‘Fortnite’ Season 6 Lands, and the Rest of the Week in Games

This week’s Replay is all about the power of gaming communities—the power they have to make ongoing games really entertaining, the power they have to put pressure on corporations, and the power they have to, well, be really quirky and odd. Let’s go!

Fortnite‘s New Season Lands with Spooky Aplomb

First up, the biggest news of the week: Fortnite‘s new spooky and weird sixth season is finally here. Continuing the game’s striking creativity, the “Darkness Rises” update fills the island with creepy woods and “corruption cubes,” which do … something. Of course, there are the smattering of new items and cosmetics, too, including passive companions who will follow you into battle and watch as you die. Cheery!

If you’re wondering about Fortnite‘s continued dominance in the battle royale genre, this is it, right here. Here is a game that’s always growing and experimenting, and that’s doing extremely clever things with space and setting in the medium. Fortnite forever.

Sony Caves in to Cross-Play Demands, to the Joy of People with Friends

Over the past few months, one of the more mild, agreeable controversies in games has been about Sony’s insistent refusal to allow cross-console play on the PlayStation 4’s multiplayer games, despite many publishers wanting it, basically every consumer wanting it, and it being, apparently, very technically accomplishable. (The functionality has, in fact, been turned on by accident before.)

Now, finally, they’ve caved. This week Sony announced that they would begin allowing cross-play on some multiplayer titles. While this is going to be on a case-by-case basis, it means that if you have buddies who use other gaming consoles, you might actually be able to play with them. The first game to receive cross-play is, of course, Fortnite.

I Guess We Have to Talk About Bowsette, Huh?

Fandom is weird and beautiful, and very thirsty. This past week provided irrefutable evidence of that with the emergence of Bowsette, a phenomenon that is, well, a little hard to explain. So, recently, when Nintendo announced Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe for the Switch, a new Mario powerup was introduced, a Mushroom Crown that could turn Toadette into Peachette, a Peach lookalike. Wait, said the internet, that crown can turn a mushroom person into Peach? Can it turn anyone into Peach? What about, say, Bowser? Could there be a Bowser Peach?

Yes, the internet responded to itself, resoundingly, yes. And fan artists went wild, producing more vaguely suggestive videogame fan art than I have ever seen. Bowsette is a huge meme, appealing to queer people who find something very relatable and fun in freely changing genders and to people who just really liked The Shape of Water. So, is Bowser sexy now? Definitely yes. Enjoy it. But maybe don’t browse any Mario fan art on Twitter while you’re at work for a while.

Recommendation of the Week: Life Is Strange

The first episode of the second season of Life Is Strange dropped this week, which means now is the perfect time to experience the bittersweet original. Following Max, a teen photographer who realizes she can rewind time, and her best friend, Chloe, it’s a fascinating and, to me, deeply moving queer coming-of-age story nestled in a creative little adventure game. Things get surreal, and sad, and beautiful. And the soundtrack is superb.

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It’s the Emmy Awards That Need a ‘Popular’ Category, Not the Oscars

Jessica Biel never had a chance.

Granted, it’s hard to be a real contender when you share an Emmy category with Regina King; her Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie win last night for her role in the Netflix miniseries Seven Seconds became her third Emmy since 2015. But the strength of the talent pool wasn’t why I assumed Biel would come up empty-handed for her haunted performance as accused murderer Cora Tannetti on The Sinner. Instead, it was the fact that hers was the only nomination for a shrewd and surprising why-dunit, one that subverted crime dramas by giving you the killer at the season’s outset.

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See, The Sinner, the second season of which ends tonight and which Biel also executive-produces, belongs to a once-rare but ever-swelling genus of shows: the word-of-mouth sensation. If you’re lucky, you stumble on it—or have it recommended to you—early enough to catch up in time for its season finale. Think Killing Eve, Succession. The Sinner plumbed the same ground in 2017, emerging as the number one new cable series in “delayed viewing.” Then it picked up an even more delayed audience when it caught fire on Netflix earlier this year. Yet, similar to Killing Eve, it didn’t pile up nominations. There wasn’t one for its patient directing, nor its halting, revelatory writing, not for Bill Pullman’s chokingly understated portrayal of long-suffering detective Harry Ambrose. It deserved at least four—and even its single nod turned out to be for naught.

And once again, last night’s Emmys revealed that The Sinner and Killing Eve are not alone. Trophy after trophy went to the most prestigious of prestige TV: Netflix’s Queen Elizabeth II bio-series The Crown; FX’s Cold War domestic espionage cat-and-mouse The Americans; Amazon’s upstart comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; HBO’s … everything. No question, these were deserving shows and performances. Henry Winkler? Still a treasure, even if his Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series award for Barry came at the expense of Atlanta‘s far more deserving Brian Tyree Henry.

