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, and 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” which you can find here. Next up: The National League Central, in alphabetical order.
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Colors: Blue, White, Gold
Background: The Milwaukee Brewers began their lives as the Seattle Pilots, but only spent one year as such; 1969. That’s forty five years of baseball, and unfortunately they’ve only played relevant October games four times. While the Brewers often are competitive, they really don’t have much at all to show for it. They haven’t made the World Series since 1982, after which they suffered a twenty five year drought from the playoffs. The last three years they’ve been a middling team, despite having impressive midseason stretches. The Brewers are never the flashiest team in the world. Their best player ever by far was Robin Yount, who never led the league in home runs or stolen bases, and only once lead the league in OPS (despite being an extremely valuable player). The Brewers have a history and reputation for drafting high floor/low ceiling players, instead of going after the kid who throws 100 MPH. This makes the Brewers a team that’s never depressing, but also never particularly impressive. Though they’ve got some exciting players like Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and Jonathan Lucroy, they lack star power. They make up for it in depth though. Their top four starters last year all had ERA’s between 3.5 and 3.7, and they had just two hitters with an OPS under .700. They’ve always got the potential to put it together for a playoff run, so there’s no reason to discount them this year.
Do you find gaming relaxing? Sometimes games are all about excitement, but with excitement can come needless risks and stress. Perhaps you find a lot more fun in a game when you can take it at your own pace, and eliminate the risk involved with some games. You just don’t find a whole lot of fun in pushing everything in on one big gamble. You don’t mind it when games ask you to grind, and sometimes you might even find it enjoyable. You’re happy to level up your characters and buy the best gear available before taking on the next challenge. You like having all the information available to you. You buy the strategy guides, or at least look them up online. You draw maps and take scrupulous notes so you don’t forget anything. You may be a completionist. You find joy in exploring the nooks and crannies, even if it seems banal. Sometimes it takes a long time to finish a game, and that can lead to some periods where you seriously question what you find fun in games anymore. If you’ve been there and still love games, try the Brewers.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Shining in the Darkness
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Lineage, Dragon Warrior VII
Location: St. Louis, MO
Colors: Red, White, Blue
Background: The St. Louis Cardinals have The Best Fans in Baseball. So I heard on my tour of the museum outside their stadium this year, though some of the fans themselves refuse to lay claim to that title. The Cardinals have been around since 1882, which means nearly as far back as the Civil War ended. They’ve been a very successful team in that time, especially since 1995. They have eleven World Series wins (and one tie!), two of which have come in the last ten years. They’ve only missed the playoffs once since 2009, and only four times since 2000, which makes them one of the most consistently great teams of the last fifteen seasons. Last year was no exception. They made the playoffs, losing in the League Championship series. Along with consistent success, the Cardinals are known for having pitchers that throw extremely fast and for having a deep lineup. Though they don’t have Albert Pujols anymore, they’ve still got plenty of stars. Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina are always above average players, while Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn both had excellent seasons on the mound. It’s hard to believe Wainwright is just 32; it feels like he’s been an ace forever. With a Hall of Fame that includes Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, and Ozzie Smith, it’s easy to lose sight of individual Cardinals greats. The Cards look to be just as good this year, and the baseball world is prepared for another Red October.
The best game companies don’t sacrifice the success they’ve already achieved quickly. Winning formulas are good for a reason, and they should be expanded upon. Sometimes there are franchises or companies that are excellent for decades, and every entry is just as good as the last, if not better. You like to support franchises like that. Every time you play a new entry, you’re reminded of the great memories from the past entries. You have a lot of loyalty to great companies, and are willing to overlook the occasional misstep. You were the kind of kid that subscribed to Nintendo Power, and were a frontline soldier in the console wars. You had your loyalties, and stuck to them. Sometimes you have to play some bad eggs because of your loyalty, but most of the time it’s pretty great. That’s what it’s like to be a Cardinals fan.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Mega Man X, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, Call of Duty: World at War — Final Fronts
Location: Chicago, IL
Colors: Blue, White, Red
Background: I don’t need to explain what the Cubs are known for; we’ve all seen Rookie of the Year. After more than a century without a World Series win, Cubs fans are the epitome of “Die Hard”. Literally every Cubs fan has died that was alive since their last World Series win; think about that. What’s worse is that even being a pretty good team is inconsistent at best. In 2008 they made the playoffs for the second year in a row, which marked the first time in a century they’d done that. It’s just easy to pick on the Cubs. Which is probably the reason that Theo Epstein, the GM responsible for breaking the Red Sox curse, took over as the President of Baseball Operations in 2011. They’ve been bad in that time, but many are honestly believing this might be the year for the Cubs. Under Epstein, the Cubs have heavily drafted polished bats, and they’re ready to reap the harvest. The amount of young bats they have who project to be above average hitters for years to come is astonishing. Even better, they all seem to play in the middle infield. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant project to be very good hitters this year, just to name two. On the mound, free agent signee Jon Lester looks to join Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks to form what could be a very dominant rotation.
