As I sit here, having baseball withdrawals, being excited about what 2016 will bring the Boston Red Sox, I was in a discussion with some of the other members of Gamers Pantheon on what was the best RPG, and I jokingly said “MLB The Show.” However, the more I think about this, the more I can actually defend my joke.
What is an RPG? Well, “an RPG is a game in which each participant assumes the role of a character, generally in a fantasy or science fiction setting, that can interact within the game’s imaginary world.”
First of all, before I get yelled at, hear me out. I love RPGs, started with FFVII, and immediately went on to play better RPGs. I loved the Suikoden series, along with Legend of Dragoon, Chrono Trigger, Cross, Lunar, Wild Arms, Xenosaga, Xenogears, Grandia, Arc the Lad, and several others. My favorite game series besides MGS is Mass Effect, and I’m playing through Dragon Age now, but all those games have goals, a leveling up system, and contracts that must be completed. Every RPG has a character you build up from nothing to the most powerful warrior ever.
So, let’s us go from there. By definition, almost every game could be an RPG, as you are playing a role. In Mario, you play as Mario, saving the princess from Bowser, or Uncharted where you play Nathan Drake as you go on several adventures, or even CoD, as you play a character saving the world from terrorist. Now, I know those games are not RPGs and one huge argument is stats and the inability to upgrade your characters, and we’ll get to that argument soon, but I wanted to discuss how baseball can be immersive.
Baseball, it’s the National Pastime, where we have watched such breath taking players crush homers further than we can imagine, such as Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, or Hank Aaron, or we watch players strikeout batters like they’re mowing a yard, such as Nolan Ryan, Cy Young, Sandy Koufax, or Randy Johnson. Baseball is all about the drama. Sit with me as we discuss the American League Championship Series of 2004. The Red Sox are down 3 games to none in the best of 7 series. Their hated rivals, The New York Yankees, are looking to stomp the Red Sox at home, and into the 9th inning, it looks as though it will happen, as Boston is down to their last batter, Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all time, is on the mound, and Trot Nixon is up to bat. He hits a brilliant single, and is immediately replaced on the bases by Dave Roberts. An older gentleman with super human speed. Everyone in America, watching the game, knows he’s going, and he runs for second, and he’s SAFE! OMG he’s safe! A single is hit and he runs to home plate, and he is safe. Ties the game. Now, Bottom of the 13th, 1am, and David Ortiz comes up to bat, tied ball game, and he drills the ball over the right field wall, and wins the game. They ended up playing 2 more games that are close, tieing the series 3-3. Game 7, in New York City, and the Red Sox win 10-3, and run their way into the World Series and the first of any sports, of any kind, to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best of 7 series. They then go on to win 4 games to 0 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, kids dream of doing such a thing, but how many of us will seriously ever have the opportunity, or talent, to pull off such a memorial feat? Now, you may say, baseball isn’t fantasy, anyone can do that, but honestly, as much, and as good as I was, I dreamt of it, I was never able to do such a thing, and MLB The Show, gives me that opportunity.
Well, in MLB The Show, you can build a team from crap to first in Franchise mode, or you can build a player from worst to best in “Road to the Show.” I will focus on Franchise Mode first, and move on to the Road to the Show.
Franchise mode, for those not accustomed to sports games, allows you to pick a team, usually your favorite, and you spend 25 years building them up to win the World Series every year. Now, this can be an interesting gaming point, as, in baseball, some teams spend more money than others. The Los Angeles Dodgers have a nearly $174.5 million budget, while the Minnesota Twins have a $55 million dollar budget, which sounds like a lot, but it isn’t. I usually choose the Red Sox, because they’re my favorite team, and I love Fenway Park. They have a budget of $115 million at the beginning. However, it’s easy to get them to win, especially with players under team control for 3-5 years (baseball is really confusing to explain to people), but when you move on to the contracts of players like Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez, or Sonny Gray who end up wanting more than $25 million a season, you can struggle to actually put out a good team.
