Covid-19 sucks. The world is at a standstill. Millions of lives are changing by the day as world governments scramble to defend against a microscopic enemy. For nerds like us, we have video games, and for me, there’s MLB The Show 20. Whether on a random Tuesday or in times of crisis, video games provide us an escape. This feeling is the comfort food that we as gamers fiend for. They were here before this unprecedented shift in daily life, and they’ll, with certainty, help us through these trying times.
But not everyone is like myself, or like those of you reading this. Not everyone identifies as a gamer or owns a console (I know, shocking). Some find their solace in movies. Others in books, music, podcasts, you name it. There are millions of avenues in today’s entertainment ecosystem. That said, the great equalizer has and always will be sports, but right now, they’re gone.
Halting play is the right decision. It is. But I can’t help but remember September 21, 2001. Ten days after September 11 the United States was still in shock. The country’s population, mourning and in fear, yearning for answers. I was a kid, and I can remember everything feeling different.
September 21, 2001, was the first sporting event after 9/11, a ballgame between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves, in New York City nonetheless. The Mets won that game 3-2, and the feeling of normality finally showed its face after days of uncertainty.
The point here is that sports brought people together during a scary time. It didn’t matter who you were, what city you were from, or what you did for a living. Everyone was on the same team.
Unfortunately, the courts and the fields are empty right now. The lack of a baseball season saddens me, but over the past several days, I’ve noticed some things that keep me hopeful during this difficult time.
MLB The Show 20 came out on March 17. The series is the premier baseball simulation, and it’s the reason I switched to PS4. I play each new installment every year, so pre-ordering the game was business as usual for me.
Apart from watching games on TV and playing MLB The Show, I also follow several baseball personalities and players on social media. One of my preferred media members offered his followers fun facts about their favorite player if they posted photos of themselves practicing social distancing. A number of the replies featured new PS4 systems and copies of MLB The Show 20.
This is what video games can do. We’ve lost baseball for the time being, and we’re stuck at home, but fans are turning to a video game to provide the comfort typically reserved for the actual sport itself. It’s fascinating. I imagine parents quarantined at home. The games don’t usually air on TV until the evening, and now instead of watching their favorite players, they’ve become their favorite players. Their children get to become their favorite players alongside mom and dad in the afternoons. It’s beautiful.
The Show doesn’t stop there. Haley Walsh, current Mets first baseman Pete Alonso’s fiancé, recently posted a video where she and Pete played against each other in The Show. While pitching, she struck out Pete as he batted with a digital version of himself. Alonso went on post a tweet offering to live stream games between his Mets teammates and other MLB players in The Show. The tweet has garnered nearly 34,000 retweets.
In a similar story, former Oakland As pitcher and Barstool Sports podcaster Dallas Braden has begun streaming himself while playing MLB The Show. He’s gained a widespread following nationwide in recent years and is actively trying to offer his fans a way to relax and enjoy some baseball with him.
These are only small examples from a few outlets and people that I pay attention to. They meant the world to me when I saw them. Still, I wondered how the game was being received among its already established gaming community, given the current state of things. Needless to say, The Show’s player and content creator community is extremely active right now. Many of the game’s top YouTube channels are receiving thousands of views per day, and content is flooding viewer screens 24/7.
I’m aware that view counts like these aren’t necessarily surprising, especially during a game’s launch window. YouTube is the final frontier of the internet after all, and juiced viewing numbers for new games are commonplace these days. So, I began watching a few of the top YouTube content creators on their Twitch channels.
To be honest with you, I’m pretty new to Twitch. I’m still learning the etiquette and norms of streamers, so dissecting live streams was fun research. I imagined that most streamers would prefer to keep to themselves during the first few days of The Show’s launch. Without a second thought, I assumed the need to mass-produce videos at launch would require streamers to focus on themselves. I was wrong.
Most that I’ve been following have been partnering together on their streams. The game has brought them together, and in turn brought the, at times, thousands of people in their chat rooms together. I’d be in one chatroom with a few hundred people talking about the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff, and out of nowhere, we hear one of the other streamers raise a new topic, and our chat room changes gears without pause.
This is precisely what sports do for people. People who may have nothing in common become best friends for a brief moment in time. I’ve had full conversations about many things in these chat rooms, and while doing so, I forgot about the troubles of the world. This video game was able to bring a bunch of people in a chatroom together and find joy during a terrifying moment in time. I am thankful for this.
All of these references and stories are small gestures, of course, and under different circumstances, they would only catch my attention but for a second. But right now, they are everything. We’re all going through it nowadays, and any resemblance of community and togetherness is more valuable than any currency on the planet. It’s hope, and it’s a clean hand wiping away fog from glossy eyes.
On September 21, 2001, Mike Piazza hit a go-ahead two-run home run at Shea Stadium in Queens, NY. After the fallout of 9/11, that home run turned us all into New Yorkers, even the losing team. The game of baseball put the entire country on its back that day. Today we are all facing another stretch of difficult times, but there are no sports to pick us all up this time around. The great equalizer has stepped away for a while. However, its footprints are far from barren.
Video games gift players the opportunity to forget about reality for as long as they need it. Right now, Animal Crossings is taking the quarantined gaming community by storm. For a sports fan like myself, MLB the Show 20 is filling the space between worry and solace. Again, I am thankful for this. The days aren’t getting any easier right now, and if you need an outlet during this time, gaming is a fantastic route to pursue. You can be a pro, a novice; it doesn’t matter. Give them a shot, and if you are a baseball fan, I implore you to pick up MLB The Show 20.