About a year ago, I was discussing video games with my 10-year-old cousin, Jake. He mentioned a game I had never heard of, and with such a long, confusing name, I didn’t care to think much of it. The game was PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. At the time, I wasn’t well aware of the PC-gaming world, which included the ever-expanding realm of Battle Royale games. So I didn't know much about it, and I didn't have anything to say about it, either. We moved on to topics a bit closer to home: Grand Theft Auto V and Destiny 2. I didn't know what he was talking about, and anyway, what did he know about real games? He didn't even own a console at the time. I shrugged it off.
What I didn’t realize was that a trend was occurring among younger kids, made possible by the ease of use and accessibility they have with handheld tablets. I don’t intend to speak for all families, but for mine, many of my younger cousins and my little sister spent time on their Kindles and iPads, playing games and watching YouTube videos.
Turns out, Jake watches quite a bit of Twitch streams and YouTube videos, so he was actually more up-to-date than I was, in terms of “real games.” Jake was ahead of the curve. But as I mentioned, he didn’t have a console, let alone a gaming PC, so he had no access to these games, and was forced to watch others play on these streaming platforms, but he never gave up on his dream to one day play PUBG.
Months passed, and I became close to my goal of building my own gaming PC. I was focused on and excited to finally experience Overwatch on PC with its higher FPS limitations, as opposed my 30fps-locked Xbox One.
Christmas came, and I was fortunate enough to begin assembling a fairly decent rig. Once done, my friends and I played Overwatch for quite some time, but one day, out of nowhere, my friend Pete mentioned a “new game in early access that we should check out.” That game was the same game that Jake mentioned to me months before, that same game that I had shrugged off, that same game that I didn’t know a single thing about, let alone know the name of. That game was PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and boy, should I have listened to Jake earlier.
As of now, my squad and I have dedicated close to 300 hours each on the PC version of PUBG, becoming seasoned chicken-dinner eating experts, motivated by the thrill of the hunt, and the adrenaline surge that comes with sweet, sweet victory. Over these past few months, we’ve sharpened our aim, our skills, our awareness, our callouts, and everything else that leads to success in PUBG. I’m proud to claim 15 chicken dinners on the PC version, and plan on expanding that number with my team, whenever we can. PUBG quickly became and steadily existed as one of my favorite games of 2017, but also has been one of the most thrilling and rewarding competitive multiplayer experiences I’ve ever had.
All of this was done with one thought in the back of my mind:
“I sure wish Jake could see me now.”
Let’s flash forward. It’s March of 2018. PUBG has been alive and well for over a year, and it has bloomed out of its early access stage, now an entirely different game from what it was at launch. As the months have gone by, PUBG has grown less popular, due to the rising popularity of the widely more accessible Fortnite. As PUBG continues to build upon itself, there is no doubt that it must compete with these other "big names" in the battle royale business.
Fortnite has surpassed many games on the market, both in terms of popularity and viewership. Ninja is playing Fortnite with Drake and Travis Scott, and the whole world is watching. Suddenly, many more people are aware of Fortnite, thanks to this surprising celebrity collab. A few days later, Fortnite is announced for Mobile platforms, which makes it available on every current gen console, aside from Nintendo Switch. Give it a week or two, though. Fortnite is sitting pretty atop the Tilted Towers of Twitch, and PUBG has sadly become a whisper in the night.
But on March 19, 2018, PUBG struck back. Whether it was due to Fortnite’s move to mobile, or the already quite successful mobile launch of PUBG in Asia, Bluehole decided to bring my favorite Battle Royale to the mobile phone platform. With this news, I knew I would finally be able to play PUBG with my cousin Jake, anywhere, anytime. And it just so happened that Jake was coming over to my house for a visit that same weekend. Oh, how the stars aligned.
I’d played a few games the day of release, winning 2 of 3, and familiarized myself with the controls and the mobile User Interface. This isn’t a formal review of PUBG Mobile, but I'll still say that it’s pretty good. It’s the 1.0 version of PUBG, which as of today is months out of date, but the gameplay is solid, the visuals are clear enough, and it’s a rather impressive mobile port of an already fantastic game. I know where I am, what I’m doing, how to aim, and how to win games, which is good enough for me. But I digress.
