Sports Games Can't Handle 2020

If it's in the game, it's in the game pending brand approval per existing licensing agreements.
August 3, 2020, 1:00pm
MLB the Show 20
'MLB The Show 20' screenshot courtesy of Sony

Sports! They’re happening, sort-of. And that’s why we’re talking about sort-of sports games. Austin, Gita, and Rob revisit the league politics of Blaseball and secrets the baseball sportsbook simulator has been yielding. Rob’s playing F1 2020, which is less a game about Formula 1 in 2020 than it is about expectations that existed for F1 in 2019. Another game that’s revealing its secrets to Gita is Sudoku, which she’s finally learning to love via Zach Gage’s Good Sudoku. Austin is also unleashing the beast in Carrion, but thinks maybe more leashes might be a good thing for that game.

This transcript was edited for length and clarity.

Rob: But yeah, so it's just, it's very funny that F1 just exists in this world where like, the things that we thought were true at some point last season remain true, which is that F1 will look a certain way in 2020. And also that— "Ferrari, they have the best engine, definitely by far. What a great, what a great engine a Ferrari makes." And this year, Ferrari is noticeably…The comparison is they're running a lawnmower engine while everyone else is running a race car engine.

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Austin: Right.

Rob: It's that bad.

Austin: All this makes me recall, like all the conversations we've had—pieces like Nick Capozzoli's on the NFL, on the Madden games. And the things that are, that are kind of extra, you know, extricated from sports video games that exist in sport. Including cheating, racism, the fact that there are labor struggles, all of the things that actually embody the breadth of what sport is as a professional enterprise that games can not include: Injury, like serious life threatening injuries or, you know, technologies needing to be invented to try to reduce the threat of injuries.

All sorts of scandals, right? You know, a game, especially in today's game space where you do a franchise mode or campaign mode, or like a player embodiment mode in a team sports game where you're like, "All right, I'm going to play this quarterback." And they want as much of the simulation, or they want to immerse you in many things that are "off the field" right? They want you to care about fashion. They want you to care about a fake Twitter. They want you to care about "oh yeah, this character is like your agent and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah." And I guess in some cases you get some of that stuff from the story mode.

I know that the FIFA story mode definitely had some off the field scandals or portrayals. Or, you know, stuff happens in story modes and games, but there were so many things that just because of the importance of maintaining the license and maintaining the integrity of the brand, you're not going to get what really happened in sports. And instead you're going to always get this sort of plastic version of the game because it's a promotional tool most of all.

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Gita: Yeah. Yeah. For example we're not going to, you're never going to see a moment like Joe Kelly, almost hitting a guy with a bow in a baseball in MLB The Show. Right?

Austin: You can be people in that game. Right. But you can't [do that].

Gita: Yeah. But you are bringing more knowledge of that rivalry to the game. They're dependent on you being such a big fan of baseball that you will enact these rivalries. The rivalry that clearly exists between Joe Kelly, specifically, and every Astro that exists in the world is not going to be there. That's something that's a metagame that they kind of refuse to acknowledge exists. Joe Kelly is clearly playing a different baseball game against the Astros than he is against any other team. Also, he was suspended for eight games, which is effectively the rest of the season, which is crazy.

Austin: Yeah. Yeah. What "season" this year?


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