Emma and Gil chat with Sam Rosenthal and Stephen Bell of The Game Band, known for their bizarre cosmic horror sports sim Blaseball. We discuss the unique feedback loop between Blaseball’s fans and its creators, the benefits of apophenia, and how baseball was uniquely suited for this treatment at this moment in history.
7m00s: The score bug that Gil is referring to is the graphic that appears overlaid on most sports broadcast, showing the game’s score and other vital stats. Gil also refers to external chest protectors that baseball umpires used to wear, an icon of baseball from decades past.
7m59s: The Blaseball wiki.
10m00s: The music that Stephen refers to is literal fan-made music. Fan canon says that the team the Seattle Garages are actually a rock band forced to play Blaseball. Fans have actually recorded and released these albums.
19m05s: Here’s Cat Manning’s excellent Blaseball primer. It’s a good way to get a sense of the lore of the game.
22m11s: We chatted with game designer and wide receiver Adrienne Smith in Ludology 240 – Are You Receiving Me?
26m15s: Apophenia is the tendency to make connections between disconnected things. Game designers can use it to make meaningful experiences and memorable stories, but other people can use it for very bad things.
27m42s: Kayfabe is a wrestling term that denotes the acceptance of the fictionalization of staged events. In other words, a wrestling announcer working in kayfabe will treat a match as if it is a genuinely-contested sporting event with an uncertain outcome, not a scripted match in which all participants know the winner ahead of time.
Kayfabe is very much another example of a magic circle. You can hear Geoff Engelstein and Ryan Sturm discuss the magic circle with game designer Eric Zimmerman in Ludology 79 – The Magic Circle.
29m34s: SIBR is the Society for Internet Blaseball Research. Their name is a reference to SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research. (In real-world Major League Baseball, SABR is the organization that devised “sabermetrics,” the advanced statistics that powered the Moneyball movement.)
32m54s: Taskmaster continues to be one of Gil’s favorite shows.
35m44s: Uncharted is a series of video games about uncovering historical mysteries around the world, and killing a lot of bad guys in the process.
Also, Gil should have mentioned the 10,000 Year Clock, a Jeff Bezos-funded clock that is being built within a Texas mountain that will be designed to run 10,000 years without any human intervention. This is not the kind of scale humans are used to thinking in, which is what makes these projects so strange and intriguing.
53m04s: Welcome to Night Vale is highly recommended for anyone intrigued by the idea of comic cosmic horror. For example…
“The City Council announces the opening of a new dog park at the corner of Earl and Sommerset near the Ralph’s.
They would like to remind everyone that dogs are not allowed in the dog park. People are not allowed in the dog park. It is possible you will see hooded figures in the dog park. Do not approach them. Do not approach the dog park. The fence is electrified and highly dangerous. Try not to look at the dog park, and especially do not look for any period of time at the hooded figures. The dog park will not harm you.”
55m51s: Baseball has several “unwritten rules” of decorum. One of them is that bunting to break up a no-hitter tends to be frowned upon. It happens every few years; in 2019, a minor-league team broke up a combined no-hitter in the 9th inning with a bunt, which resulted in a benches-clearing altercation.
1h00m42s: Here is the Blaseball Discord server.
1h05m40s: Gil is referring to Marcel Duchamp’s readymade sculpture Fountain (although there are rumblings that the piece was actually made by Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven). Afterwards, Gil refers to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Chain of Command, in which a Cardassian tortures Jean-Luc Picard by inflicting pain if Picard does not claim he sees five lights when in fact there are only four in front of him (which itself is a reference from a scene in 1984).
1h06m57s: “The Commissioner Is Doing A Great Job” is a common Blaseball meme. The Coffee Cup was the most recent season of Blaseball before this recording, which was a knockout tournament of nontraditional Blaseball teams instead of a “traditional” season (whatever that means).
1h10m16s: Guess which blaseball team Gil follows?