Sunday came, and I told Jake to grab his charger and meet me in the kitchen. We sat next to each other, chargers in the wall behind us, and added each other as friends. I could see the joy in his face when our friend requests went through. He asked me, “So if I text you, we could play together with me at my house and you at your house?”
I said, “Of course, dude.” He smiled. Soon enough, we partied up and launched a match of Duos.
“Where do you want to land?” he asked.
“Follow me,” I replied. “And if you see any enemies, tell me.”
We landed off the beaten path, somewhere near Severny. It was a clean drop, or so I thought. I told Jake to loot up and meet back up when the circle moves. “Okay,” he said. As I struggled to open doors (my fault, not the game’s) I heard Jake shooting off a high-powered Assault Rifle.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“Got him,” he said. A few more shots went off. “Got him too. I got them.”
I didn’t know what to think. He squad-wiped a team already, without breaking a sweat, and I didn’t even know where they were. I knew right then and there that Jake was in it to win it. A natural. A born PUBG’r, simply waiting for his time to shine. I was proud. Still couldn’t get that door open, but it was all good. Jake was going to carry us home.
Every time we ran into an enemy, Jake noticed them first. Before I could get my iron sights up, he wiped them. Sure, I snagged a few kills, but they were mostly pick-offs, enemies that Jake had already knocked down. I was just the cleaner.
“Got him. You take that box, I’ll take this one,” he said.
We were in a Jeep. He told me to drive (because he thought, and knew, he was a better shot than me). He sat in the back seat, but more so hung out the back window with an AK, and picked off player after player as I gunned the Jeep at top-speed. I was actually in awe. The kid was killing players from the back of a Jeep at full speed on a cell phone. A cell phone.
“What the hell is happening?” I said over and over. He laughed.
Of course we made it to the final circle, and of course Jake was unscathed. I crawled on my belly like a worm and tried to find the two remaining enemies. I searched every which way and found nothing. I took my eyes off the screen and looked at Jake, who admitted that he never made it this far in a PUBG game before, despite playing for a few days already. I was surprised to hear this, as it seemed he could shoot an apple from a tree at 3km out, while in the back of a moving Jeep. I knew what was happening. It was final-circle heebie-jeebies. I looked at him in the eyes and said:
“Keep your cool. We got this.”
A few seconds of silence, then I hear the enemy fire. Jake says, “I see them,” and fires. He takes a few shots himself, so I stand up and run towards him. Jake knocks one of them out. He's silent. I’m sprinting, trying to do anything I can to help my partner, but I’m too far out, and I don’t have any decent sights. It was all up to him. I hear the shots, then the screen freezes.
“Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!”
We stood up, we yelled, we hugged. I could see it in his face. Joy, pure joy. Pride. Excitement. Accomplishment. Satisfaction. Reward. So many things from such a simple little thing in such a simple little game. I never thought I’d see the day, but my little cousin Jake carried me to a win in PUBG…in back to back games. That’s right. Back to back games. I’m very proud.
Suffice it to say, I’m glad we had the opportunity to play PUBG together, after all this time. The PC version has been out for over a year now, which is being formally celebrated by gifting players “Year One” skins, and though the mobile version isn’t a 1:1 replica of the PC PUBG that I know and love, it’s a decent mobile game, and it’s granted me this awesome experience with my buddy Jake. I never thought I’d think it, and I never thought I’d say it, but PUBG Mobile is family fun for everyone. So gather ‘round the dinner table, get your chargers out, squad up, and get ready to drop on School, ‘cause the Baker Family is taking home some Chicken Dinners tonight!
Jokes, pride, and happiness aside, there is one shadow looming above this bright and shiny story, and I’d be remiss not to mention it. Speculation has arisen that PUBG Mobile has intentionally filled new players’ games with automated bots, non-human players that are vastly less intelligent and adaptive than human players and that ease newcomers into the game. Sure, I guess it’s possible. But why? That defeats the purpose of PUBG, and Battle Royale as a whole. You’re supposed to get your rear kicked for a while before you feel confident. You’re supposed to feel like a worm in a sea full of fishes. Regardless, there’s no proof, only speculation, and Bluehole has not commented on this issue.
Now that PUBG is on the mobile platform, meaning iOS and Android, anyone can play the fight-for-your-life simulator, strut their stuff, or get squashed like a bug. Give it a shot, play some PUBG with your dad, or your grandma, or your cousin Vinny. It doesn’t matter, because PUBG is family fun for everyone.