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The delicious joy of playing PUBG by yourself

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Learning the delights of solo play

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds - art of man in helmet standing in front of an explosion Bluehole Inc.

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds is a game that many see as being focused on teamwork, and careful movement through an environment filled with people who want you dead. You have to balance the tension of looting buildings to find the best weapons and equipment, while also keeping an eye out for the enemy players who are doing the same thing.

The blue barrier that represents the limits of the battleground is always moving inward, forcing confrontation no matter how carefully you plan the beginning minutes of each round. You will fight, and you will likely die. This is the situation you signed up for when you bought the game.

And this is all a whole lot of fun to play alone. Even if you’re going up against other teams for the pure challenge of it.

This article is going to seem obvious for many of you who already know the joy of freedom that comes with solo play. But I’ve spoken with so many players who want to pick up PUBG, but are scared they won’t have others to play with. It’s a legitimate concern if you want to play as a team, but I want to stress just how good the game becomes when you’re all alone. Especially if you’re not very good. Solo play is an absolute blast if you’re terrible at the game, in fact.

This all makes sense, I promise.

The inability to do the wrong thing

Playing with even random squads online can be tough. It doesn’t take long before players begin speaking in that staccato rhythm of gun names and scope powers as they comb through buildings and trade gear to make sure the team itself is ready for battle.

There might be the assumption that you know at a glance which guns are better than others, when to upgrade, when to take something and when to drop it for someone else. And it’s not like you can test how that Uzi feels when you find it; any gunfire will give away your location. And for the love of Stanley Tucci, close that door behind you!

This situation, of being the least-prepared person in a competitive, serious team, is not the best place to be if you just want to have fun or are still learning the ropes, although if you’re lucky enough to know people who are playing for the first time together it can be great.

It’s understandable to want to avoid that scene, however, and doing so can actually make the game more fun.

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds - lone gunman Bluehole

But when you’re playing alone there is no one to disappoint. When you’re playing with yourself it’s figurative sex with someone you love. There are no teammates to get caught in a careless crossfire. No one to piss off with a by firing a few rounds into the distance. Cowering in a house and waiting for a random player to wander across your crosshairs is a perfectly valid way to play when you’re by yourself. There’s no one to get bored by your camping style.

And that’s the secret to playing PUBG by yourself: You can’t let anyone down. You can take your time looting without making anyone upset that you’re holding up the squad. It’s the same reason museums are such a blast if you’re by yourself — if you’re the same kind of history buff I am — you can stop and read the plaques for as long as you’d like. You don’t even need to check in with anyone before you open fire, you can decide to blast whoever you’d like, whenever you’d like.

I mean, you’ll likely die, but the choice of when to die is up to you and that’s very freeing!

You don’t have to worry about someone else finding your play style infantile, boring or even reckless if you just want to run into a firefight armed with only a handgun and a dismal understanding of your odds of survival. You can do anything you want, and the rounds are over quickly enough that even silly mistakes rarely feel punitive. PUBG is one of those rare games that makes losing fun, and it can be really fun to lose by yourself in the most asinine but interesting way possible.

There is something freeing about playing a game that everyone else is taking very seriously in a way that is very amateurish, and the game is actually set up to reward this. As long as you’re not actively trolling, there is no one to get upset when you try something just to try it. If you’re learning the ropes in PUBG or are just trying something new or exploring? The other players on the server are happy to put some lead through your brain at their earliest possible convenience. And then you get to shrug and begin again, having learned something.

PUBG is an incredibly fun game when you decide you don’t really care about the outcome, and boy can you decide you don’t care in some ridiculously fun ways when you’re playing by yourself.

Hey look, you’re playing a horror game!

There is also the fact that something happens when you’re playing by yourself in terms of tension; the jump scares from stumbling upon another player or the tension of moving quietly to avoid detection in a busy city are all ramped up in a big way. The entire world is your enemy when you don’t have a squad, and that turns PUBG into something that feels like Mad Max without Mad Max. It’s just a world where everyone is an asshole. And you get to be one of those assholes!

Some of my favorite memories of solo games took place when I rounded a corner only to find myself face-to-face with another player, and in my panic I sprayed the ground in front of them with bullets. They would take off, and then swing back around under the assumption that the game of cat and mouse has begun. That is their tragic mistake when dealing me as a player, as I am already busy running away as quickly as possible while screaming.

They assume they’re playing against someone with pride and at least some skill, when the reality is that I’m simply a boy looking at another boy or girl, asking them to leave me alone so I can get in the top 30 and consider that a win. I like any weapon that sprays enough bullets in someone’s general direction long enough for me to try to confuse them into letting me retreat with or without dignity.

And that’s the beauty of solo PUBG. You don’t need a squad. You don’t need to take it seriously. Other players often love clueless solo players because they’re easy kills, and you love them for not getting upset when you do something silly as you learn the game. Although there will be some who worry about experimentation ruining their immersion. It takes all kinds, I guess.

It all works out in the end. There’s nothing to be afraid of except becoming a silly footnote on someone’s YouTube stream.

You’ll soon be calling out weapon names in a dead voice and dropping your holo sights to another player on your squad when you find better optics, but for now? Have fun getting lost in your own smoke grenade because hey, you just learned what smoke grenades do! This is a great game to play by yourself, and let no one tell you otherwise.