Battlegrounds is a huge game on Twitch and YouTube, and it’s easy to see why. The structure of the game is imbued with drama, which turns rounds into thrilling narratives of hard-won success or biting defeat. Here are a few of my favorite people to watch.
Battlegrounds is a game of tension and release. It’s a battle royale game, where the goal is to eliminate all your the other players on the map. You land on the map, usually alone and with enough time to scavenge for supplies, and then the game puts up a border. If you’re outside it, you will lose health and die. As you journey inside that border, it’s equally likely that you will die, this time at the hands of you fellow players. Because of that structure, any moment can go from calm to the car scene from Children of Men.
Virtually any video of people playing this game will be interesting to watch. On a whim this morning, I threw on the most watched streamer on Twitch playing Battlegrounds, CohhCarnage, and was drawn into the tension as he described his situation: he knew there were other players nearby, but the border on the map was closing around him. This was the wrong time for a serious approach to take them out, but he was being forced into it anyway. Even dropping in randomly, I’d stumbled upon a perfect opportunity for drama. I’m very happy to learn that he streams Battlegrounds every morning at 8 am.
You can watch pretty much any video of someone playing Battlegrounds and have a good time. But there are a few things that can help narrow down the many, many options. First of all, try looking for people playings Duos, where players deploy and play as a pair, rather than Solo. Battlegrounds has long periods where, well, nothing happens. You might just be running from one area to another, or sorting through your inventory, but there can be a lot of downtime in any given game. A capable streamer can very easily use that as an opportunity to build tension, but it’s easier with more than one person to fill that empty space.
To that end, I really love watching Typical Gamer play with his girlfriend. They have a nice rapport—they clearly know each other well and like each other a lot, and are more than happy to make jokes at each other’s expense. After a round of gentle teasing, Samara, Typical Gamer’s girlfriend, says, “A lot of people in the chat are saying I should kill you…. Just thought you should know that.” Predictably this turns into a running joke. As they hole up in a house, they threaten to beat each other to death with frying pans. It feels weird to call that cute, but it is.
If listening to people flirt isn’t your thing, Stonemountain64 also plays a lot of Duos with friends. In this video, where he plays with OneCheesyMofo, they fall pretty naturally into a comedy duo, with Stonemountain as the funny guy and Mofo as the straight man. At about 12 minutes into this video, Stonemountain snipes a few people from behind, grandstanding a bit, only to fall to irony as he’s murdered from behind. Later on, in a different match, Stonemountain and Mofo get ambushed and while Stonemountain survives, Mofo does not. “No!” Stonemountain yells dramatically, as Mofo deadpans, “oh yeah, I died.”
Now, all these are stream archives, and people stream for hours at a time. Maybe you’re more of a highlights person. Battlegrounds highlights tend to stray more towards humor than interesting firefights—without the context of a long, stressful match they lose their drama. But that’s not to say there aren’t good highlight reels for this game. The first minute of this JackFrags video is hilarious. In the last moments of a game, a friend he’s streaming with rides a motorcycle through a field trying to distract the last opponent while his partner guns him down. Just after his partner dies, he runs the other guy over saying bluntly, “I’m sick of it.”
At the end of the day, however, you pretty much can’t go wrong with who you watch playing this game. Even Jacksepticeye, a YouTuber I don’t really like much, is fun to watch as he plays Battlegrounds with a friend. Watch as they bicker, “like a married couple,” until they realize that they’re in the red zone and will soon be assaulted by bombs.
The anticipation of action is what build good drama in fiction, and Battlegrounds is a game that thrives on that tension. It’s a rare game that delivers on the promise of cathartic, violent action by design. It almost doesn’t matter who you watch—Battlegrounds is good TV.