Meanwhile, some of the television series I’ve had the most conversations about it—the good kind, the morning-after-Slackathon kind, the “oh, you’ve gotta watch this” kind—got overlooked. Big Mouth (one music nomination, zero awards). The Good Place (two nominations, zero awards). Insecure (two nominations, zero awards). Ozark (five nominations, zero awards). American Vandal (one nomination, zero awards). That doesn’t mean programs that did take home statuettes—Seven Seconds, Godless, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story—weren’t talked about, they just never got discussed with the same breathless zeal.

All of which makes me wonder if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences might have been on to something with its proposed-then-scrapped idea to introduce a “outstanding achievement in popular film” Academy Award category—not for the Oscars, but the Emmys.

You can’t be serious, you say. Look at all the genre series grabbing awards. Game of Thrones won Best Drama Series; Westworld was everywhere! How can these not be “popular”? Look, yes, of course these are popular. And they’re also painstakingly produced and designed within a millimeter of the uncanny valley. Look at the Outstanding Period Costumes and Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes categories and you’ll find five of the seven Outstanding Drama Series nominees. Great shows, great aesthetics—but while they’re certainly among the most sumptuous spectacles on TV, they’re not necessarily the best. (Also, I’m not saying Big Mouth is a better animated comedy than the eighth season of Bob’s Burgers and the millionth of The Simpsons—oh, wait, yes; yes, I am absolutely saying that.)

It’s a ridiculous and unnecessary understatement to say television has changed. In 2018, 520 scripted series are expected to air on broadcast, cable, premium cable, and streaming services. Five hundred twenty—and that’s up from 487 in 2017. (That figure also doesn’t include Apple, which has reportedly thrown more than $1 billion at original programming for its as-yet-still-not-officially-announced content plans.) There’s simply no way for people to see every show, or discuss them—which is why shows like The Sinner and Killing Eve and Big Mouth and The Good Place, shows that have demonstrated reach far beyond their initial impact, matter so much.

These are the shows that have managed to defeat the algorithm. They might not be what a computer thought you’d like, but they bucked the feedstream and came to you via actual recommendation. They’re not the most ambitious, or expensive, or generationally sprawling. They’re the unearthed gems you enjoy so much you want other people to enjoy them too. And if that’s a sin, I don’t want to be a saint.

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Omarosa’s Possible Trump Tapes Top This Week’s Internet News Roundup

Bad news for those hoping to see President Trump‘s planned military parade this November: It’s postponed, perhaps because it was apparently going to cost more than $80 million more than originally estimated. And that was just one of a couple setbacks last week for Trump, who also got dinged by a federal judge who ruled the administration screwed up the wording on its controversial NDA forms. (The president also picked a fight with veterans over what happened in Apocalypse Now.) Also, the defense rested in the trial of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort last week without calling any witnesses, so the jury is expected to return a verdict very soon in that case. There’s no telling how the outcome will affect the president until the verdict is out, but surely the waiting isn’t fun for him. Perhaps he could find some solace in the FDA’s approval of a cheaper, generic EpiPen or the release of a new Ariana Grande album? We’ll have to wait to see what this upcoming week has in store. In the meantime, there’s all of this.

Let’s Go to the Tape

What Happened: Forget receipts. Omarosa apparently has tapes of her time in the White House. Yes,”tapes.” Plural.

What Really Happened: Omarosa Manigault Newman continued the promo tour for her new book, Unhinged, last week with a strategy that is, shall we say, somewhat unique. It all started when, on last weekend’s Meet the Press, she shared something genuinely unexpected.

Why, yes, this was immediately agreed to be a really big deal, and not just because it was potentially illegal. Some people had concerns about the recording actually coming from the Situation Room, and what implications that had.

Considering that this came in connection with her assertion that President Trump is “mentally declined,” this all went down really well with Omarosa’s former boss, as you might expect.

That sure sounds like he was glad to see the back of her, right? Oh, but wait: There were more tapes to come.

As it was, people had obvious concerns with the way—and the particular language—Trump was using to talk about his former employee, and the fact that she was, after all, his former employee.

Still, at least there were no more tapes, right? Like, say, recordings revealing whether or not the president has ever used theN-word,” as it’s so euphemistically called. That would be really bad.

We’ll come back to this in a second, but could there be even more tapes? Apparently so.

