When Expertise Meets Uncertainty: PGI 2018

July 24 2018

Nothing really sounds as exciting as 100 people being dropped on a deserted island full of unclaimed weapons to fight to the death.

That premise is what has made PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds into such a huge success: it's not only fun to play, but enjoyable to witness streamers let out a victory cry when they're the last alive. Viewers are left on the edge of their seat, unknowingly holding their breath with the uncertainty of it all.

But that's exactly what has made PUBG a controversial esport. That uncertainty. That sense that anything can happen. And Team Liquid's Ibiza – and the rest of the world's most talented PUBG roster – is hoping that the upcoming PGI tournament in Berlin will help to finally solidify PUBG as a serious esport.

With twelve top-notch teams competing for $2 million, this is the largest PUBG tournament in history. It's a huge leap forward for not only the game, but our very own roster.

While there's no denying the insane amount of skill and god-like aiming abilities on our team, our journey to PGI has also been thanks to uncertainty in and out of the game at the EU Qualifiers back in June at the Haymarket Theater in Leicester, England.

The first day, it seemed like nothing could stop us from that chicken dinner. Nothing. But the crowd weren't singularly cheering our praises. Our second win against FaZe Clan was accredited to luck with the circle, which constantly spawned around our position that game.

“It's hard to explain to people that have never played competitive PUBG,” said Ibiza. “With the right mindset, skill, shot calling, you can easily work your way around the RNG. But of course, that's to a certain extent. There are moments in PUBG where you can only do so much, which is why there are 12 to 15 rounds to decide that.”

Unlike popular esports like Overwatch and League of Legends, there's not a consistent starting point and end point. The map – and its weapons – change every time.

For some viewers, this discredits PUBG since there are so many unknown variables and no solid meta. Similar to traditional sports, fans like those constant obstacles, and enjoy seeing how players overcome these challenges each time.

Still, that uncertainty as PUBG players drop from the plane and tactfully scour for weapons while the audience wonders where the ring of death will even show up is what makes PUBG more exciting than other more accomplished esports.

It's the threat of the unknown and how the players will handle it. Because no matter where the ring shows up, Ibiza will still have incredible aim and an uncanny ability to predict other players' movements and locations. And it's thrilling to see him and his teammates use their pro skills in new situations each time. Thrilling to watch them work together to overcome these uncertainties.

According to Ibiza, our roster has become one of the best in the world not because of where the circle location is on the map, but because of our team’s constant practicing and training. It’s the way our team moves, pushes, scouts, rotates. The way the team prepares for the other teams' strats, based on gathered information and studying past tourney clips. Like all esports, there's a special something that sets the pros apart.

But it should also be noted that we only had this chance to dominate in the EU Qualifier Finals because Team VALHALLA was disqualified from the event, since one of their players was banned in PUBG.

Perhaps because of the overall randomness of PUBG, this stipulation doesn't seem to bother Ibiza at all. When asked how it felt to win the EU Qualifiers after only making it because of said disqualification, Ibiza breezily answered: “It felt insanely good.”

So, just another spontaneous moment in PUBG.

Because only a day after our early-on domination at the EU Qualifier Finals - where good luck with the random ring locations helped secure a win against FaZe Clan - it was actually bad luck that resulted in a loss for us. PUBG once again showed just how unpredictable it can be.

“Jeemzz crashed just before an important play,” recalled Ibiza, “and we lost our focus. Because of that, we died.”

There's been a lot of controversy surrounding PUBG as an esport, not only because the gameplay itself is slightly random, but the quality of the game itself can be questionable, with crashes and glitches galore compared to other more polished esport titles.

Just a month before the EU Qualifiers, OpTic Gaming had finished second place at the PUBG Invitational tourney at IEM Katowice, but was stripped of the prize when it was ruled that Bahawaka had “taken advantage” of a bug in the game that allowed players to see through walls.

While many viewers and fans debated whether or not Bahawaka intentionally exploited a bug or not, another debate was forming all-together: Should a game with blatant bugs and glitches even be used in a professional esports setting?

When asked if he felt PUBG was “esports ready”, Ibiza said: “On a LAN build, yes.”

In fact, Ibiza seemed to feel that it wasn't PUBG that was not ready for esports notoriety, but the audience. An audience who may be feeling a little bit of “mob mentality” about the state of PUBG in the pro scene. People seem wary of PUBG, of something new. Something that's not a MOBA.

“I hope it keeps growing,” he said earnestly. “And with the right changes and thoughts within the community, I think it can become a [bigger] esport.”

PGI 2018 isn’t only a chance for our roster to prove their incredible skills and teamwork once again, but a chance for PUBG to grow as an esport. And while it’s uncertain whether or not the community will begin to take it more seriously, it’s definitely certain that the fight for the $2 million chicken dinner will be entertaining. Glitches, crashes, randomness and all.

Writer // Olivia Richman

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