming platform Steam.
This led to a bunch of questions, including what might seem like the world’s dumbest: “Is Fortnite a game?” Well, yes, of course it’s a game – you have to be the last person or team to survive on an island where everyone has guns. But Fortnite has that virtual currency, V-Bucks. It has streamed Travis Scott, Steve Aoki and Deadmau5 concerts. There is a whole mode just for social congregation. With 350 million accounts, that’s a pretty big party... and suddenly it does indeed seem to be pushing at the boundaries of what counts as a game.
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney was keen to stress this during the trial. Fortnite was a whole metaverse, he argued, and Apple taking a 30 per cent cut from that metaverse – when Fortnite has its own currency, thanks very much – was unfair.
For a non-player this might all seem baffling, but we ignore Fortnite at our peril. Epic submitted court documents that included its revenues, with Fortnite alone generating $9 billion across 2018 and 2019. The highest grossing film of all time, Avatar, has revenues of just $2.8 billion.
We might be counting our earnings in V-Bucks one day, whether we like it or not.
The 8th (in selected cinemas and on demand)
For more than three decades Irish women fought to repeal the 8th amendment, a constitutional ban on abortion. In a historic referendum on 25 May 2018, they finally succeeded. Released on the third anniversary of the vote, The 8th takes us into the heart of that campaign. It never lets the painful stories of women affected by the law stray too far from view, nor is the film mere hagiography (supporters of the amendment are given space to make their own arguments, too). The day the results are announced is quite something.
A Quiet Place Part II (previews 31 May, full cinema release 3 June)
Blockbuster films are usually about noise – its absence in the 2018 horror film A Quiet Place is what made it so remarkable. The sequel is certainly more expansive than its predecessor. There’s more dialogue and more music, and the setting opens up, too: the family venture beyond their home to find more survivors in the post-apocalyptic world they spend their life creeping around. But the monsters (who have very sensitive hearing, hence the quietness) remain an active threat – and silence and noise are still balanced with terrifying success.
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
Bemused by the absurdity of the ever-present five-star scale, John Green takes 40 things related to modern-day life – including Jurassic Park, the Liverpool anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, and cholera – and rates each one out of five. The affirming joy is in the reviews themselves, and you’ll get to the end thinking that the world itself is at least four stars out of five.
What It Feels Like for A Girl by Paris Lees
In an autobiography that reads like fiction, the journalist Paris Lees recounts her adolescence growing up in the east Midlands. There’s poverty and abuse, but also hilarity and hope. Lees is trans, but the book is about much, much more. ‘This is only a trans book,’ she told the Guardian, ‘if every other memoir is a “woman book” or a “man book”.’
‘Like I Used To’ by Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen
Two of the best singer-songwriters alive today were always going to make something great together, but none of us deserved something this great. Like Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born To Run’ with a glockenspiel, we’ll all be dancing to it in post-pandemic freedom.
Sensational by Erika de Casier
Brought up in Denmark, Portuguese-born Erika de Casier spent hours as a child watching MTV, which, she says, ‘was the only place I saw other Black people’. Accordingly, the mark made by the early 2000s MTV era is all over this album, but de Casier’s inspirations are handled too originally ever to be considered pastiche. ‘Insult Me’ – whose opening bars sound like they could come out of an MMORPG soundtrack – is the highlight.
That’s all for now. Please do send your own recommendations to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.