… game time

baseball spinner

beautiful old spinner sold on Etsy, photo provided courtesy of Elizabeth Rosen

As I was saying, there are all sorts of baseball games out there. When I was young we had a dice game that was based on crude statistics, a simplified Stratomatic. But there are endless variations — board games, played with spinners or dice, darts, and different kinds of card games. Everyone can play.

HardBall - 1985 - Accolade

HardBall – 1985

The Age of Computers has ushered in a whole new way of playing the game. In the beginning a lot of these were mostly pretty simple arcade games, such as Hardball. But as computing power improved, so did the games. As the game players tended to fall into different camps, the games also tended to focus on different aspects of play. Some players liked to swing the digital bat and knock some pixels around in the arcade experience, while others are looking for true to life statistical simulations, making the game results as close to the real thing as possible. Some games tried to meet both of these audiences, making it optional to play either the arcade game of the statistical sim in one game. One of the better games in this area was Earl Weaver Baseball, which allowed you to operate as manager or as player, and had pretty realistic game simulation for its time, including the option to play entire seasons without having to play them game-by-game.

earl-weaver-baseball-2 -3

Earl Weaver II – 1991

Earl Weaver was a big success, and, in fact, after a long hiatus, its creator has been working on an EWB app for the i-phone. (Not sure if that’s out there yet, though.)

For the most accurate simulations, though, it seems like the text-based games have always been the best. They didn’t have to spend much time or effort on developing any quasi-realistic animation of the game, focusing instead on statistical accuracy and data, while relaying the game action through scrolling text on the screen, which resembles a radio play by play.

I came across a few nice options online in this area. WhatIfSports, for example, allows you to pit two historical teams against each other and generates a simulated game practically instantly. Interesting, but not very involving. Here’s a shot of a simulation I ran, the 1969 whatifsports samplePilots vs. the 1969 NY Mets, at Shea Stadium. Seventh game of the World Series. The game wouldn’t let me give Bouton the start, perhaps because he only started one game for them during the actual season. Sorry Jim. Here the Pilots whip the Mets, 3-2 to win the Series. Bouton pitches, but the knuckleball apparently isn’t knuckling, because he gives up singles to Grote and Shamsky, uncorks a wild pitch, and Boswell drives in the tying run with a fly ball sacrifice before Bouton gets out of the inning, with the game now knotted up 2-2. The Pilots win the game in the 9th, though, with Rollins getting an infield single to drive in Comer. Pilots 3, Mets 2. The Miracle Pilots take it all.

It looks like WhatIfSports offers a number of options for online play in simulated leagues. However, for this sort of fun they will charge you a small fee.

Another example is Out of the Park Baseball, which I came across awhile ago, when I noticed that they provided a free download of the 8th edition of their game. (They’re on edition 14 now, I believe.) Even in the 8th edition, this is an excellent text-based game, giving you a ridiculous amount of options for setting up leagues, replaying historical seasons, or setting up whole new fictional leagues. There is also an “online league” option, which allows you to run a team in a league and compete with other players around the world, and a thriving online community that talks baseball pretty much non-stop. One advantage here, over WhatIFSports, is that after you purchase the game, the online play is free. (Unless your league decides to update to the latest version of the game; OOTP 14 runs about $40 right now.) 

Which is how I became the proud owner/general manager/manager of the Louisiana Blaze.

blazeball - c

What could be better, I thought, for the Year of Baseball, than actually running a team and winning the World Series?

But before I go into all that, I’ll just drop this in, from IBIS World’s 2013 look at fastest growing industries:

Fantasy Sports Services have been gaining popularity as more consumers go to the internet to compete in these social sports games. The industry develops software, and markets an online platform for multiplayer fantasy sports. Fantasy sports are games where participants act as general managers to build teams that compete against other fantasy owners based on the statistics generated by real individual players or professional teams. The most common variation converts statistical performance into points that are compiled and totaled according to a roster selected by a manager that makes up a fantasy team. These games have been around for more than 25 years and played in tight knit social circles, but the internet really helped push the envelope for transforming Fantasy Sports Services into a full-blown industry. Over the past 10 years, fantasy sports services have experienced explosive absolute growth of 241.0%. Fantasy Sports Service firms will continue cashing in on the general move toward more mobile content, which will help bring revenue up at an annualized rate of 7.6% over the five years to 2018.

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