Knowledge is power
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, currently one of the most popular video games in the world, has hinged its success on a few relatively-unique systems. It’s a competitive shooter, but it usually values survival over killing; often, being quiet and discreet is the smart play. Its loop is also rooted in randomness, with players constantly unsure about what kind of equipment they’re going to find.
We don’t think of these traits as positives with regard to esports. Playing games at a professional level almost always has some sort of strict standardization attached to it. Action should be steady and external factors should be mitigated. We want pure skill to win out and we want to be entertained.
PUBG sort of defies that convention and it’s partially because of the presentation to the audience. The Intel Extreme Masters Oakland tournament took place this past weekend and pitted 20 4-player squads against one another in 8 games to determine a champion. France-based aAa won the whole thing with 1,620 points, 38 kills, and 1 chicken dinner. (Actually, only one team, Digital Chaos, won multiple games.)
While the PUBG playing experience is predicated on always being unsure of what lies just ahead, the spectator experience is vastly different because, for once, we have all the information. Just skim through some of the gameplay of the final match at IEM Oakland:
The tech is actually pretty impressive. We see outlines of players, where they’re all positioned on the map, and their weapons. After spending hundreds of hours playing and trying to spot players in the distance, it’s weirdly relieving to see these pros’ player boxes just pop up across the map. We know where everyone is and what they’re doing.
It’s interesting knowing where all the squads are when the circle changes, seeing who’s holding down a compound, watching as someone makes a decision that will surely end in imminent death. On a team-by-team basis, PUBG is a game that has more quiet moments than most other esports. By inverting the typical PUBG experience for the audience, it proves to be just as exciting.