If there’s one sport out there accessible to the gaming crowd, I believe it’s baseball. Baseball has everything gamers want; insane eccentricities, naturally occurring pauses, one-on-one interaction, big stars, and more. To that end, if there are any gamers out there trying to get into baseball and wondering which team to support, I’ve created a handy guide for such an endeavour. Being a gamer and a baseball fan myself, I’ve tried to align this to existing gamer tendencies. I’ll lay out a brief background and a few facts about each team, then tell you what kind of gamer they’ll appeal to, and give a few examples of what the good and bad of following a team will feel like playing. I hope you enjoy it!
I’ll be going division by division daily. I’ll admit that this was somewhat inspired by Joe Posnanski’s excellent “How to Pick a Premier League Club.” First up: The American League West, in alphabetical order.
Location: Anaheim, CA (though they hold the name “Los Angeles Angels”)
Colors: Red and White
Background: The Angels are a largely successful team with a reputation for playing small ball. For the unaware, this means that they tend to do the little things well, such as bunting, stealing, and hustling. This reputation is largely on the back of longtime manager Mike Scoscia, who has a divisive reputation among Angel fans. He’s brought them plenty of success, but some say he should have taken the blame during some recent bad seasons and big collapses. The Angels have a recent history of paying big to the biggest free agents, and as a result have some big names like Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. They also have the best player in the game, Mike Trout. On the pitching side they’re well stocked with young players like Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker. They won their division last year, and anything less plus a deep playoff run would be a disappointment this year. When it’s bad, though, the big contracts get out of control and the players are old, while the young players seem like they’re flailing and the manager seems helpless.
From the gaming side, this team would appeal to gamers who really want to have fun with a game no matter the cost or the gimmicks. If you get really invested in a game with lots of microtransactions or downloadable content because that one game can really sustain you, the Angels might appeal to you. If you enjoy playing a big game with your friends often on a schedule, or you’re checking the message boards at work for your favorite game, the Angels philosophy of big money supplanting a strong core might be your thing.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: League of Legends, Rock Band
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, DC Universe Online
Location: Oakland, CA
Colors: Green, Gold and White
Background: The A’s are a bit of a stereotyped team in the MLB. You’ve probably heard of them from Moneyball, the movie with Brad Pitt, and their reputation holds from that movie. The A’s are a team with a long history of success, but currently they tend to play second fiddle to the cross-town Giants when it comes to popularity. They’re a small market team that finds success with a less-than-stellar payroll. To this effort, the A’s feel often like they’re run strictly by an Economist. Billy Beane, the General Manager, is always moving players at before they lose value in order to find appreciating assets. This strategy has worked to some extent; they’ve made the playoffs the last three years, but they’ve failed to advance past the first round. Fitting their reputation, they just traded their best player in Josh Donaldson, but have a few notable stars in Coco Crisp, Sonny Gray, and Sean Doolittle.
The constant shuffling of players should appeal to gamers who like min/maxing and optimizing. If you enjoy RPG’s or turn based strategy games with tons of new characters coming in and out, and enjoy experimenting around with different synergies, this is the team for you. If you don’t mind losing characters when they become obsolete, and you’re happy to change your loyalties to individual strategies if it means winning, then you can relate to the A’s. The bad side of this is that sometimes it feels like your favorite players are shipped out against your will, and when they’re losing you feel like you’re overwhelmed with all the change.
When it’s good it feels like playing: Pokemon, Suikoden II
When it’s bad it feels like playing: Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, Chrono Cross
Location: Houston, TX
Colors: Red, Sand, Black, and sometimes Blue
Background: The Astros were a very strong team in the 80’s and 90’s. They had a Hall of Fame pitcher in Nolan Ryan, and hitters like Jeff Bagwell constantly producing. That said, the Astros are a team in transition right now. The current front office has acknowledged that they weren’t going to win anything the last few years, and the team on the field will be geared towards winning in the future. The team is heavily oriented towards advanced analytics, and often makes moves towards goals that may not seem obvious. They’re beginning their push towards winning though, as evidenced by the offseason signing some veterans like Luke Gregerson. They also have some young stars like Jose Altuve and George Springer, who are each just 25 years old and might be All-Stars, the former of which led the league last year in Batting Average despite being just 5’6’’. If they can succeed, they’ll have books written about their innovation. If not, they’ll continue being a bit of a joke in the MLB world for futility.
