Fortnite’s newest in-game emote is a collaborative one. Epic Games this evening announced the launch of “The Renegade,” the viral TikTok dance created by Atlanta teenager Jalaiah Harmon. The Twitter account for Fortnite openly cites Harmon, writing, “Go, go, go, go, let’s go and bust out some [fire] moves by @jalaiah.”
It’s not clear whether Epic and Harmon struck some type of licensing deal, but it’s a possibility considering the developer’s rocky legal history with dance emotes. Throughout Fortnite’s meteoric rise starting in the fall of 2017, the game has featured a number of real-world dances copied from pop culture. Sometimes the emotes were inspired by dances on old television shows, like the default dance inspired by Scrubs actor Donald Faison. But quite often these dances were invented by black creators and later went viral on social media.
A number of lawsuits were filed against Epic over claims the company infringed on some variety of either likeness or copyright by using the dances without permission, and some remain ongoing. Regardless, in this case, it appears Epic is openly citing the creator of the dance its newest emote emulates, and it would be quite strange to do so without having first collaborated with Harmon to get it in the game.
It appears Epic is no longer interested in taking existing dances and turning them into emotes without credit, as was its strategy in the past for some popular dances. The company held a TikTok dance contest earlier this year with transparent licensing terms and has been turning popular streamer dance moves into emotes with the permission and collaboration of the creators themselves. Popular streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins got his own skin, emote, and other in-game items as part of a deal with Epic back in January.
The inclusion of the Renegade emote is also a nice gesture for Harmon, who largely went unrecognized for her dance even as it became one of the most popular moves on TikTok and other social platforms earlier this year. Only after articles by publications like The New York Times and Vox did Harmon get the proper credit for her massively influential contribution to pop culture. And now Harmon will be forever immortalized in the world of Fortnite.