This makes it fun trying to figure out where to spend your money, and the style of ball you want to play. You can have all the star-studded pitchers, who will pitch a low 2.00 ERA but can’t bat well, so you’re not getting runs from them. Do you pay for a great defense, or better offense, do you go for the homeruns, or the guys who hit a bunch of singles and bat for average? The game really makes you decide how you’re going to go about winning. The GM contracts put more pressure on you as well, as you have to win, or you will be fired.
For my team, I chose to get 2 power hitters that will hit over 30 HRs, but can hit average (they don’t come cheap), some young players that are average style hitters but great defenders, with 2 power pitchers and an insanely good bullpen (pitchers that come in after your starter exits). My starting lineup looks like this:
1B – Eric Hosmer
2B – Dustin Pedroia
3B – Warren Holton
SS – Xander Bogaerts
LF – Jackie Bradley Jr.
CF – Mookie Betts
RF – Bryce Harper
C – Blake Swihart
DH – Brock Holt (David Ortiz had retired by this time)
1 – Jacoby Ellsbury
2 – Diego Trevino
3 – Carlos Perez
4 – Deven Marrero
1 – Jose Fernandez
2 – Sonny Gray
3 – Jon Lester
4 – Yovani Gallardo
5 – Edwin Escobar
1 – Ross Detwiler
2 – Josh Fields
3 – Casey Fien
4 – Jason Motte
5 – Alex Colome
6 – Carson Smith
1 – Craig Kimbrel
My most expensive players are Pedroia, Bogaerts, Harper, Gray, and Lester; I was able to get some of the better players, such as Hosmer and Fernandez signed to team friendly deals before they become superstars. I chose to spend more money on a closer, in Kimbrel, because when he comes in, I want the game won, as well as spend money on pitching, and hitters who stay around the .300 mark. However, there are several different ways you can go about this.
Now, this team is 2019 (as I’ve played for 5 years now within the game), and some players are older, Jacoby, Jon Lester, Carlos Perez, and Dustin Pedroia, so they’ll be retiring and I’ll have to find players to take their position. However, the game makes it were I need to decide who gets the money and who doesn’t, and who to let go of and who to not. It’s much harder when you’re a true Red Sox fan because you want the likes of Lester (yes, I know in real life he’s a Cub now, but he’ll always be a Red Sox player to me) and Pedroia to retire Red Sox, but will they stay productive enough to make that work? We’ll find out. However, I have been immensely smart and kept a great farm system, especially in pitching, that will help me when these players retire.
As for Road to the Show, it’s a complete RPG in every element. MLB The Show has some of the best character customization of any game out there. Not only can I change the look of my character, but the way he pitches, or swings the bat, his walk up to the plate, or his celebration during a big strike out. This game also gives me the chance to upload music and use that when they’re coming in to close the game or striving up to swing for that big homerun to win the game. You start out with a small amount of points, which usually starts you out as a 55 overall, and from there you have the opportunity to play in the “Road to the Show Challenge” which then helps your draft stock, and what you want to become. You then proceed to get drafted, and if you don’t like who you’re drafted by, Fuck the Yankees, you can move to a 1, 2, or 4 year college and try it all over again. After you are happy with your draft selection, you’ll move to AA ball, which is the minor league to the minor league of baseball. If you do well, you can see yourself called up to AAA, or if you’re really good, and usually a pitcher, you can see yourself called up to the Show. When you’re called up to the show, you feel as though you’re fighting that insane boss battle in the middle of the game. Your controller is vibrating, your player’s confidence is down, and he’s nervous. You then proceed to strike out the side, or hit that single, double, or even HR and you can feel your confidence beaming.
All the while, your character is only getting better, stronger, and faster. You’re becoming the Cloud Strife on disc 3 instead of the Cloud from the beginning of the game.
I know that this is a sports game, but this goes to show just how much genres are meshing together. 10 years ago, I would have never been able to make this argument, and several of you will call me crazy for making this “stretch,” but it is possible, and in the next 10 years, I can only imagine what will become from sports games.
I thank you for hearing me out, and I hope you all can have fun playing whatever, but for now, I’m going back to The Show to get my baseball fix.
Go SOX!!!!! Boston Sports for Life!
– Casey N. Todd