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Longtime Fortnite players may begin noticing this week that police patrol vehicles — formerly part of the static background imagery encountered in the game world of Fortnite: Battle Royale — are no longer there.
That's because Fortnite maker Epic Games has elected to quietly remove police cars and SWAT tactical response carriers from the game and replace them with standard unmarked civilian vehicles, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The decision reportedly comes in response to recent widespread protests and media attention centering on the delicate relationship between law enforcement and the public. But, according to an anonymous insider who spoke with WSJ, it isn't meant to be a political statement endorsing a particular side in that wider discussion.
Rather, it's simply Epic Games' way of respecting the gravity of the overall public discourse on all sides. The events of recent weeks have focused a national spotlight on law enforcement, with many taking stock of its role in communities nationwide in the wake of the heavily-criticized police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.
"I wouldn't say it's a political statement," the source told WSJ of the change. "I think it's just us being sensitive about the issues many people in our audience are dealing with."
While present in the game, police vehicles have never been part of Fortnite's interactive environment, nor integral to the gameplay. Players could merely see them, but they've never been available for driving or performing any function, beyond hiding behind as protective cover — except to add visual interest to Fortnite's cartoonishly colorful and often chaotic game world.
The timing of the move coincides with an overall shift in Fortnite's look and feel. The removal of police cars, which Epic did not publicize, comes just as the free-to-play game kicks off its new Chapter 2, Season 3 storyline, which has significantly switched up the game map for a new aquatic, island-hopping theme.