I sometimes have difficulty getting into widespread media phenomena. I was the guy who avoided every Game of Thrones conversation for eight years, telling people I will wait until it’s over and then binge-watch it. For me, and I imagine for a lot of people, jumping onto a movie a train of a shared experience is difficult and I can only run alongside the train for so long before I get fatigued and go home rather than jump on.
Never has that been more true than with Blaseball.
For nearly a year, some small part of the internet has become obsessed with Blaseball, an absurdist browser-based baseball simulator that, similar to its title, describes itself as a splort rather than a sport. Blaseball runs simulations of baseball games between hypothetical teams, such as the Charleston Shoe Thieves and the Canada Moist Talkers. Fans control the action by supporting their favorite teams and voting for things like giving their pitchers multiple arms or ascending their players to higher planes of existence.
It sounds both incredibly funny and a brilliant way to engender a community toward fiercely loving their home team. Fans put their affiliations in their social media bios, they create and join Discords specifically for these teams, they create lore in a way that far eclipses the discourse around FromSoftware games in fervor and excitement. Individual players establish backstories in the communities which in turn give birth to inside jokes and fanart that flood social media and revel in the absurdity in a way that feels like spies communicating in code. That, I think, is where it goes off the rails for me.
Jumping into Blaseball now feels like a gargantuan task. Trying to parse what the hell why everyone is freaking out about “wet pretzels” being added to the concession menu is like trying to get into season four of a TV show and understand the cliffhanger at the end of the episode. I could theoretically leap into the game now and learn from here, but I would always feel like I am missing something that people who came in on the ground floor get and I do not, short of trying to “study” a community of inside jokes.
This isn’t something that the developers of Blaseball, The Game Band, can actually do anything about, nor probably should they. There’s no good way to make the game more welcoming to newcomers without pulling away from the communities that have been shoveling coal into the engine for the better part of a year. This isn’t a Blaseball problem, it’s a me problem, but it’s a me problem with everything like Blaseball.
I absolutely would like to be one of those people that buys jackets of their favorite team and beefs with other Discords because honestly that sounds fun as hell. I just think I missed my window on it and that’s unfortunate for me.