A Think Between Worlds #3: A Multiplayer Trip For Chicken Dinners

This might be a bit different from the usual fare from ATBW, but in a sense, so much about media is how many people perceive and consume it differently. Why not dig into how media can create a group experience full of emotional twists and turns, mirth, and whimsy?

We’ll cover appropriate dress for a Rocky Horror Picture Show party in another article, however.

The squad your mother warned you about.

It’s been several weeks since a little heralded multiplayer shooter called PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) took the gaming world by storm. Most readers have either had the pleasure of hunting for a chicken dinner by being last person standing, or seen a cavalcade of streamers, games journalists, MMA fighters, and Youtubers attempt to do so. The island getaway filled with way too many houses carrying nothing but micro-uzis is a good time, but it more importantly represents arguably one of the best cooperative experiences in a game to date. The game allows tactics and effective teamwork to pair with dumb adventures, constant japes, and inside jokes that’ll make anyone outside your squad look at you with a worried stare. It’s that idea of an exciting weekend of murder for fun and profit with your friends that’ll end up setting PUBG up for long term success where other survival based shooters like DayZ and Rust have fallen short.

A key part of any in-game experience how what’s happening on screen makes a player feel. A difficult level can be a rewarding challenge or a painful slog based solely on one’s mentality. Whether intentional or not, PUBG manages to strike a balance between tension and levity largely through its design: creating a scenario where failure doesn’t feel like lost time and continued survival feels like an accomplishment. Chasing that ever-narrowing circle around the map creates a cycle of looting buildings; idle busywork and banter; with fleeting moments of intense combat and frantically checking corners and landscapes for opposing players. That serves to make climactic moments more potent and the game less exhausting. In contrast to games like DayZ, where you’re either one of the sharks with prime gear and an advantageous position, or a minnow struggling for time to breathe or a second to let your guard down.

Where that balance is especially evident is in Battleground’s team based modes. While solo play can be a fast paced romp or methodical, nerve-wracking ordeal; the duo and squad modes leave room for players to enjoy the company of their mates while rummaging through loot piles or discussing the physics of driving a jeep through a river. In a world dominated by the pure tactical approach of games like DOTA 2 and CS:GO, it’s somewhat refreshing to have a successful firefight in the midst of a conversation about the merits of using a frying pan in armed conflict or cracking bad puns after a close friend has just been shot in the face. That’s not to say that the murderous island is a stress free environment: being one of the few surviving teams at the end of the game allows each squad member to share in that nervous tension equally and, regardless of outcome, appreciate the effort to make it that far along when the game’s done. For a competitive landscape obsessed with the destination, it’s PUBG’s emphasis on the journey that makes it one of the more enjoyable multiplayer experiences going today.

Just make sure to mute the chat on everybody else. It is still the internet, after all.