Nonsensituation Room

  By Shamus   Sep 23, 2012   31 comments

splash_mlb.jpg

You know how sometimes I write about programming in a way that makes it interesting for people who don’t care about programming? My brother Patrick does the same thing for sports. I don’t follow sports or pay attention to sports, but he has a way of making the hobby compelling and accessible to outsiders. When we get together, he’s always got some crazy story about a sports rule that got changed because the fans demanded the old coach be ousted, and as a result the new coach told a player to do a thing, which in turn upset a team, which led to a lawsuit, which enraged the league, which then changed a long-standing policy, which eventually annoyed the fans. Or somesuch.

He’s always talking about the business around the teams and how it shapes the sport, kind of the same way I’m always discussing game companies and how they shape our videogames. When we get together, he does more talking than I do, and I enjoy it even though I don’t know a thing about sports. I’ve been on him for years to stop running his mouth and start blogging some of this stuff, and now he’s actually gone and done it.

We’re both gamers in the same way that Tiger Woods and Dwayne Johnson are both jocks. It’s only true in the most technically confusing way. He plays sports games on his PS3, which is the only genre of games I don’t play and the only current-gen system I don’t have. He’s one of those players that dutifully buys each new release of Madden. He’s fully aware of how the series is creatively dead and how EA is basically exploiting his love for the sport and not honestly attempting to make something worthwhile. It’s pretty much the same relationship I have with BioWare games at this point. It’s very interesting to see the same dynamic play out in other genres. Yes, it’s a mess and it could be so much better, but where else are you gonna go?

Check out his post on MLB 13: The Game, which is a game you are actually playing right now.

Also, if you have any feedback specifically for him, be sure to post it there and not here. The sad truth is, most of my family doesn’t read this blog.

201131 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.


  1. Alan says:

    I have to say, he is writing about teams I have never heard of, sports I know next to nothing about, in a country I have never been to, yet is still quite entertaining.

    • Brandon says:

      It’s quite an impressive skill to be able to write about something and make it appeal to people who otherwise have no interest or knowledge about the topic. :)

      thanks for sharing/promoting his blog Shamus. I like that he’s writing about a number of sports, especially Hockey (basically a religion up here in Canuckland. :P)

      • Mari says:

        LOL I was this close to commenting on the hockey post. It’s the only sport that doesn’t bore me senseless though I know just enough about it to have a vague sense of what Patrick was writing about. Strangely enough, here in the west Texas desert we don’t really have a whole lot of hockey, or at least not until the past five years or so when the NHL suddenly decided to do the farm system and set up a ton of minor minor-league teams around here. Anyway, I ended up looking up the KHL that he was talking about and lamenting the fact that I know two words in Russian so I have no idea what the videos on the league website are saying.

    • ENC says:

      Spoke my mind Alan.

      None of those sports are played in my country on a professional level but it is enjoying reading his work.

      It’s always awkward when talking with a yank over the internet and how they automatically assume everyone follows US sports in the same way I’d expect them to keep up with who’s playing in the grand final next week for AFL.

  2. Mari says:

    Cool. It’s the first time in my life I’ve enjoyed being a clueless non-sports bozo. Thanks to your brother I managed to come up with a whole five minutes of dinner table conversation today at lunch with all the baseball fans in the family – of which I am not one.

  3. Strangeite says:

    Thanks. I do enjoy sports, more collegiate than professional, and the blog looks fun.

  4. silver Harloe says:

    Oddly enough, I spent the entire day not hitting the X button. I haven’t hit the X button in over a week. I’m awesome at MLB 13.

  5. anaphysik says:

    Shamus, your brother has the Death Note of (American) football.

    Also, you should inform him that the older images on his site have vanished into 404-ery.

  6. Frankenstein says:

    Dang it Shamus. Why did you have to convince your brother to blog? I used to be able to divide my time between the Escapist, Chocolatehammer, TheCinemasnob, and Twentysided. Now you have thrown me a fifth blog to ensure I never have time to finish Darksiders. Curse you!

  7. Dreadjaws says:

    Wow, this is pretty unbelievable. He does make a very good job of getting people absolutely uninterested in sports (i.e.: me) to read about sports and find it interesting.

    I guess you guys should have gone into real estate or something like that. You’d make billions selling stuff to people who are not interested.

