Blaseball’s Absurdity Mirrors Our Current Times

Are we doing a great job, too?

Throughout the haze that was last semester, I attended class through my laptop. Hidden between my Zoom and Canvas tabs was Blaseball, a strange real time simulation game that lets you bet in game currency on fictional “baseball” teams. For those uninitiated, it’s utterly absurd

In the most basic of terms it’s a random number generator. But that’s before you get into the lore of the world. Each team has its own background story and personality – for example the Boston Flowers, my pick, has a particular chant that says “let’s grow!”(get it, because they’re flowers?). Even the players have their own lore, usually created by the community. Fan favorite Jessica Telephone was once Blaseball’s most beloved hitter until she turned heel during the Shelled One boss fight.

Yes, I did just say “Shelled One boss fight”. Did I forget to mention the peanut boss that was encasing players in shells? That’s how absurd Blaseball is.

Logging onto Twitter after a long day of classes and realizing I missed a JRPG boss fight against a giant peanut god was just as bad as finding out Biden won Georgia through a tweet talking about how a character from Supernatural got sent to super hell for being gay. That kind of whiplash became standard this year. And, in a way, Blaseball mirrored that absurdity.

During his talk about Blaseball at the 2020 Roguelike Celebration, Joel Clark talked about how Blaseball was meant to simulate chaos, for which it needed to have an intentionally broken system. Some of my favorite clearly broken aspects of it are the players getting randomly incinerated and the Election. The Election is an event that lets you vote for blessings and decrees that affect the season. You can vote as many times as you can afford because each vote costs 100 coins. It was designed to cause mayhem. In a way, taking part of these events and activities wasn’t really even an escape from the chaos of the world, it was more like a simulation of it. That’s why the community that formed around Blaseball really surprised me.

It surprised me to see thousands of people constantly trying to work around this intentionally broken system. In season 6, Blaseball fans came together to resurrect the first player to ever get incinerated (due to the opening of the Forbidden Book), Jaylen Hotdogfingers.

There was a blessing called “Lottery Pick” that let a team steal the 14th most Idolized player. The fans coordinated to make sure Hotdogfingers was #14 on the Idol leaderboard when blessings were announced and it worked. Hotdogfingers was revived and drafted into the Seattle Garages, which did lead to a whole other series of tragic incinerations, but that’s another story. 

When I started chanting for the Boston Flowers in what seemed to be a silly baseball game early this year, I didn’t expect to participate in community organized necromancy, but here we are. This is just one of several big organized efforts to play around its absurd rules, but the Blaseball fandom has even gone further than just the game itself.

Taking part of this community was a distraction for me, even after discovering that its world was just as chaotic as ours

There’s a robust role-playing community on Twitter and players actively work to build lore for the game with fan art. But one of my favorite aspects is the weekly Blaseball Cares Day. Every Sunday, the community highlights charities and causes to donate to, sometimes even corresponding to the cities of the league’s teams. There’s even a dedicated artist collective that makes merch and donates the proceeds to charity.

Taking part of this community was a distraction for me, even after discovering that its world was just as chaotic as ours. But if I can take anything from my time on it, it’s that people still come together no matter how uncertain and antagonistic the odds may be. Maybe the one comfort I’ve gotten from this year is a sense of community and solidarity. It’s funny how this absurdist baseball game even managed to simulate that. 

As the year comes to an end, I sift through it and look for the bright spots in what I know was a difficult time for everyone. It may be a small thing, but I think for a lot of people, Blaseball was one of their bright spots. The game is  currently on hiatus, and despite knowing how its chaotic nature mirrors our current world, I can’t wait to once against participate in the cultural event that is Blaseball.

By Harriette Chan

Harriette is a cheesecake enthusiast, video game lover, and disgruntled college student. When she grows up she wants to be a writer, or an archaeologist, or a barista. Whatever, she'll figure it out. She is currently working towards her BFA in Creative Writing in Boston. You can follow her on Twitter @heyriette

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