Is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds So Popular Because of Its Narrative?

I was late to the party when it came to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). Typically, my favorite types of games are story-rich experience with a guided campaign. I appreciate being swept away by a compelling story in a video game. For the past almost seven months, PUBG has been swiftly making its way into gamers’ Steam libraries. I wasn’t very interested initially because of its lack of a campaign. However, I argue that PUBG’s narrative is its best feature.

I finally decided to purchase the game when my friend had a birthday. I sent him a copy on Steam, and I bought a copy for myself. assuming, “Well this will give us something to play together”—I had no idea how much I would actually enjoy the game.

The Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds Experience

In PUBG you are given free reign over a large map; your goal is to survive. You also find resources to help you accomplish this task. You are slowly forced closer and closer to a point on the map. As a player, you are given the option of either competing solo or playing in a team. The final person or team to survive wins. The game’s idea was influenced by the movie “Battle Royale” from 2000, in which a group of high schoolers are forced kill each other in order to survive. It’s in the same vein as something like “The Hunger Games,” where the last to survive wins and the game ensures a fight. This is a very simple premise, but the war stories you gain from it are unmatched by any other game I’ve ever played.

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In his book Why Videogames Matter, Tom Bissell refers to these types of experiences as a ludo-narrative or a story you create based on your decisions and experiences regarding your gameplay. This is where PUBG thrives so much, and I believe this is why PUBG is one of the most interesting games not only to play but to watch (It is currently one of the most streamed games on Twitch).

War Stories

One of my all-time favorite stories from PUBG was a game I played with my friend Calen. About five minutes into the match we decided to loot a house. Calen seemed to have it under control, so I decided to go across the street to check out the house opposite to us. As I walked across the street, I saw a car pull up. I ran inside and crouched behind the window from the inside of my house. I didn’t have a weapon yet, but Calen did. Through the headset, I told him we had company. He stayed on the top floor of his house and I was able to tell Calen our visitors’ every move. I saw one slowly approach the stairs after entering the house, and I told Calen “one of them is coming up toward you. Take him out,” reminding him they didn’t know he was there. Calen positioned himself at the top of the stairs and killed our enemy as he approached. The other visitor heard the shots and tried to run away. I told Calen where the visitor was going and he was able to capitalize on my information and take him out. We looted their bodies and took their car. This was how I got my first weapon of the match. End of story.



Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds’ Stories are Movie Material

Now, we didn’t come in first. We didn’t even do particularly well in general. But the experience we had was exciting and compelling. The moment we had was almost straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. There is a scene where Jimmy Stewart, from a wheelchair, watches Grace Kelly from the building across the street. Kelly is snooping in the apartment of a potential murderer. Stewart sees the potential murderer approach the doorway to the seemingly vacant apartment, and there is no choice but to watch helplessly as Kelly scrambles to find an exit. In the case of PUBG, my helplessness wasn’t caused by a broken leg, it was caused by my lack of a weapon. The best thing about PUBG is you get to have these types of experiences all the time.

How Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds Lends Itself to Such Good Storytelling

Some areas of the map are filled with people, others are very vacant. Because of this, when you hear gunshots, and you’re not sure where they are coming from, you tense up and feel an intensity which can rival any game. It’s a game of hunting and not necessarily fast-paced action. You need to be able to stay calm under those circumstances or else your hand will be shaking too much to hold your mouse steady long enough to land even a single shot on your enemy.

This methodical intensity lends itself well to experiences you have in the game. Many times, when approaching a settlement, you don’t know what is waiting for you around the corner. You need to stay frosty, and you need to constantly be ready for a firefight. I think the best thing about the game is when you experience this narrative with others. When you’re calling out locations of rivals on the map, you feel like an action hero.

You sculpt your own story based on every move you make while traveling from one location to the other. I think the balance of the game requires you to seek out different approaches in every match you play. For example, you could find a car that can move you from one location to the other quickly; however, when driving a car, a stealthy approach is impossible. You never know what kind of story you’re going to be a part of at the beginning of each match. You need to have the foresight to plan ahead, but you must also be adaptive enough to play some situations by ear. With skill, forward-thinking, and luck, you create the story you experience in each match of PUBG.




Is It Worth Picking Up, Even Now?

I urge you, don’t let its lack of a framed-narrative dissuade you from playing the game. Yes, read reviews. Yes, do your research to make sure the game is actually for you. $30 is a lot of money to spend on a game that is in early access. But don’t let the fact that it is online-only be your sole reason for not giving the game a try. Honestly, I regret not picking the game up sooner. W


What are your favorite PUBG war stories? Do you think the game is extremely popular for another reason?

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