This is a great little story of how much we take for granted what the internet has done for us, as a service, a form of entertainment, and perhaps most importantly, as a fuel for human collarboration. Even if you don’t like baseball, please stick with me here.
Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a few years know that with each baseball season comes a new PC baseball game, one that allows me to really strut my stuff when it comes to totally dorking out. I’ll take a team and play an entire season, mirroring exactly all of the trades and moves made in actual MLB (for all teams). I originally played the terrific High Heat games, then when 3DO went belly-up two years ago, I switched to EA, which managed to put out a really decent game with minimal shortcomings.
This year, us PC users were dealt a tough hand of cards. EA-Sports lost the licensing rights to MLB and some company called Take Two Interactive won exclusive rights. The idea of adjusting to yet another new PC game wasn’t ideal, but as is sum-and-substance for consumers, we really had no choice.
It wasn’t until about February when the news hit – Take Two wasn’t even going to produce a baseball title for the PC, only for the consoles (XBox, PS3, etc). I considered actually getting a console, then realized I’d essentially be spending a lot of money to largely play one game. Plus I don’t think I need another media distraction in my house. That said, I reserve the right to get a console anytime I want.
Stay with me here, non-baseball fans. So what does the PC gamer do here? Sure, we could play the 2005 EA version, but then you’re dealing with performance based on 2004 stats, no rookies from the 2005 season, no stadium updates and a year old schedule. Manageable maybe, but unacceptable for the true dorks (my hand is up).
So what happened? Well, a group of what we can only presume are kids did something pretty that I consider to be pretty amazing. In what can only be thought of as a stunning amount of work and collaboration from kids all across the country, the PC players banded together and re-made the face of the entire game – all through the internet! The centerpiece of which is MVP Mods, a site to hit to get subsequent updates all season long.
– A few of these kids updated all the stadiums, including the addition of real advertising and scoreboards to match that of the actual stadiums. The Green Monster scoreboard at Fenway is manual and keeps accurate stats!
– Another person changed all the intro screens and the design of in-game text/stats (such as the graphics to show stats for batters or pitchers). Now all the players head shots from the 2005 season are high-resoloution, crystal clear and make the game feel brand new.
– One guy actually went through and created all four levels of real baseball players. Whereas before all we had were the names of actual MLB players, we now have the MLB players, the rookies and get this – all three levels of minor leaguers: their names, their updated individual team pictures, their 2005 stats – everything.
– I don’t know how they did this, but the schedules were changed to match 2006 games instead of 2005.
– Somebody (pictured above) even took the time to build – from scratch – the new St. Louis Cardinals stadium. I can’t imagine the work this must have taken (larger size here)
– Every uniform worn by each team, stretching back nearly 100 years, is now available to use for any given game. So if I want to play a game between the Padres in their hideous early 80’s uniforms and the Pirates in their 1970s yellows, I can do that.
– Brand name shoes, bats, wristbands, elbow pads and batting gloves were created – and actually matched up with the correct players. If Mark Texiera wears Nike cleats in the real game, then he wears them here. If Francisco Rodriguez wears goggles on the mound, he wears them in the game. Incredible.
The work that has been done here has made the game 10 times better than EA’s original product! I didn’t participate in any of the massive upgrade other than to make a small monetary contribution to the Herculean effort. It’s very rare I make contributions to something other than a charity, but whoever these guys are, they deserved it and then some.
Effectively, you can still buy the 2005 EA version in the store, go home, download the upgrade for free, install it right over the original game and the game immeadiately improves by leaps and bounds.
Time and time again we’re told that machines, computers and media in general are turning us into walking zombies who are utterly devoid of true social interaction. While there are, unquestionably, valid concerns about how media and the internet are shaping us and our children, is online collaboration like this such a bad thing? Sure, it’s just a damn game in a sea of games available and I’m sure there are plenty of other examples like this to go around, but maybe what we’re seeing is no different than when Elvis disgusted our grandparents with his gyrations. We see a generation that goes home, logs on and zones out. They may see a world that’s completely opening up for them, allowing them to reach out to people of similar taste, style and substance. People they just may not find roaming the halls of their own schools. Like-minded people that will collaborate with them, for instance, to improve a silly PC baseball game.
Look, I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses. I know the pitfalls and problems with what can happen online. Seems like “Dateline” has devoted the last 40 episodes to sexual predators. But I get the feeling that for every instance when the newspaper reports that kind of stuff, there’s 10 kids out there somewhere who are connecting with other kids hundreds or thousands of miles away – and feeling like maybe there is life outside of the miserable high school they go to. I’m not sure that’s an overwhelmingly bad thing.
My thinking is that if this isn’t a shining example of how the internet has changed everything, then I don’t know what is.