Gamers who really like re-evaluating their strategy in order to find out what works might really love the Astros. If you enjoy playing games where the developers aren’t afraid to take risks and question what their game is about, the Astros might strike a chord with you. Do you love intricacy, and maybe finding a game that pushes their own envelope and reputation in order to provide the best experience to the user? Then maybe try the Astros.
When it’s good it feels like playing: Diablo III, Dragon Age III
When it’s bad it feels like playing: Duke Nukem Forever, Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows
Location: Arlington, TX
Colors: Red, White, and Blue
Background: The Rangers were a model for a successfully run team up until last year. They made the World Series two years in a row, an impressive feat for any team, despite the fact that they lost both times. They had an excellent pitching staff, a star studded lineup, and even the top prospect in the game in Jurickson Profar with plenty more coming. Then the wheels all came off last year. They were devastated by injuries, and went from the favorites to win the division to dead last in the American League in wins. The bad year was a real challenge for the fans, who didn’t understand how everything could go wrong, and leave them with such an underwhelming team. Despite all this, many experts project they’ll be back to competing in the coming season. Profar should be back soon, and the team still has potential Hall of Famers in Adrian Beltre and Yu Darvish. All accounts say last year was a fluke, and that the Rangers well balanced organization should have them winning again in no time.
Gamers who love really deep and well-rounded games will be able to really appreciate the Rangers. The Rangers tend to have very few weaknesses, and there’s always more coming in both depth and talent. When you play a game, do you tend to blitz towards the end, or do you try to experience everything a game has to offer, perhaps playing it many times in order to do so? If you’re the latter, the Rangers are your team. The downside is that when you set your sights high, you can crash and burn pretty spectacularly sometimes, and it hurts. That said, if you’ve got a completionist attitude and love playing a game that can just deliver day after day what you want, then the Rangers are your team.
When it’s good it feels like playing: Dragon Quest IX, Animal Crossing
When it’s bad it feels like playing: Lair, Mortal Kombat vs DC
Location: Seattle, WA
Colors: Green, Silver, and Blue
Background: The Mariners are a team with the occasional huge up, but mostly down lately. The Mariners have had some truly excellent players in their history, like Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez, and Ichiro Suzuki. Those days are gone though, and they haven’t made the postseason since an insane 2001 that saw them win 116 games. They put together solid campaigns, and just last year barely missed out on a miracle run to October, so not all is lost. That said, Mariners fans are used to mediocrity, or something below it. The Mariners team is often one with a few stars but a very poor supporting cast. The roster as currently constructed features two of the most consistently excellent players in the game in Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano, but “King” Felix has yet to pitch a postseason game. Mariners fans are used to enjoying the excellent players they have, and they wait for the season to come along where everything clicks together, and they’re willing to wait with their memories until it comes again.
You’d probably like the Mariners if you tend to identify strongly with individual characters in games. When you play an RPG, do you isolate one character whose motivation strikes you, and relish it above all else? Maybe you’ve written fanfiction about Vivi, or you’ve made remixes of Frog’s theme on OCRemix. You’re happy to even go back and play these games a second or third time in order to re-experience just how awesome that one character or element is. You’re even willing to play games where they make cameos, or cling to games that may reproduce that effect, because establishing that connection is what drives you.
When it’s good it feels like playing: Final Fantasy IX, Chrono Trigger
When it’s bad it feels like playing: Dissidia, Street Fighter X TekkenNext post: How to Balance the Schedule and the Budget: A Series of Proposed Rivalry Series
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