Late in the week, reports claimed that Omarosa could have as many as 200 tapes waiting to be released. No wonder, then, that Trump is seeking legal actions to stop that from happening.

The Takeaway: There’s something so wonderfully trashy, yet compelling, about seeing a reality star take on Trump in this way, isn’t there? (At some point, Omarosa and attorney Michael Avenatti will cross paths, and reality might implode.)

Now, About What’s On Those Tapes…

What Happened: Folks spent a lot of time last week talking about the fact that Omarosa might have tapes of Trump. They spent just as much time talking about what might be on them.

What Really Happened: But let’s go back to Trump’s racism, and the discussion thereof. As if calling Omarosa a dog wasn’t enough of a reminder that President Trump is clearly racist, the discussion in Omarosa’s book about Trump’s alleged use of the N-word has brought the subject to the fore yet again.

This isn’t a new allegation. Former Celebrity Apprentice contestant Tom Arnold has been talking about it since 2016, and the rumor existed even before then. Penn Jillette has said the same thing, and then there’s Omarosa’s recording of Trump insiders apparently confirming that they’ve heard a tape of him saying it, too. At this point, Occam’s razor would indicate the tapes exist. So now might be a good time for the president to address things, right?

Well, that’s a response. As others have pointed out, when you need someone to call you and tell you that there are no tapes of you saying something, that means you’ve definitely said it more than once. But how do you think the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders chose to spin this? Everyone saying, “really badly,” you win a prize.

Yes, it’s come to this: The White House press secretary has to admit that she can’t say for sure that there’s no tape of the president using a racist slur. And then there’s what she added to that weak rebuttal…

That’s … certainly a look. Still, at least Sanders had a good way to prove that the president wasn’t racist: facts and figures! There was just one problem with that.

To be fair to Sarah Huckabee Sanders: It is actually a big deal when this administration apologizes for anything. So there’s that.

The Takeaway: Let’s give this one over to David Axelrod.

Top Secret (Slight Reprise)

What Happened: As the White House removes the security clearance of one of its critics, politicians and the intelligence community respond in the manner you’d likely expect.

What Really Happened: Some of you may or may not remember that, last month, there were stories in the press about the president considering stripping security clearance for former intelligent officials who had been critical of him. Some said it made no sense, others—including House Speaker Paul Ryan—poo-pooed the idea; Ryan, famously, said Trump was just trolling people with the idea. Funny story: He meant it after all.

Yes, former CIA Director John Brennan was stripped of his clearance last week, with the clearances of others apparently also under review. There were, initially, theories as to why this happened when it happened.

As it turned out, maybe none of these ideas were necessarily true.

Huh. Wait. July 26…?

The plot only thickened from there, as the White House apparently recognized its error.

But let’s not get distracted by when it happened, and go back to the fact that it happened in the first place. As is only customary, the president gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal where he explicitly linked Brennan’s clearance being revoked with the Russia investigation, saying, “I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham… And these people led it! So I think something had to be done.” Of course, people noticed these comments, perhaps because Trump can’t stop giving away that he’s obstructing justice publicly no matter what.

As would be expected, the administration’s actions were widely condemned by politicians and intelligence officials, but perhaps no condemnation was more damning than that of retired Navy admiral and commander of US Joint Special Operations Command, William H. McRaven, who wrote in the Washington Post, “I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency,” adding, “Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.”

Soon afterwards, 12 former intelligence officials issued a collective statement condemning the move.

The Takeaway: This is, as one might expect, already being portrayed by some as President Trump taking on the Deep State. For everyone else, it’s a particularly chilling moment in a series of chilling moments. The most obvious questions might be, what (and who) is next, and why are certain people sticking around in the administration at this point?


What Happened: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul—and the woman in possession of one of the finest voices ever committed to vinyl—passed away last week. Amid a flurry of tributes, there was also one confusing comment and one utterly embarrassing mix-up.

What Really Happened: After days of reports of failing health, Thursday brought the tragic news that Aretha Franklin had passed away.

The internet was, deservedly, filled with stories about her legacy, both inside popular music and outside it—she played an important role in the civil rights movement, and inspired and gave voice to women across the world. As is sadly customary in times like this, Twitter was overtaken with those paying tribute to her talent.

Of course, politicians paid tribute, as well…

And then, there were President Trump’s comments…

As much as the comments drew a lot of analysis and attention—amusingly, Franklin was reportedly not a fan of the president’s—it could’ve been worse. A fact ably demonstrated by Fox News, of all places.

See? At least the president didn’t do that. But, amazingly, Fox really did and many people noticed, because of course they did.

