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At the beginning of the year, PUBG Corp CEO Chang Han Kim said he wanted to see the game turned into a multimedia brand including comics, animations, and films. But while film adaptations of games have never been critically successful, that isn’t the reason PUBG shouldn’t worry producing a film. It’s simply because the replay feature in the game is so much better than anything a film could do with the material.
One of the many reasons that game films rarely work is because game stories aren’t actually very good when translated into a passive medium. Narrative threads and pacing in interactive media are very different to these counterparts. The realism that the respective audience and player has to suspend is very different as well, which can make a lot of the action scenes hard to adapt. And out of these action scenes, games can also rely on emergent stories, which is exactly what PUBG does and why it’s a great expression of the unique power of video games.
Emergent stories are personal tales that the player experiences organically. Whereas some games and films use set pieces and explicit direction to create a story, PUBG and others let players create their own stories from the way they interact with the game. Basically, if it’s a cool YouTube clip, it’s a good emergent story. While a PUBG film would have to spend some time explaining why 100 people are jumping on an island with a slowly enclosing force field to kill each other, the game wants you to focus on the tension of the event.
What Was That Sound?
The replay mode, lets you relive that pressure of the game, in a way that an unchanging film never could. PUBG players have to try and maintain a complete situational awareness during the game, which is more or less impossible. And because of this, the replay mode allows you to witness and revel in what you missed the first time around. With 100 players running about the map, there are 100 stories you can watch, including your own, your victims, and your killer too.
The replay feature allows to you explore the game you had in ways which are impossible while you’re playing it. You can track other players, watching from their perspective if you want. You can see battles you weren’t privy to unfold and watch as the effects of them ripple out and effect your game in a way you couldn’t see from the ground. This phenomenon where you where you witness the same event from different participants viewpoint is called the Rashomon effect and it helps create a complete picture that would have otherwise been missed. And while the technique was used in film, it is expressed better in games like PUBG that offer a replay mode.
One game I recently played started with me landing alone in a tiny abandoned town. Or so I thought. As I explored the first building, I heard footsteps outside, but by the time I got there, I was alone. About 10 minutes later, a sniper killed me out of nowhere, so went back to the replay to catch everything I missed. As it turned out, a player had landed behind me, immediately grabbed a sniper rifle and sprinted off into the woods surrounding the hamlet. They stalked me for nearly 10 minutes before they killed me with a headshot. Without replay, I would have never known I was being hunted, and got the chance to witness the series of lucky and unknowing escapes that kept me alive as long as they did.
Because that’s the other big factor in PUBG, luck. While obviously there is a lot of skill to it as well, sometimes the only reason you survive is luck, and witnessing those events are exciting even if you already know the result. Because a film is scripted, a lucky escape is never that exciting since the same thing happens every time. Dumb luck can keep you alive and when it does, you know it was just that and not the unseen hand of some writer keeping the plot going.
I would encourage everyone who has won a game to go back and watch the footage. The amount of information in the replay mode is stunning. It offers angles from all the nearby players to the direction they were shooting in. Watch yourself and just look at the amount of times something around you happened that you didn’t even realize. Maybe a sniper was lining up a shot on you before getting caught out by another player. Or that victim you killed could have probably gotten the drop on you if they hadn’t just been in another fight.
With 100 players, so much happens all the time in PUBG, and being bound to fewer perspectives means that you’ll never get the full picture. But replay mode offers you the chance to experience something bigger. A film about PUBG is never going to show you the actions of all 100 participants, but in replay mode you can get the next best thing. And that’s going to be better than any non-interactive medium interpretation of this coveted battle royale game.