This article originally appeared in Pyramid #14
Let's see if I can go an entire issue without mentioning trading card games . . . oops, too late.
It occurs to me as I struggle for a topic for this issue's column that the reader who has paid attention to all the things I have written in the various newspapers and magazines I've worked for in my professional life would have learned quite a bit about me by now. But here's a little something about myself you might not know: I'm a huge baseball fan; probably not the biggest fan on the planet, but easily within the top 1%. So it is with a sad and heavy heart that I have been following the blatant greed and amazing stupidity surrounding our national pastime.
The last thing I want to do here is rehash the arguments of players vs. owners, small markets vs. large markets, Don Fehr vs. Bud Selig. Even those of us who care don't care anymore.
Many of my baseball fan friends have sought other alternatives. There are other kinds of baseball, you know minor league, college, even high school ball. Sure, few of them have the power of a Frank Thomas or the skill of an Ozzie Smith, but few of them have the mean streak of a Bobby Bonilla or the arrogance of a Will Clark, either. Just the other day, a bunch of my friends and I headed down the interstate 100 miles or so to catch the San Antonio Missions of the Texas League. Beautiful ballpark, a breezy spring night, green grass, great seats for about half of what they would cost for a major league game, and a great game too Missions' DH Orestes Morrerro lined a 3-run homer off the scoreboard with two out in the bottom of the 9th for a Missions comeback win. I'm going to have to try this more often.
As I write this in late April, the major leaguers have just come back to work (it doesn't seem right to say they've started "playing" again, for the events of the past nine months have amply demonstrated that nobody is "playing" baseball at the major league level it's just another job), to lukewarm response at best from the fans. In some cases, there have been instances of out-and-out hostility. Will it get better? By the time this magazine comes out, maybe all will be forgiven and baseball will be right back to setting attendance records and keeping their fans happy. I guess I hope that happens, but I also hope that it takes a little while; I hope that the players and the owners learn a lesson that there is a limit to the patience of the fans, and they very definitely went over that limit.
The appeal of baseball (and all sports in America, I guess) is the escape. It's a game, played by the very best in the world, and it gives us Average Joes something to care about completely apart from all the unpleasant realities of life. And the people who run baseball (on both sides) not only denied us that escape, but dragged some of the worst aspects of that mundane reality smack dab in the middle of it greed, spin doctors, sound bites, lawyers and more. A pox on them all.
So what has that got to do with adventure gaming? (And you thought I wasn't going to bring this column back on topic . . .) Game companies are selling that very same escape from reality that baseball is. It takes a different form, certainly, but there's no doubt that at its very core, it's the same product. So we can learn a thing or two from baseball's mistakes:
One, the fans don't care about the internal squabbles of the people who provide the product, just the product. Game companies get into disputes with each other all the time; there are internal struggles within companies. You've read about some of that right here in Pyramid. And we're going to continue to report on those legitimate news stories, as long as they have an impact on the games our readers play. Stories that just say, "Hey, these guys are jerks," aren't worth running because, ultimately, nobody cares. You care about the games. If a game gets delayed, or canceled, or sold, or something else that might affect your enjoyment of it, that we'll tell you about.
And two, the games have to be about the games; the real world should intrude as little as possible. I think our industry has come dangerously close to breaking this little rule when it comes to all those trading card games out there. When buying a pack of game cards becomes more about grabbing a Rare card that can be resold at a profit than about having more fun playing the game, we're on the wrong track. When boxes of cards are just a commodity, when dealers can pay for their tables at conventions with game cards, when people start stealing cards from each other, we're on the wrong track. There's been a little bit of innocence lost in the gaming field the past couple of years, and that's sad.
Unlike baseball, however, the solution is in our hands. We can go play a game. We can get together with a group of friends (or go to a con or to a game store and make a batch of new friends) and simply have fun. No talk about trademark disputes, or how much your cards are worth, or which game companies you don't like just play. Just have fun. Escape for a while. Lord knows the real world will still be here when you get back.
Article publication date: August 1, 1995
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