A Murder-Car in 'BATTLEGROUNDS' Captures Why Its Mayhem Works

Most survival games teach you that self-preservation is more important than having fun. Not 'Battlegrounds'!

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Apr 24 2017, 7:06pm

PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS (just Battlegrounds from here) is turning into one of my favorite subjects for vicarious gaming. This weekend my friend was explaining to me how the humble cast-iron skillet has become one of game's most powerful pieces of armor due to its bullet-resistant properties. Now comes this glorious video from streamer and John Cena-enthusiast Chris Grant.

There are two moments in this magnificent "murder-car loose in a tunnel" video that I can't stop thinking about. The first is when a squad of players hanging out in a bunker—where one could and should feel reasonably safe from being run down by a dude in a lousy sedan—have a normal human reaction and go bolting for escape and safety… right down a long tunnel that they should by now have surmised is exactly one-car wide.

The second moment is when another player—perhaps another member of their party—gets the drop on the driver outside the bunker, in open terrain where a car should no longer be the equivalent of the atom bomb. But he whiffs it and, despite expending more bullet than were exchanged in both John Wick movies, ends up getting punched to death.

But I think what I enjoy even more in this clip, and in many of the stories I hear about Battlegrounds, is the comical glee that seems to characterize so much of the game outside those tense "hunter-becomes-the-hunted" moments that are the heart of so much of the experience.

A lot of survival sims generate the potential for ridiculous comedy… but their persistence also means that so much of the experience is about fear of loss. I can't look at this video without thinking about how jealously protective I was of my cars in H1Z1, or the paranoia-fueled Fortresses of Solitude I built in Rust. I knew the games included all kinds of fun possibilities, but it so often felt like that fun came at the cost of throwing away tons of painstakingly collected resources and labored-over equipment. "You could run this person down like a dog but it'll take you hours to patch-up this car if you screw it up." It's… too much like real life.

Battlegrounds seems more inviting. You can be the asshole who takes a car into a bunker, or the schmuck who decides to shoot-it-out with said car. It's fun, it's dumb and if it goes wrong… the whole thing will start-over soon anyway. It's just a game.