Aretha, you really deserved better.

The Takeaway: As great as the NYT and LA Times entertainment section covers were on Friday—

—the Detroit Free Press front page has them beat, appropriately.

Millennials’ Next Victim? Mayo

What Happened: From the death of a soul giant to the reported death of something you put on a sandwich. Is mayonnaise really doing that poorly?

What Really Happened: When will the murder spree by millennials end? Not content with killing department stores, vacations, marriage, and the European Union—not to mention all manner of other things—now they’re turning their attention to … condiments, apparently.

Yes, millennials have apparently killed mayonnaise, although it should be noted that the writer of this piece had previously claimed that millennials had also ruined the workforce and people are still working as far as we know. Nonetheless, if the death of mayo was something to be mourned, it seemed that not everyone got the memo.

Some people just wanted to point out the failures of logic in the central argument, understandably.

As the backlash got underway—along with the over-analysis—at least one person was just ready to enjoy the dramatic potential of any mayo murder.

Still, at least there was some upside to the whole thing: The success of the original piece, even if written just to provoke a backlash and uproar, means we can perhaps expect more such stories in the near future.

Finally, we have our new Condiment King!

The Takeaway: Yes, this is ridiculous. But let’s just take one second to think about what might be the most ridiculous part of the whole thing:

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IHOP’s Name Change Tops This Week’s Internet News Roundup

Last week, tragically, was bookended with two high-profile suicides, making this tweet all the more crucial.

And the losses of both designer Kate Spade and chef/TV host Anthony Bourdain were just part of a very busy week that included Samantha Bee apologizing for her Ivanka Trump statements, former Senate Intelligence Committee security director James Wolfe being charged with lying to investigators, and former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort being accused of witness tampering in the special counsel investigation. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian convinced President Trump to grant clemency to Alice Johnson, and now he’s talking about pardoning Muhammad Ali even though Ali’s conviction was overturned in 1971. It really has been a week, people. Read on for more.

It’s Called the G7, Not the Gr8, Amirite?

What Happened: The G7 Summit has arrived in Canada, bringing with it the whirling dervish that is international diplomacy in the age of Donald Trump. The forecast? Cloudy with a chance of What the hell is even happening?

What Really Happened: This weekend marks the beginning of the 44th G7 Summit, a meeting of the leaders of seven of the largest advanced economies in the world. It’s being held in Quebec, Canada, which can only mean one thing: Canadian pride!

Well, that and also good old fashioned Canadian preparation for potentially violent protests.

Not to worry; the first night’s protests were mostly peaceful, despite some reports to the contrary. But still! It’s the G7 Summit! This is a big deal, especially considering the important subjects under discussion: a potential plastics charter and the looming trade war between participants. Still: diplomacy! Who isn’t excited by diplomacy?!

OK, but is there anyone not excited about diplomacy aside from the President of the United States, who apparently doesn’t like to visit Canada? Maybe not, but earlier in the week the president did try to portray himself as less grumpy about traveling north and more ready for a fight.

Still, surely the rest of the G7—that’s Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, for those who are curious—is going to bow to the United States’ whims on this, as on all things. After all, the US is the dominant world economy, right?

OK, sure; the summit looked set to push the US to the side of international diplomacy before it had even started, with Trump even going so far as to announce he would leave early, because … people weren’t being nice enough to him? This is all going swimmingly.

Don’t worry; President Trump had thought about that, as it turned out.

The Takeaway: This is a joke, and yet … maybe someone should actually take this approach when briefing the president right now?

Fly Like an Eagle…

What Happened: After their Super Bowl victory, the Philadelphia Eagles got into a surprise clash with the president, who didn’t come out looking better in the whole ordeal.

What Really Happened: It all started as plans got underway for the Super Bowl-winning Eagles to visit the White House.

This was entirely true, as it turned out.

The visit was cancelled by the administration because only two players—and the coach—wanted to attend, and that made it a “political stunt” as opposed to, you know, protest. (We’ll come back to this momentarily.) For some, this was simply fodder for comedy…

There was also the far less amusing replacement event—theoretically, a patriotic ceremony to listen to the National Anthem, of all things—to deal with.

But what a two minutes they turned out to be!

Oh, and the people in the crowd?

Well, maybe not all of them…

(Turns out, two people were kneeling during the anthem.)

