We’re in the middle of an epidemic; worse than Ebola or even the black plague (Alright… Maybe not THAT bad…). Everywhere you go you hear about it. Everyone is infected at least a little bit. There is no cure but to wait it out and hope there’s light at the other end of this dark… Bleak tunnel. Yes; I’m talking about gaming’s latest trend – The Battle Royale mode.
“But Uncle Will!” I hear you cry – “Battle Royale is fun”!
Oh my sweet little gaming gremlin you’re wrong – Really. Fucking. Wrong. There’s a big difference between something being fun and something being a trend or addictive. In the same way that people addicted to meth probably think that’s really fun, you are a Battle Royale junkie. Addicted to looting otherwise empty buildings before a wall of light or electricity or whatever comes closing in, forcing you to murder your fellow man… Or fish head thing, or knight, or clown (Looking at you Fortnite)…
So where did this all start? Who was patient zero? Let’s go back in time a few years to a little game called H1Z1; now, Battle Royale game modes have been around since (And even before) 2012 when Hunger Games released, and everyone got massive teenager murder boners for a while… But these we just mods to existing games. No, my dear readers, H1Z1 was the first time a game was ENTIRELY focused around this idea. A member of the consulting team for H1Z1 was a chap by the name of Brendan Greene. Pretty inconsequential fact right? WRONG you silly bugger! Brendan Greene likes to go by the name of PlayerUnknown when he’s online… See where I’m going with this? No..?
Brendan Greene eventually joined Bluehole as a Creative Developer, so that he could really knuckle down and create the next form of Battle Royale games… Soon after we all saw the arrival of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. If you can find a more arrogantly named game I’d like to hear it…
Within around 9 months, starting in March 2017, PUBG had spread like a disease across the entire internet, with over 20 million unique players and not a single gaming YouTube channel or Twitch stream safe from its infectious ways. We were saturated with gameplay clips and videos of people driving dull looking cars across dull looking environments while they wore combat masks and wielded frying pans. An entire subculture developed from this and EVERYONE wanted a slice of the success.
So everyone went for it. PUBG has a fairly basic idea and premise – 100 players drop into a map with nothing but their wits and a desire to survive. You run about looting and trying to find some decent equipment like health kits and a weapon or two as the map periodically shrinks down, slowly killing you if you’re outside of the allotted area. You fight until only one man or team is left. Easy. So it was easy to replicate with games like Paladins, Call of Duty Black Ops 4 and DOTA 2 all taking a crack at the title. Soon it felt like the ONLY type of game worth playing was a Battle Royale game and this wasn’t even the worst point. That came in September 2017…
Fortnite was released early access mid 2017 and was a fairly decent horde-mode game with a clever little construction mechanic that set it apart. Developers Epic saw the success of PUBG and decided “Yeah we can do that… But with comedy… And skins… And huts” so a few months after we got Fortnite, we suddenly also had Fortnite: Battle Royale. More or less a carbon copy of PUBG, Fortnite stood out by having no vehicles and leaving in the construction from the main game. Calling it a small success would be like calling World War 2 a minor disagreement; a complete and utter understatement – By January 2018 Fortnite had a unique player base of 45 million players, with at most 3.4 million people playing at any one time. Welcome to the epidemic I talked about; everyone and their mums was on this – In fact if my mum had a console I’m willing to bet she’d be all over it with the John Wick skin already.
Even celebrities have been roped into it. People you’d have thought would have better things to do with their time; during one of Ninja’s already massively popular Twitch streams he was joined by Drake… Like THE Drake with his weird cardigan dancing and obsession with people calling him on their cell phones. The viewer counter went NUTS. It was in the news. Hell froze over. What the fuck had happened?!
So overall, my main problem is that without even a lot of effort, a new game phenomenon has happened and infected the entire industry. The issue being it’s not even an interesting one! Battle Royale is always the same and it bugs me that people just can’t see it! I want to go back to watching varied content on YouTube but I can’t anymore, because EVERY gaming YouTuber I subscribe to plays either PUBG or Fortnite now! It’s gotten so bad that if Santa Monica studios suddenly announced God of War: Battle Royale, I wouldn’t even be surprised… Just a little bit more sickened by modern society.
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