Posted at 5:53 PM on May 30, 2005
by Josh Lee
Faced with an off-day for the Twins -- on a holiday, no less -- I cast about my apartment in search of some other way to get my daily fix of baseball. I don't have cable, so I couldn't watch the Braves-Nats or Angels-ChiSox games. Not much on the radio, either. So in desperation, I turned to my PlayStation 2 and a baseball video game that I rented a while back.
Now, I play a lot of video games, and obviously, I likes me some baseball as well. The two of them together should combine like the Wonder Twins to form some kind of super-powered way to kill an afternoon: all the tweaking of lineups and juggling of numbers that the APBA diehards live for, but with the shiny graphics and button mashing that the attention-span-challenged among us prefer.
There's just one problem with this whole setup: fake baseball is really, really boring. It captures all the aspects of the game that non-fans complain about (the slow pace, the unnecessary complexity), and none of the aspects that make the game great (the smoldering tension lurking beneath the relaxed atmosphere, the joy of watching highly skilled athletes perform seemingly impossible feats). Directing a digital Torii Hunter to a game-winning home run somehow feels hollow, even more than the hollow feeling I get when seeing the real guy ground into a double play. It's weird; I don't get that feeling when I play other video games, but looking at the not-quite-realistic-enough models of the players jog out past the virtual baggie that runs along the right field wall of the fake Metrodome doesn't make me feel like I'm there as much as it makes me think that that's where I'd rather be.
It does amuse me, however, to note that the bit of machine code that strings together clips of Joe Morgan's voice to add color commentary to the virtual game is more or less exactly as insightful as the real person.
Thank you, Josh, for vindicating my "Joe Morgan is the worst commentator ever" rant, commonly heard by my family and pets, none of whom care.
My favorite part of Joe Morgan commentary is when they go to the shot of the box, so he can demonstrate how someone holds the ball or where a player might be hurt. Joe, to this day, cannot figure out how or when to look at the camera. It makes me laugh... I think they may have told him that he's only doing radio.
Of course, he isn't helped by the AWFUL Jon Miller. Every year he calls the Twins playoff games, and every year it's like listening to the Yankees home broadcast... seriously, the guy has an Al Michaels-Bob Costas-Joe Buck distaste for Minnesota thing going...
As for video game baseball... oddly enough I think it peaked in 2002 with 3DO's High Heat 2003 for PC... Tweakable, not perfect mind you, but, far better than most offerings.
I think the real problem with baseball games (and sports games in general) is the fact that EA Sports has come to dominate the market, and now stifle competition with exclusive contracts.