The Takeaway: Now, ignoring for a second that no Eagles player actually knelt during the National Anthem—I know, it’s shocking that fact wasn’t shared by the administration, but it’s so true that Fox News had to apologize for suggesting otherwise—let’s return, for a brief second, to the idea of kneeling as protest and free speech, and what the US president thinks about free speech, shall we? Because if there’s one takeaway from this entire thing, it shouldn’t be that the President of the United States doesn’t know the words to “God Save America,” it should be this.

Meanwhile, in the World of Scott Pruitt…

What Happened: Just when you thought EPA administrator Scott Pruitt had done everything in his power to make his office look pointless and unnecessary, he stepped things up several notches this week.

What Really Happened: Let’s get away from what the president has been doing for a while and think about his appointees. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made news last week by announcing that a School Safety Commission won’t look into guns. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seemingly at war with the president’s attorney Rudy Giuliani. Oh, and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt—he of the soundproof booth, tax-payer funded first class travel and suspicious housing situation—well, he had a hell of a week, and in the most unexpected manner. How unexpected? Well…

As if trying to buy a used mattress from a hotel owned by the President of the United States didn’t sound like the most suspect thing in the world already—really, it sounds like the start of a joke—that turned out to be just the start of Pruitt’s genuinely, impressively surreal week. To wit:

Oh, yes. His defense, amazingly, was that he and his wife “love Chick-fil-A as a franchise of faith and one of the best in the country,” adding, “we need more of them in Tulsa, we need more of them across the country.” Sadly, it was not to be.

But it gets weirder…

Yes, that’s right, it really said lotion.

And then there was this, which almost seemed mundane in contrast.

I mean, sure. Protein bars, who cares about those when there are used mattresses and lotion in the mix? People were at a loss when trying to put all this together in their heads.

Of course, things are actually worse than they seem.

Yeah, that’s right; turns out that, while Pruitt is distracting everyone by being strange, he’s also letting his really important agency fall apart and potentially poison the world. What did President Trump think of all this? When asked about Pruitt, Trump told reporters Friday that he was “doing a great job.”

The Takeaway: Perhaps folks are being too harsh on Scott Pruitt, though. Maybe he’s trying his best and following the teachings of those important to him. That’s … that’s possible, right?

The Return of Melania Trump

What Happened: After more than three weeks in seclusion, prompting all manner of concern, the First Lady made her triumphant return to the public eye last week.

What Really Happened: Hey, remember a while back when we mentioned people were beginning to wonder where the First Lady had disappeared to? Turns out, that became a thing last week—but we got an answer. Kind of. The renewed focus on where Melania Trump was hiding started when, two days after she didn’t go to Camp David, her spokesperson revealed she also wouldn’t be accompanying the president on other trips as well.

This got more people wondering where she was. And then, lo and behold, she re-emerged.

Sure, there was suspicion over the fact that her return would happen in a private event closed to press, but a return is a return, right? Especially considering that people were genuinely beginning to get a little worried about her health.

As it turned out, people wondering if the whole thing was going to be a bait-and-switch had nothing to worry about; it really was Melania who appeared before the crowd, and not some lookalike to fool the rubes.

Of course, the media was ready with responses to the happy news. And, as it transpired, once she was back, she was back … at least on Twitter.

I mean, sure; she’s not writing these tweets herself, but at least someone’s realized the value of actually using her social media presence as proof of life. But was the internet happy about this?

…Well, apparently not. Look, she’s alive! Doesn’t that count for something? (For what it’s worth, the president said Friday that FLOTUS is staying on the down-low on doctor’s orders, but, you know, consider the source.)

The Takeaway: Just because Melania Trump is back in the public eye doesn’t mean she’s not still the wife of a many who doesn’t know how to spell her name.

International House of … Breakfast? Bacon? Befuddlement?

What Happened: Just when you thought it was safe to go and have a breakfast meal at a diner chain, IHOP promised to change the game—well, OK, its name—last week, and everyone freaked out at the possibility.

What Really Happened: It’s been a long week. Let’s end with a bit of a snack.

Yes, as of Monday, it’ll be IHOP no more as the company changes its name … or, at least, teases the change via Twitter. (After all, who’s to say this isn’t all one big practical joke?) As might be expected, everyone on social media had ideas of just what that B in the new acronym could … well … be.

As might be expected, the guesses—even as ridiculous as they were—became a story on their own, meaning that the marketing plan was working wonders. Really, when was the last time anyone talked about IHOP this much? Most people are assuming it’s going to be International House of Breakfast, but perhaps there’s still a chance for an unexpected surprise twist.

The Takeaway: As a marketing plan, this campaign has worked impressively well. There’s just one problem with the whole thing in the long term, though.

… Yeah, OK, that’s fair.

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