Twitch Plays Battlegrounds is simultaneously one of the most brilliant, and most absurd, ideas I’ve encountered in a long time. As the name suggests, it enables a PUBG character to be controlled by an audience of Twitch viewers. But unlike other such efforts we’ve seen, such as Dark Souls or Punch Club, this one works entirely in real-time: Players enter commands in the chat to move, shoot, adjust the camera, and so forth, and the bot (with allowances for lag) responds immediately.
“The vision behind this channel is one of curiosity, collaboration, and patience,” the channel’s welcome message explains. “The command list is a living document, being updated frequently to improve quality of life for you all. If you have suggestions, don’t hesitate to get in contact with me. I am working on ways to reduce the latency between chat and stream, and make the user experience as smooth as possible. All with the ultimate goal in mind of sharing a chicken dinner with all of you.”
The catch, naturally, is that with hundreds of people involved in the process, each with their own idea of what should be done, chaos is inevitable—and by all rights, paralysis should result. Yet somehow, this gong show on wheels not only managed to rack up two kills, it actually finished a match in third place in just its second day of operation.
At least one of the two kills appears to be a gift from a player who knew what was going on—the enemy character runs up to the bot and then stands still while taking a beatdown—and it seems pretty clear that the bot’s success, such as it is, is based wholly on discretion being the better part of valor. But the crowdsourced flailing can be awfully entertaining to watch, even if it’s sometimes hard to tell what exactly is going on.
Alas, a chicken dinner was just out of reach—and death, when it came, was hilariously inglorious. Still, third place is a hell of a lot better than many “real” players manage. Perhaps there’s a lesson in there somewhere?