Baseball Stars, Obsessive Compulsive Edition
I still play Baseball Stars for the NES, a game from 1989, every day on average. Every, damn, day. I fire it up, select my team (American Dreams) and a random opponent (like Ninja Blacksocks, or my favourite punching bag, the Japan Robins), and soon I’m blissfully swinging the bat, throwing the ball, and running on fields of green.
But is this bliss?
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that people other than me find themselves playing games in a kind of dream-state with some frequency. By which I mean that I only marginally play baseball when I’m playing Baseball Stars. I have some awareness of scores and notions like doubles and triples and home runs and strikeouts, but that’s not really what I feel I’m doing. Rather, I’m engaged in some kind of almost indescribable interaction with the system and the coloured pixels.
It becomes like a simulation with the fiction element taken away. Digital baseball without the baseball part. I guess it’s tempting to suggest that this is somehow a game becoming a “pure” game, with the representations, narratives, etc. all stripped away from it and only the rules being of importance. But even then, I don’t so much play to win as I play to interact in a pleasing way; though I think that the “pleasing way” does relate to success conditions in the game – I prefer to get hits off rather than be struck out by the opposing pitcher, for instance.
Part of me is disturbed by playing a game so obsessively and in such a detached manner. I’m not getting anything out of it at an intellectual level – in fact I’m often despairing about wasting my time on such uninteresting play. And yet I can’t stop and it’s a true pleasure to push buttons and have the patterns of light change in ways that I recognize. The game is meaningless and the interaction is all.
But what does it mean?