Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (irritatingly stylized PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS and henceforth PUBG) is the gaming phenomenon of the summer. The meteoric rise of the game has been fascinating to watch: from first hearing the rumblings about the game last spring, buying it in May and discovering the source of the hype, then watching the game explode into the outer atmosphere. I don’t know what all records it’s beaten, but it’s probably the fastest I’ve ever seen a previously-unknown game grow to such great heights and go on to eclipse several of Steam’s most popular (free entry) games in terms of player counts.
And, shockingly, the hype is mostly justified! I never played any prior Battle Royale-style game before PUBG, but I understood almost immediately after my first round why the game type is popular. There’s the controlled randomization of the plane flying in and choosing where to jump; there’s the quick building of a character through looting; there’s the intense early fights that rely mostly on prediction and quick action (and, admittedly, a good set of headphones); there’s the decision-making involved in repositioning as the blue circle shrinks ever smaller; there’s the intense, tactical gun fighting of the final minutes. Battle Royale games feature such a variety of interesting decisions to make it’s almost ludicrous.
It’s also almost ludicrous to imagine that such a simple concept hadn’t been successfully executed on before PUBG–the only thing holding me back from saying it beggars belief is that there’s actually a slew of well-executed design choices hidden underneath the game’s simple exterior. Perhaps the most interesting one is using something close to a military sim-style of gunplay: if the game was more cartoony, if there was no bullet drop or if the time-to-kill was shorter it wouldn’t be as effective as it is. The game is fascinating and fun because despite the fact that it’s a competitive multiplayer that’s fun to lose in (!!!), it’s also one in which you feel like there’s always a chance until you’re fully out of the game. Overwatch ain’t got nothin’ on that!
PUBG is great fun, and I’m watching raptly to see where it goes from here. It’s exciting to know that these are only the early stages of a (presumptive) phenomenon. The game has such a bright, burning kernel of fun at its core that it’s cake to look past its technical deficiencies and wacky vehicle physics. And the possibilities for the future fill me with excitement: imagine PUBG a year from now with a year of extra development and design! I absolutely cannot wait for the future of this game.