Blaseball is something new, a game with a slightly different paradigm from other games you might play. In this article, I describe the basics of blaseball and the creative community that has grown around the game.
Blaseball is a game developed by The Game Band.
Blaseball is currently on an extended “siesta.” As I understand, the developers need time to take a short break and to implement new ideas and mechanics. If the website seems a bit static, that is why. No worries; blaseball will be in full swing again soon.
Toward the end of July, I started seeing references to blaseball in my Twitter feed. I’m not much of a sports person so I didn’t think much of it. Then, I saw more, fairly crazy-ass tweets somehow related to this blaseball thing. Eventually, I had to take a closer look. I’ll share what I know so far.
Well, to start, blaseball is a website: blaseball.com. On blaseball.com is a list of 20 teams.
Each of the 20 blaseball teams represents a different region of North America. For example, there are the Chicago Firefighters, Canada Mouth Breathers, Seattle Garages, and Mexico City Wild Wings. There is the Hellmouth Sunbeams, which I’m guessing hails from Sunnydale California, a fictional city in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show. (Could the blaseball-verse tie into the Buffy-verse?) Of course, there is the best team of all, the New York Millennials.
[Correction: “Sunbeams are originally from Moab, Utah, but the city and surrounding desert were consumed by the Hellmouth when the Forbidden Book was opened after Season 1.” — Thanks Dax!]
Note the stars beside each player, which depict the player’s overall performance.
Together, the 20 teams make up The Internet Blaseball League, which is overseen by The Commissioner. The Commissioner communicates exclusively on the Blaseball Commissioner Twitter account, @blaseballcomms.
The 20 teams are divided into two leagues: The Good League and The Evil League.
Those leagues are further broken down into D&D-like alignments: Lawful Good, Lawful Evil, Chaotic Evil, Chaotic Good.
Our players are inhuman. They play day and night. Rain or shine. They never grow sick. They never tire.
Games start at the top of each hour, Monday through Friday. You don’t watch anything so much as read text updates on the website.
If you’d rather, @proc_gen streams a blaseball bot on Twitch, which offers the means to listen to a robotic announcer.
Just like other sports, the more invested you get in a team or certain players, the more excitement you’ll feel from the emotional push and pull of wins and losses.
Each season is 99 games.
Each Saturday is the post-season championship tournament. The team with the most wins…wins the season.
The Philly Pies won Season 1. Then, the Philly Pies won Season 2, The Discipline Era. The Hades Tigers won Season 3, The Discipline Era: Peanut Plague Uncertainty.
Sunday is a day off.
“Tot Clark of the Seattle Garages, the first (and, to date, only) Internet League pitcher to employ the dramatic, technically challenging and fundamentally ineffective Alice Half-Pike.” source
If you’d like to experience more of Sam Kabo Ashwell’s work, check out the Scents & Semiosis review.
Smell More Than Roses in Scents & Semiosis
Try your hand as a perfumer in Scents & Semiosis, interactive fiction with procedural generation, strange ingredients, and private memories.
If you are new to blaseball, at this point you might still be wondering, what the heck is blaseball? Why should I care about this?
Well, blaseball is not so much a sport as a splort.
The community has done a fantastic job of chronicling this new splort (and doing so in an in-universe way). The Blaseball Wiki describes the game as follows:
Blaseball is a game that simulates an absurdist version of baseball and encourages participants to bet (no real world money involved!) on the outcome. Participants use those winnings to buy voting and raffle tickets that influence new game mechanics, player and team statistics, player trades, developer-written storylines [sic], and more.
Participation? Bletting? Voting?
To participate in the game, do the following:
Just by signing up, you’ll be given coins (!).
You’ll start with 250 coins in your account. You can use your coins to modify the rules or eat more peanuts.
It costs 20 coins to get access to the full Shop.
It costs 100 coins per vote.
The price of peanuts has come down to 1000 coins.
You gain 5 coins if your team wins, even if you don’t bet. I earned 5 coins because the New York Millennials won.
You can bet on your team and have a chance of winning more coins.
This is our gift to you — the fans. We hear your prayers at trade deadlines. We suffer your DH debates. No more. Democracy returns to the national pastime. Each week, you vote to remake the league in your own image. Everything from rules to rosters is in your hands.
Unlike other sports, you can actually have an effect on the game by voting, voting for your favorite teams, and the rules you want the Internet League Blaseball to play by.
Each season there is an election. You can vote on decrees and blessings. The two decrees with the most votes will go into effect.
The following is an example of decrees available during Season 3.
The following is an example of blessings available during Season 3.
You can read the changing/evolving rules in The Book of Blaseball.
From the Blaseball Wiki again:
Blaseball was made known to us at the beginning of Season 1, however it is uncertain how long it has existed. Some experts speculate blaseball has always existed, half-formed in the comer of our collective vision; while others philosophize that blaseball was synthesized via humanity’s darkest hour expressly to absolve us from the sins of mortal hubris by way of intrumentalizing further hubris.
All scholars agree, however, that The Commissioner is doing a great job!
Here you can witness the Blaseball mythology forming by the hands of spectators/participants.
Blaseball offers a chance to be wildly creative with language and make up meme-worthy phrases. Just like the Language Poets of the late Twentieth Century created open texts in which the reader informed the text with his or her own thoughts and feelings, so the game of blaseball makes space for fans to imagine fabulous details far beyond the monochrome website.
…Maybe this is the splort I’ve been waiting for my whole life. I could watch this sort of sports game; it’s more cerebral, language-heavy, and playful.
Blaseball is also more inclusive. This inclusive stance is best exemplified by the charity work being done, which I cover later. Also, the Wiki’s Style Guide page specifically states the importance of inclusive language. Blaseball is not just for sports fans and jocks. This splort includes English majors and geeks, the LGBQT+ community, the color-blind, and even epileptic dogs too.
