PUBG, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Shoot the Gun

PUBG 1-min

We all know PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS gets intense – and has a terrible name that is inexplicably all in caps – but there’s a natural journey we go through: from hiding, to shooting, to knowing when to shoot — it’s gradual and comes back around full circle.

Picture it. You’re approaching a collection of houses (a herd? conglomerate?) hoping for good loot. You enter one, sifting through the equipment it contains. You hear someone else’s footsteps upstairs. One of two things happens. They have the jump on you if you approach. Do you hunt them down? Or rush out the door, and serpentine away?

You’re safe on the edges of the circle. Eyes scanning the horizon for movement. Someone in the distance is out in the open, but your position is safe. Another player starts firing shots at them. This new enemy is closer, but a kill is still not certain. Do you shoot either of them? Or do you avoid confrontation, let them fight it out, and leave quietly along your merry way?

For my first 10 or so hours playing PUBG (because f*** you if you think I’m typing out the game’s full name every time) I was certainly the latter in both scenarios; to avoid death I avoided unnecessary confrontation. In scenarios where I had no option but to shoot my enemies, I’d generally manage to hit every pixel around them, followed by death. In my middling hours I started unloading bullets in the general direction of any enemy. My own death was still the most likely outcome, but this was much more fun. One of PUBG‘s greatest assets though, is that no situation ends in one of two or three ways; rather, it’s one of hundreds of ways.

Most of my PUBG time is spent playing in duo mode with a friend. We still have only one duo chicken dinner out of more than I’d like to acknowledge — please, our families grow hungry! When we started out, we both had different strategies: mine was to hide if my chances of hitting enemies was low. If we saw someone far away, I usually wouldn’t bother shooting them; I spent more time avoiding players than actively attempting to kill them — though usually, it was so I could loot in peace.

Read how Rich saw the light: I Now See the Appeal of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

My friend, on the other hand, was much more prone to shooting whenever he could. To get some shooting practice in, we hit a point where we decided to dedicate rounds solely to shooting. On Erangel, we’d drop directly to the military base whenever possible. That helped me deal with PUBG’s continued excellency in its ability to create severe tension, and overall be better at shooting.

In those early days of PUBG, we’d perhaps get to the top 40 with no kills. After a few practice runs though, with less reluctance to fire. we were regularly getting into the top 20 with some kills of our own. It’s what PUBG wants from you: to come back again and again, each time gaining extra confidence and continually refining your play style.

We’re making our way to the circle. Two people are ahead of us on a hill to ensnare those like us lagging behind. One of us gets downed. Revived behind a small tree. Suppressing Fire. Moving up. I sneak around the hill. Then we pincer, down one enemy, and hunt the other. What used to be the end of our round is now more likely to be a tactically-aligned decision from my duo partner and I — with some hopefully lucrative loot at the end, of course.

After practicing in duos, I started to shoot anything that moved when I played by myself, too. I didn’t care if I missed, died, or killed them. In my head, I saw it all as practice. I wasn’t worried about missing now; every missed shot was information for the next. Harshly, you learn that shooting like some kind of madman — without the suave style of Jon Hamm (though my shirt and tie are rather smart) — is generally only good for giving your position away to players you’d not seen hiding nearby.

As more rounds go by, you begin to learn the importance of when to shoot, when not to, and when to give your position away. Now in PUBG I like to spend time to gather information on where people are around me, and come into the circle from an angle no one would expect. I get chicken dinners more frequently by shooting in more situations than those first hours — but not in as many as my middling hours. It’s a balancing act. It’s not about hiding, it’s not about shooting; it’s about learning when to — and when not to — do both.