MLB 12 The Show: fail state

, | Game diaries

Goodbye Chase D’arnaud. Be good Lastings Milledge. Take care Dirk Berkowitz (see you at Thanksgiving).

I’ve been traded. To the New York Mets. Well, the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons for now. On the Vita our home stadium sits amidst non-descript rural greenery, while on the Playstation 3 we’re in a stadium under a bridge with a view of the Empire State Building that’s either in Hoboken or Queens or maybe even geographically impossible.

After the jump, blindsided

This all went down as I was simming to my next in-game appearance with the Indianapolis Indians. Suddenly a screen popped up with the basics of the trade. I’d seen this happen a couple times before, but never expected to see my name in that little black box, shipped to the Metropolitans in a package that included former Yankee castoff A.J. Burnett.

There are thirty teams in the major leagues. Was it just chance that I got traded to my favorite team, or are they messing with me, like when they just happened to create a fellow minor leaguer with my last name? The game technically knows what my favorite team is, since it’s something you can choose (and I did) when setting up the player profile that remembers difficulty, settings and preferences across all game modes.

I get a note in my mailbox from the general manager of the New York Mets.

“Adding you to our lineup immediately improves our chances.”

If you say so, boss. I guess you haven’t heard about my fragile psyche and shattered confidence.

I actually have a good weekend with the Bisons, having transferred my save file to the home system as I’m wont to do on weekends, working my average up to a respectable .268 before a Sunday night re-transfer to Vita and Monday morning commute brings me back down to the high .250’s. It’s tough to reconcile the jump in difficulty from PS3 to Vita that I’m experiencing, in part due to screen size (though the ball is slightly larger on the Vita to compensate) but also the situations in which I’m likely to play it, i.e. standing on a subway with the backpack of a European traveler fresh from JFK pressing into my side.

I feel a bit like the new kid at school, ripped from the context I spent time building for myself in the Pirates organization, the names on my current team again meaning nothing to me. My response has been a bit passive aggressive, once again setting my fielding opportunities to “none” (they all happen off-screen) and even cutting down what I see of my teammates’ at-bats to a quarter of their usual length, meaning I see a pitch or two at most when I’m on the base paths. I just want to get on with it, the only dangling carrot I can imagine at this point being that first game in the wide open expanse of a major league stadium. Now that stadium is slated to be Citi Field in Flushing, stomping grounds with which I’m intimately familiar. I’m on my third camera angle this week, trying to find something that helps me recognize low pitches out of the zone so that I can better lay off them. Most of them are situated a bit too high, and I find it nigh impossible to discern a low strike from a ball about to taste dirt.

Every year, my time with The Show involves endless recalibrations, like trying to find the cool part of the pillow.

Still, after two consecutive hitless games, I find out that I’ve been picked to represent the Unites States in the 2013 Futures Game, some weird subset of the All-Star game that’s apparently broken down along geographic lines. I’m forced to reflect on something I said in my first Road to the Show entry:

…if you search for your new Road to the Show player’s ratings card, amid the D’s and F’s shines an A for potential. You are always destined for greatness in Road to the Show, but at least they make you work a bit for it.

I still feel like I’m destined for the major leagues, but not quite in the manner that I anticipated. Judging from recent accolades and their repeated assurances that I’m ready for the majors, management seems to be fixated on my “talent” (which I read as ratings/attributes) and ability to routinely tick three out of four advancement goals, largely divorced from my on-field output. It may be the case that I have indeed out-leveled my surroundings, but am just not good enough on All-Star difficulty for that to play out statistically. I’m almost certain that none of the numbers I’ve put up would generate much excitement within a real-life minor league system.

I’m looking for a correlation in other role-playing environments, and can only come up with a Shepard who reaches his/her checkpoints only after repeated failures, lets almost everyone who depends on him/her die, but still manages to save the galaxy in some fashion and is hard-programmed to be lauded loudly along the way. Even then there’s only a hypothetical “more perfect” run to compare it to, unlike this sports simulation where I’m saddled or blessed (depending on how you look at it) with real life benchmarks and numerical expectations.

I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to play a version of this mode where that potential rating was hidden, and not always an ‘A’. Is there any value in playing a role-playing game where my ceiling turns out to be as a backup utility player with only a handful of memorable moments? Or how about as a career minor leaguer? I think so, but maybe not in this case, requiring this level of time commitment. Professional baseball is filled with failures and near-misses, but there’s not enough texture in Road to the Show to create a gripping story that ends in disappointment. I suspect text-based baseball sims create interesting stories of booms and busts as a matter of course, but they’ve never clicked with me. Here, with a laser-like focus on a single player’s on-field exploits, success might be the only meaningful vector.

This is wish fulfillment, and I suspect my wishes will come true in spite of myself.

Click here for the previous entry.

Seth Berkowitz is a film restorationist and musician living and working in New York City. He makes music with his wife and friends in the band Lucky Ghost, wakes up early to watch Japanese baseball, and is constantly reminding his cats to be patient because it’s not time to eat yet.