Fans are creating their own fan fiction and artwork on Twitter (#blaseball) and reddit.
As an example of the ongoing blaseball-related banter found on Twitter, I offer a series of tweets by Kate Compton (@GalaxyKate):
I hope in 180 years, there’s a pro sports team that has Burners as their mascot and is all like “yes, we honor this ancient warrior culture by smearing glitter on our faces and yelling PLAYA real loud“
TBH, there are only two ok pro sports team naming schemes:
defiantly weird abstract nouns
“Go, Seattle Sound-of-rain-on-a-discarded-coffee-lid!“
There is a We Are All Love Blaseball game jam on itchi.io in which the theme is a tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG) inspired by the new splort.
No doubt there are t-shirts and other game paraphernalia being created. In fact, the Front Office has given permission to do so. They have stated that they will soon have their own official merchandise available, but you can make stuff too.
When I first found out about the #blaseballcares hashtag on Twitter, I smiled, big time. This is pretty amazing. Blaseball spectators are not just idly watching gameplay events scroll by on the screen, they are also harnessing this phenomenon to help raise funds for charities. Note how this differs from having large companies use the sport to sell products.
The #blaseballcares hashtag is a means of spreading the word and staying informed about ongoing charitable initiatives put forth to challenge fans to contribute.
For example, the Canada Mouth Breathers team raised $650 for the RAVEN charity in eight hours on Sunday, August 9th. Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs (RAVEN) is a legal defense fund to protect indigenous peoples’ constitutional rights. (If you would like to donate to RAVEN, visit the donate page on their website.)
Another example is the recent Season 3 winners, the Hades Tigers, raising awareness for two Black Lives Matter funds. The PDX Protest Bail Fund and the Black Lives Matter Support Fund. (If you would like to donate to the PDX Protest Bail Fund, visit the gofundme page. To donate to the Black Lives Matter Support Fund, you can do so on this page.)
Follow #blaseballcares on Twitter for the latest charity initiatives. Alternatively, a Blaseball Cares site was stood up, organized by team.
Blaseball simulates the game of baseball that we all know (or know of) and the events that occur are procedurally generated. There are no pixel explosions or slick UI such as we find in Grid Sage Games’ Cogmind roguelike, for example. Rather, we literally sit and watch textual descriptions of game events.
What may not be obvious to many is that blaseball is an example of procedural content generation (PCG) or procgen for short. A core part of PCG is a set of rules that govern the creation. The rules are often coupled with some measure of randomness. What springs forth on the screen can, in the best instances, impress us with the power of raw creation and evoke a sense of wonder.
Recall that fans vote weekly on decrees and blessings, which are a new set of rules for the system. There might be peanuts, Lots of Birds weather, or umpires with apocalyptic eyes, for example. In short, shenanigans ensue.
We don’t see the game objects (or entities), which act in the simulation and bounce off the randomness of the theater, or ballpark in this case. We read the output of cause and effect relationships.
What makes blaseball a special instance of PCG is that it has been done on the internet for many many people to spectate and participate in together, like other sports in some ways. This isn’t the procedurally generated dungeon of a roguelike that a sole gamer navigates, one numpad-key-click at a time.
No. In this case, the virtual bleachers are filled, even if viewed asynchronously. What we have here is a shared experience. This shared experience has the added chance of producing memes, retweets, and trending hashtags…artwork, poetry, t-shirts, and ostensibly, blaseball caps too.
Cat Manning (@catacalypto) wrote the following three tweets. I chose to include these tweets because they exemplify an acknowledgment of what blaseball is in the game space, and hint at what it might offer curious-minded individuals, and what it means for her personally.
I tweet about blaseball because I love it *and* because it’s a really fruitful site for thinking about the most interesting problems in emergent narrative that academics are working on, while also being incredibly fun to participate in on any level.
It’s important to me to:
• show general audiences that this academic work is immediately & significantly impactful on digital experiences
• offer people who are interested in what blaseball’s doing a way into thinking more abstractly about its structures, if they want to learn
no one ever told me when I was younger that what I was doing was narrative design; and because I didn’t know those terms for it I missed out. So if anyone stumbles across my blaseball explainers, I want them to have a starting place of terms and threads they can look up.
To read more of Cat Manning’s Blaseball Explainers and “Musings on: emergent narrative, literature, games, digital ephemera, lacunae, etc.,” sign up in The Garden of Forking Narratives.
So blaseball is a game, a splort, the most democratic splort in existence. Blaseball is a cultural event and a cultural phenomenon.
Blaseball is very much a splort of our times from the post-modern, meme-worthy word-play, to the post-capitalist sentiment in the decrees and blessings, as if overheard from a millennial starving in order to pay an outrageous rent price and stifling student loans.
The splort brings power to the people, not only to vote but to use those votes to provoke change at the very core of the game.
Blaseball is enriched with an inclusive community, where #blacklivesmatter, and the bolt-cutters of empathy and respect free participants from the machismo of towel-snapping, locker room douchebaggery.
Plus, this is a game that respects social-distancing guidelines, and only requires masks so that spectators/participants can take on alternative personas and improvise new fan fictions, new mythologies.
I think we can all agree that the Commissioner is doing a fine job.
Thanks for reading this article on blaseball! I enjoyed working on it and I look forward to the next blaseball season.
Much gratitude goes to the individuals that permitted me to showcase their blaseball-related thoughts (tweets) and artwork. The article glows now with their added voices and visions.
Blaseball is still in beta and it would behoove me to update this article as this game/experience nears completion and is better understood. Consider it a living document.
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