Nate Crowley, he who made up a thousand games (and whom I have never spoken to before) has proven that even games that are already real are not beyond the reach of his terrible fictionalisation. Crowley believes that by playing games in a way that is far removed from the way they’re actually intended to be played essentially creates a new game. He uses Naughty Dog’s best-post-apocalyptic-game-to-have-that-bit-with-giraffes-of-the-last-generation The Last of Us as an example.
It’s a very bleak game. Joel, perambulatory beard powered by dad rage and/or protagonist, undergoes a terrible loss, which forms the opening of the game, and Crowley and his friend Josh, who have been playing games together for 15-ish years, decided that Joel had experienced so much trauma that it caused him to rechristen himself as Ceramus, the Brick Knight. Taking it in turns to play, Josh and Crowley allowed themselves to only use bricks as weapons. They were absolutely prohibited from using guns and had to always find bits of house to smack zombies with. ‘It was really good because we were playing it like “Okay this room’s full of people… we’ve gotta find a brick.” So we’d run around panicking trying to find a brick and then we’d roar, like:
“Behold Ceramus! Fired clay justice is coming your way!” and things like that.’
It is perhaps unsurprising to learn that Crowley has been doing this sort of thing in PUBG, though he insists on calling it Plunkbat, which is the happier name for mediumly multiplayer battle royale sensation PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds — although Crowley notes that it remains ‘the same nihilistic bleak barrel of rusty nails.’
Here are the techniques Crowley developed for PUBG, playing alongside Josh and a third team member, which make the game more interesting than ‘being escorted through a series of garden sheds’. This is, technically, all in the spirit of PUBG because PUBG is itself a product of someone mucking about with an existing game and making it something else, so there.
1) Worm Protocol
When you’re nearing the end of the game, you’re low on weapons and the electric wall of death is closing in, one of you may announce: ‘Right, squad. Worm protocol.’ Upon hearing this, you must all lie on the ground and arrange yourselves head to toe in a line, and ‘wiggle across the landscape.’ You are not allowed to fire back. This is almost to shame other players: how could you attack this pitiful human centipede that’s just trying to cross simulated Russia in peace? (You will be attacked).
2) Play the Bass Solo From Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain on Repeat Whenever You’re in a Vehicle
3) Lord Humongous
Whenever anyone on the squad finds the ballistic mask they immediately become Lord Humongous. The entire rest of the squad has to do whatever Lord Humongous commands, and must constantly address them as Lord Humongous for the duration. If any member of the squad finds better gear than what Lord Humongous has, the gear must be given to Lord Humongous. It is an honour to die for Lord Humongous.
4) Follow Another Player to the Ground and Roleplay Being a Chimp at Them
Jump out of the plane over an area likely to contain high level weapons and pick another parachute to follow to the ground. Make sure you have public chat on. Rather than fighting or even attempting to fight the other player, go into a crouch and run along behind them, occasionally jumping and making panting and hooting noises like a chimpanzee. Remember you are doing this more for them than for you. You are giving them a unique experience. Other animals are available.
Apparently most people actually get quite panicked by this last one, but they will usually find a shotgun and annihilate you.
Crowley once streamed World of Warcraft playing as Gundulphe the Great, an entirely original wizard character from the web series Realms of Fightinge (which he also wrote). ‘I had no idea how to play the game,’ he said. ‘And I was just playing as someone who just wanted to do really really bad Gandalf roleplaying.’ Most of Gundulphe’s adventures involve trying to go to the pub without getting ganked, although he did also go on a date with six trees at once, and also roleplayed a zombie horde with other players: they all rolled new undead characters and toggled walk on in a straight line until they ran into something to attack (a pace for a livestream which Crowley described as ‘desperately relaxing’). Gundulphe was eventually joined by a Sarumman and a Dombledore, and at one point a high level Horde PvP guild got wind of Gundulphe’s efforts and there was a half-hour long dance party in Orgrimmar.
Crowley thinks there’s an interesting discussion around esports, because “real” sports, by comparison, don’t have narrative in the same way as video games. ‘It’s not like each of the Premier League sides has got a colourful Overwatch-style backstory,’ he said. ‘The more that games get like sports the more baffling and sort of decontextualising it is to suddenly act like it’s not a sport. The more intense and competitive a game is the more you throw people when you’re like, “I have no interest in like, scoring a point here. I just want to do something unusual.”‘
The most beautiful end game, according to Crowley, would be a pack of at least 10 people loping across the map making ape noises at each other, rather than actually playing PUBG. He posits that if all the players in a match of PUBG stopped shooting each other and decided to roleplay as chimps instead, it would break the game. But nobody knows what would happen because at least one person will always want to do murder until the last minute.