  8. rayen says:

    cool i love sports, particularly hockey and football. I’ve started listening to sports radio, playing a fantasy football thing (it’s not actually fantasy football because a) i don’t have a the time and b) i’ll stick to DnD if i want to do math for fun. Its basically pick a team to win each week) and watching sportscenter. Might as well start reading a blog.

  9. X2Eliah says:

    So, um, seems like very many sports games are about numbers nad probabilities (all them manager games, the MLB game your brother blogged about).

    Are numbers and guesswork a big thing in US sports scene?

    • Torsten says:

      The US sports scene loves their numbers. There’s scores, numbers on jerseys, number of spectators, number of TV viewers, player salaries, broadcasting rights, marketing contracts and number of games in a season to mention few. So the sports scene pretty much runs on numbers.
      It’s not a bad thing as such, statistics are fun, but it can get a bit silly when numbers run the sports.

      • CTrees says:

        Especially when you look at a sport like baseball, the focus on numbers and mathematics can reach levels that make your average D&D player go, “whoa dude, that’s a little extreme for my taste.” The people that get really into the various fantasy leagues and how to win them, for instance, well… it just rankles that I’m the one that’s considered nerdy.

        • Shamus says:

          In the book Moneyball (read the book, haven’t seen the movie) the author makes the case that the numbers Baseball experts have been crunching for decades were essentially worthless. Or if not worthless, then simply side-effects of the numbers that REALLY mattered, which people weren’t even bothering to use. In short, the most crucial aspects regarding player performance were being ignored and some really remarkable players were being overlooked.

          It would be like if a basketball talent scout only cared about player height and didn’t pay any attention to how well the guy can put the ball through the hoop.

          This is actually a great example about how highly-paid people can be wrong. This is why I get so frustrated when people state that, “If this didn’t make money, EA wouldn’t be doing it!” The truth is, large numbers of highly trained experts can be wrong about something for generations.

          • Brandon says:

            I know that whenever numbers come up in Hockey discussions it turns into a kind of religious war.

            Players have a few statistics that are the “important” ones: How many goals they have scored, how many assists they have, what their +/- is (If you are on the ice when a goal is scored you get a plus, if you are on the ice when scored against it’s a minus. Therefore the +/- number is a really rough estimate of a player’s defensive abilities), their average icetime per game, etc. Basic in-game statistics.

            But then some group of people has come up with a more advanced version of player statistics.. Their average time with the puck, their time spent in each zone, the positions that they take shots from most often, etc.

            And then, of course, someone decided to invent EXTREME stats, which are so complex they don’t have descriptions, they have acronyms.

            Naturally, all three of these groups fight like crazy. It’s possible for someone to have great goal numbers, assist numbers, and +/-, but be rated extremely low using EXTREME stats. So the EXTREME stats people seem willing to fight to their graves that such a player is awful and just lucky, while others might suggest that if they are winning trophies for being the best goal-scorer in the league for the year, they must be a pretty good player.

            It’s very much like watching people argue about the stats of two character classes in an RPG or something.

          • LintMan says:

            Shamus, I’m curious: since you don’t care for sports, what motivated you to read Moneyball? Since I’m not much of a baseball fan, it was never on my radar, and now I’m wondering if I missed something.

          • Sumanai (Asimech) says:

            There are also the times some smartarse has decided to compare professional prediction of a field (I’ve heard of both in sports and finance/stocks) to prediction made by a random number generator and on the average the generator wins.

            For example, if you don’t know of a good stockbroker you’re better off picking them randomly.

    • Drew says:

      It’s not just the US sports scene. Football Manager (soccer, not american football) games are incredibly popular outside the US as well.

  10. Peter H. Coffin says:

    So, maybe what the Madden series needs is a cover-based mechanic?

  11. Volatar says:

    >The sad truth is, most of my family doesn’t read this blog.

    Your wife does, and we <3 her.

  12. MadTinkerer says:

    “He plays sports games on his PS3, which is the only genre of games I don’t play and the only current-gen system I don’t have.”

    Oh no! You are missing out on Disgaea 3 and 4!?! (Also: Ratchet & Clank?! LittleBigPlanet?! White Knight Chronicles?!)

