The delightful, baseball-flavored timewaster, Blaseball, returned yesterday. Wait, what’s Blaseball? Blaseball is essentially a fake baseball betting game, but with a surreal twist. Launching last year in a much more barebones state, originally Blaseball and baseball weren't too dissimilar. Like baseball, Blaseball is a game played with bats and balls, innings and outs, with home runs and strike outs.
Now, though, you also have to know what idols are, and what happens during a full moon, and what snacks you should buy? If the game seems overwhelming, don't worry. Just like all sports, it's what you make of it.
Unlike baseball, Blaseball's "games'' are all played simultaneously, simulated through text descriptions of what happens during each at bat. There's only one League, known as the Internet League, and all the games every one sees are the same for everyone—this isn't a situation like Madden, where each league is unique to each player. They're played by fake teams and fake players. The New York Millennials, my favored team, features players like Felix Garbage and Charlatan Seabright. What you do during these games is make bets using in-game coins, which you can eventually use to buy various items to change players' stats and abilities, often in esoteric ways. It's a fantasy for any sports fan—your fandom for your team can actually help them win games, or at least give them new powers. Each "Season" is only a week long, and after a break for the development team, we are now on the eleventh Season.
Over time, as the fandom for Blaseball grew, the game became less and less like baseball. There's not a lot of meat to Blaseball, so fans of the game have largely filled in the blanks, and they've filled them in with every descriptor they can find. According to the Blaseball Wiki, my favored Felix Garbage is known for "his innovative double-leg-lift pitching technique, one which no other pitcher has been able to replicate." But because Blaseball is a game that includes players being incinerated spontaneously or being sent to hell, the fanlore has become even more ridiculous than that. Some players aren't even human, like Thomas Draconea the vampire, or the genderfluid merperson Sandie Turner.
That all feels overwhelming, and we haven't even gotten to the fact that after last season, we've seen a shake up on some of the teams. The longtime favorite Baltimore Crabs have "ascended," and no one really knows what that means. The elastic nature of Blaseball as a game means that the story choices that the development team makes can, and often are, shrouded in mystery.
Sam Rosenthal from The Game Band, the developers of Blaseball, told Motherboard that they have a "general flow where we keep things mysterious" when introducing new elements to players. They'd like to keep that going, but in this era of Blaseball, they can also explain a little bit more than they used to.
"If you’re new to the game, you might be tempted to research everything that’s ever happened in Blaseball, but it’s really not necessary," Rosenthal said. "At this point there's some history from the last era that we can more clearly explain without worry of spoilers."
The way that the site has been redesigned since the last season of Blaseball speaks to how much has happened, and also how The Game Band is trying to keep it all accessible for the players. While there's still a redacted book of rules, there's also a FAQ page, with answers in and out of character.
"We definitely tried to design this era for new players a bit more," Rosenthal said. "We wanted to give a better home page, with a tutorial-like Actions panel to suggest how you can participate, and just generally add a lot of helpful information across the site, both in terms of explanations and history."
In the eleventh season of Blaseball, being new to the game feels like being a new fan to any sport. There's a feeling like you'll never be as big of a fan as the people who came before you, as if the games they watched are shrouded in legend. But, just like any sport, the game is still living when you come in contact with it. New things will happen, news ways of expressing your fandom will emerge. Hell, we might even figure out what happened to the Crabs. You don't necessarily need to memorize all the fanlore, or even read it at all (though this page on the fan wiki pretty much covers it, if you'd like to know). All you have to do is pick a team, get to know the players, and follow along.
"Pick your favorite team and follow along with them this season. Like in actual sports, the stories you witness are the ones that matter the most," Rosenthal said.