Following the Cubs is more than a hobby; it’s a commitment. For some, this is their gaming life too. They decided early on on a specific franchise (or maybe multiple) and they follow that franchise through thick and thin. They buy the good games and the bad. Lately, it may seem like a lot of bad. That said, there’s something truly great about following a franchise for a long time and seeing it all come together. You know the storyline back and front, and may even be an authority on the subject among friends. This is the essence of being a Cubs fan. It’s your identity, and the good and bad are obvious.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Persona IV, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, Crash Bash
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Colors: Black, Yellow, White
Background: The Pirates, having been around since the 1880’s, have a long history in the league. They’ve got five World Series titles to their name, and have made the playoffs both of the last two years. That was a nice change of pace to the previous twenty years, where they failed to even put forth a .500 season. That’s all in the past now, though. The Pirates are a smart team, with a strong core of young talent. Andrew McCutchen anchors the team, and he’s among the league’s best. The supporting cast includes former first overall pick Gerrit Cole and Starling Marte, both of whom have long and productive MLB careers in front of them. They’ve also got the benefit of a front office that’s willing to buck conventional wisdom. They’ve been leading the charge in the Defensive Shift trend, and teach it on an organizational level rather than just on the big league team. The Pirates, despite suffering through a long stretch, are determined to keep winning, even if it means swimming against the current.
Sometimes games are willing to go so far out of what the industry has deemed safe territory that nobody really knows what to think of it. Some people are scared of these games. Pirate fan gamers aren’t. They see the inspiration behind strange games and love the new frontier that they present. These gamers are willing to dive headfirst into a game that shows promise and explore what could become an entirely new genre. This can be bad at times. Some games don’t deliver on their ambition, and deliver some pretty catastrophic failures. Sometimes it’s great though, and it makes it all worth it.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Minecraft, Flower
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: .detuned, Naughty Bear
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Colors: Red, White
Background: The NL Central is rife with history, and the Reds are no exception. They also have been around since the 1880’s, and have five World Series titles in their trophy case. They’ve got some seriously excellent players in their Hall of Fame, but they’ve also got flashy players that are fun to watch. Pete Rose, the Reds’ career WAR leader, exemplifies this. He was known as much for being one of the greats as he was for being the biggest hustler in the game. The current team is no exception. Their closer, Aroldis Chapman, is not only one of the best but also holds the world record for the fastest pitch thrown. Billy Hamilton might be the fastest player ever. Joey Votto is known as a paragon of plate discipline (OK, so that’s not exciting, but it’s still cool). They took a step back last year, but they’ve made the playoffs three out of the last five years. This year will be a decision year for them; whether to press on or begin the rebuilding process. While they may look like the latter, they’ll still be a very exciting team to watch.
Gamers who might like the Reds enjoy not only really good games, but also really flashy ones. When you find a great game that tickles your fancy, you stick with it. It’s not enough to just deliver a long game with plenty of good moments; you want the really great moments that fill you with joy. You like big explosions just as much as you like character development. When you can get your hands on a game that delivers both, you sink your teeth in it. You’ll play the single player, the multi-player, and you’ll play the 3DS remake ten years later. Sometimes the game you like is mediocre, but most of the time you’ll move on until you find the good one. You like the game you’ve got, and you enjoy every part of it. You’d be happy as a Reds fan.
When it’s good, it feels like playing: Grand Theft Auto 5, Just Cause 2
When it’s bad, it feels like playing: Dark Void, Folklore
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