    This makes me sad. I’m of the opinion that the Xbox 360 is the far more skippable console. Their console exclusives tend to be the domain of dumbed down console FPSs or *shudder* cover-based third person shooters. Not that the PS3 doesn’t have FPSs or cover-based shooters, but the XBox 360 has little else that’s exclusive.

  13. Stellar Duck says:

    He’s fully aware of how the series is creatively dead and how EA is basically exploiting his love for the sport and not honestly attempting to make something worthwhile. It’s pretty much the same relationship I have with BioWare games at this point.

    I don’t think this is a completely fair assessment of the Madden series. While it’s certainly true that yearly releases don’t lend themselves, as a format, to innovation, to claim that the Madden series is completely stagnant is not a reasonable stance.

    I’m by no means an expert of the US version of football (I live in Denmark), but I’ve owned Madded 5,7 and 8 and there were incremental upgrades over the releases. But those upgrades were perhaps not readily visible. It was stuff like ball control, tackles, AI, audible system, graphics (and let’s face it: fidelity matters in a sports game) and under the hood things.

    I’ve recently been playing Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge. It’s a great game (and an interesting sport) but good lord, it’s a far cry from the iterated EA Sports games. Tackles that don’t connect, players that clip through the defense, dodgy animations, stuff like that. By constantly iterating on Madden, EA has gotten rid of a LOT of that stuff. And believe me it’s maddening to lose a match because an enemy player phased though a tackle.

    As you said, you’re not into sports games and it seems a bit like it causes you to dismiss what good parts there actually are about EA and their sports games.

    All that said, ESPN NFL 2k5 was clearly a much better game than the Madden games. I’m not saying that EA are flawless in their handling, but I think it’s wrong to outright dismiss the games as pap.

    • Shamus says:

      I’ve only played 2 or 3 Madden games, back around 2006 or so. I thought it was idiotic how they kept adding new appendages to the game without fixing the glaringly obvious problems. (The blatant rubber-banding that drove the scoring through the roof, and other bits of AI brokenness.) Still, I have no idea if this is still the case.

      For the record, I was just trying to handwave THIS EXACT ARGUMENT. :)

      If I didn’t bring it up, people would say, “I can’t believe you didn’t mention this!” So I sort of gestured towards the conventional wisdom, and I’ll let the die-hard have it out over that one.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Ah. I see your point. I guess the pedant in my get’s the better of me at times. Apologies if I came across too polemic. I didn’t mean that as I don’t really have a dog in this particular fight. I haven’t played Madden, nor really watched football since 2009 so I’m quite out of the loop. And as I said, NFL 2k5 was the superior game in any case.

        Also, I forgot to add in my original comment: your brother is a good writer. Runs in the family I guess.

  14. Scourge says:

    I have to say, I found it quite entertaining to read. Plus he is making a good point about Realism VS Fun, which I think goes for a lot of games and it not just limited to MLB (I also can’t stop replacing the B with a P and get a good chuckle out of it whenever reading it).

    There is a limit to how much fun something is vs how realistic something can be.

    We all have seen survival/hunger&thirst/Cold weather/Bleeding&Burning/sleep mods for Skyrim, Oblivion, Fallout 3 and NV and what else.
    And always there are those who decry such a thing if people ask for it in the game and then there are those who go all ‘IT’S NOT HARD ENOUGH AND REALISTIC ENOUGH!!!11′.

    Sure, realism can be fun to some degree but it never should detract from the overall gaming experience and if it could there should be an option to trigger it off. (I am looking at you fallout:NV and the wonderful Hardcore mode that can be triggered on and off at will).

  15. I actually quit buying Madden in 2011. I don’t know if I can fully impress upon you folks the immense saddness I had when I realized I no longer wanted to play a game that I had been loyally and fanatically supporting since the early 90’s. I’ve playing Madden since it was on the Sega Genesis. And now I’ve given up on MLB simulations. In some ways, and this may sound immature and childish, but it feels like getting dumped by your girlfriend. VIA Facebook. For you worst enemy.

    Also, his whole family reads his blog. Everyday. We just don’t comment on it because we think it sucks. We actually think Shamus sucks too, but we keep him around and humor him because we need the free tech support.

    In unrelated news: Come setup my router so I can watch my DVR reruns of “Swamp Hoarders:Tallahasee” on my laptop, nerd-boy.

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