Baseball is a game that I love. I can’t tell you what my first experience with it was (cause my memory is shot), but my house was full of Yankee fans, yet my Dad was kind of a closet Met fan. Imagine how happy I was when by age 12, when I acquired my first game console (the infamous 8-bit Nintendo) and a game called RBI Baseball. Yeah, I know…Bases Loaded was the game to have but RBI was sweet nectar in comparison. Fast forward to the present and the latest, greatest Baseball game – Sony’s MLB: The Show franchise. The game has not only been the best possible sports simulator, but it has ousted other franchises. Not something that can be easily done unless your name is EA. As far as a lot of us are concerned, it is the penultimate Baseball video game. Where other franchises like MVP, 2K and a bunch of others have failed, Sony has cleaned house and took over.
I have purchased and played MLB:TS since 2008. Prior to that me and my friend Adam beat the hell out of MVP Baseball and loved it because it had such a deep playability (If you can remember, you could play and work up any minor league players “by hand” so to speak). Since then, I haven’t seen that possibility outside of MLB’s much ballyhooed RTTS (Road to the Show). That has really been what has helped MLB become what it is today. But time….well, time is a bit of a bitch and this game is losing its hold on me. One of the things that developers fail to realize (in my opinion), is that small improvements may keep’em coming, but it also leads to ignoring your product. You can include all that is thought to be worthwhile. But Sony keeps forgetting the most important part. Since I have an inordinate amount of experience with Baseball games, I’ll help break it down for you…
Competition is at the heart of every game known to man. It, and winning, is the basis for the existence of gaming. The majority of what gamers enjoy is being able to face either the AI or their best buddies in a lively match for bragging rights, a lunch at either ones expense, or just to kill time. But the one facet that exists that isn’t spoken about when it comes to sports based video games is this: FUN. That’s it. If it isn’t fun then you can’t begin to enjoy the game. This is a problem for almost all sports games. Game developers have entrenched themselves into the concept of bringing forth a simulation of the sport, that they forget that you gotta have fun! I’ve come across a few games (mostly sports related) that feel like in order to play them, you have to dedicate yourself to them as if they were a job. Once you start to create your team/player/season/franchise etc, you then have a chance at playing the actual game. You do more prep work than anything else. If you were to take a survey of sports related gamers, you’d find that a good portion of them will tell you that they spend over 35% of their gaming experience working their rosters/players to epic heights. Sometimes, depending on the person, it may be higher. This is especially true for those who go into CAC (Gamers know this acronym, but to those who don’t: Create A Character). Once you do this, it is a requirement that concentrate your time and efforts to this creation of yours in order to receive trophies and such. Granted those aspects of games are placed there and used by consumers who like that kind of stuff, so this isn’t a knock at them. What I’m trying to get at is: why can’t you just play a game from the onset and have fun with it? I enjoy game depth as much as the next person, but these levels are so deep they look like the rabbit hole Dorothy and Toto fell into.
The answer as to why this is the way it is, is kind of easy. It’s our fault. We ask developers to come up with new and interesting ways to keep our attention, they do it, then we’re swamped. We are hit with so much content that the game looks as if you should’ve written up a resume and cover letter. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy challenges. I have found myself staying awake at times past 1 am just to get past my high score on Temple Run 2, just like others. But simply put the efforts to make these games realistically challenging can make their allure shine bright like an old penny. I’ll take my money and put it towards a seat in the nosebleeds of Yankee Stadium if I want to see the challenge as up close as I can afford. Sony, your Road to the Show is leading me away from MLB: The Show franchise and towards the real deal.