Internet, I have a confession: I'm incredibly lazy when it comes to playing competitive games. More specifically, I'm lazy when it comes to getting better at competitive games.
That's part of what has made PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds such a standout this year. Not only can I feel myself getting better, but getting better has made the game itself more enjoyable.
My normal arc with games I play competitively is that I overperform in the early hours—I'm the sort of player who quickly notices subtle ways to get an advantage against other new players. But once I'm in that moderate tier of competition where everyone more or less is on the same level of understanding, I hit a plateau. Like Waypoint columnist Cameron Kunzelman, there was a point at which I just stopped getting better at Overwatch—and wasn't committed to putting in the time learning and practicing necessary to do so. Unlike Cameron, this is also true for just about every competitive game I play.
(Frankly, this is the same reason I've almost always been bad at picking up languages—I love learning the logic of grammars, but consistently fail to put in the work to learn vocabularies.)
But Battlegrounds has been different. Through the last 30 hours of play—and I know that's nothing compared to many people—I've consistently improved at just about everything you can improve at in the game, from planning to execution to recovery. If you've been watching Patrick and I play every morning, none of that should be a surprise. I'm not a pro at all, but compared to where I was just a couple of weeks ago, I'm a better shot, a more accurate navigator, more tactically minded, and (most importantly) I'm calm and confident when things go off the rails.
But what's actually surprising to me isn't that I've improved, it's that in improving, my enjoyment with Battlegrounds has actually increased too. And listen, if you've dumped hundreds of hours into MOBAs or fighting games, this probably isn't news to you. But in the past, in the rare instances where I have decided I'm going to spend the time to get better at a game, I've never felt rewarded beyond seeing an increased win count.
Now, every occupied house I find in Battlegrounds is an opportunity for me to try something new. The endgame, which had already been an engine of tension, is a cascade of tactical decisions—where to hide, what angles to take, how long to wait before making a move. Across solo, duo, and group play, I'm finding Battlegrounds harder to put down after each match, not easier.
Maybe one of these days I'll get a win on stream. But at this point, that's not even what's important. I just wanna go one more round.
So, which games that you've only come to love after putting in the work to get really good? Let me know in the forums!