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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Ready Player One

Anyone who’s ever tried to explain baseball to someone genuinely encountering it for the first time knows how hard it is to put the game into words. But I noticed something else about how I told the story. It was entirely about the batter and his brave adventure. It’s a strange decision, given that the batter is only half of the equation. In some sense, it’s understandable. When trying to explain any game, it’s a good idea to start with one of the universal features of competitive games, which is that someone usually wins and someone usually loses, and to talk about the ways in which that winner and loser are determined. Baseball is a “points game” (as opposed to the other common type of competition, the “clock game”), so I naturally described the ways in which baseball’s points are scored. You can’t score in baseball if you are pitching.

I think there’s more to it than that, though. The batter maps a bit better onto our cultural norms of the hero on a quest. There he stands, alone, in the right-handed batter’s box, and with a simple weapon he must somehow elude nine different monsters as he attempts to both hit the ball and make it to the next station. It’s the storyline to every non-sports video game and “guy on a quest” movie that I saw growing up. For some reason, the batter always feels like the hero of the story.

Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: April 18, 2018 at 10:10 AM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: baseball, newbie

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   1. BDC Posted: April 18, 2018 at 11:07 AM (#5655876)
Baseball is a “points game” (as opposed to the other common type of competition, the “clock game”)


I can't figure out what this means.
   2. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: April 18, 2018 at 11:21 AM (#5655888)
Piffle or not piffle?
   3. McCoy Posted: April 18, 2018 at 11:40 AM (#5655901)
Is this just an excuse to talk about the movie? I haven't seen it yet though I probably will see it when comes out on TV. Just based on the trailers and who they cast in the roles in looks like Spielberg missed part of the point of the book. The main actors aren't supposed to be good looking human beings.
   4. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: April 18, 2018 at 12:43 PM (#5655938)
Baseball is a “points game” (as opposed to the other common type of competition, the “clock game”)

I can't figure out what this means.


I think he has garbled the distinction between a clock-based game and a turn-based game. Baseball is a turn-based game (also cricket) whereas most team sports are clock-based. But both are points-based.

What would contrast with a "points game"? A race, I guess. There is tons of game theory about this stuff and I don't know much.
   5. BDC Posted: April 18, 2018 at 12:47 PM (#5655942)
I see what you're saying, Crispix. I don't know the theory or terminology either. In both baseball and cricket, too, as in many sports, you can score an unlimited number of points; whereas in others (tennis, volleyball) you play to a certain set target of points. Maybe that's part of what TFA is getting at. Maybe not :)

The more important distinction to me is goal vs. tag sport (soccer/basketball vs. baseball/cricket), with tennis/volleyball in yet another category, "hot potato." But there are lots of other ways to divide the sports.
   6. Baldrick Posted: April 18, 2018 at 01:27 PM (#5655973)
Haven't clicked on a Prospectus link in a while. Based on this, I'm not missing much.
   7. Tim M Posted: April 18, 2018 at 02:22 PM (#5656026)
I liked the article, because I have tried a few times to explain the game to foreigners who had never seen it. It is really, really hard, because we grew up with it and take so much for granted, while the other person has no clue.

I remember one guy thought it was ridiculous to have assigned positions like LF and 2B, they should roam around based on batter & situation, and generally bunch up where they think the ball is going. He predicted the current trend w/ shifts!
   8. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: April 18, 2018 at 02:41 PM (#5656039)
I liked the article, because I have tried a few times to explain the game to foreigners who had never seen it. It is really, really hard, because we grew up with it and take so much for granted, while the other person has no clue


Seconded!
   9. Perry Posted: April 18, 2018 at 02:51 PM (#5656047)
   10. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 18, 2018 at 03:01 PM (#5656053)
The main actors aren't supposed to be good looking human beings.
Where are you gonna find unattractive actors these days? Maybe Danny Trejo, Paul Giamatti and Kathy Bates were already booked.
   11. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: April 18, 2018 at 03:04 PM (#5656059)
Superstore has a bunch of unattractive actors.
   12. mitchiapet Posted: April 18, 2018 at 03:39 PM (#5656073)
BDC/#1 and Crispix/#4,

A "points game" is a game where you try to have a score better than your opponent, whereas a "clock game" is a game where you have a better time than your opponent. Most team sports are points games where the team with the higher score wins, even though they are bounded with various timing mechanisms. Golf is a points game where you try to use fewer strokes than your opponents. Races and feats of endurance are clock games.
   13. eric Posted: April 18, 2018 at 04:13 PM (#5656093)
Is this just an excuse to talk about the movie? I haven't seen it yet though I probably will see it when comes out on TV. Just based on the trailers and who they cast in the roles in looks like Spielberg missed part of the point of the book. The main actors aren't supposed to be good looking human beings.


I've seen the movie, never read the book. It was entertaining enough.

In response to the above quote, though...I'm sure Spielberg recognized that (he gave the girl lead a token defect, and made the male lead awkward as all hell--he'd fit right in at BBTF), however he also very much knows what it takes to create a blockbuster movie, and ugly people ain't it.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but when movie budgets are into nine figure territory and they need a hell of a return, movie-makers are going to do what they need to achieve that return.
   14. BDC Posted: April 18, 2018 at 04:39 PM (#5656117)
Thanks, mitchiapet!
   15. Zach Posted: April 18, 2018 at 05:31 PM (#5656155)
I don't know if being unattractive is actually required by the book. The point they're trying to establish is that the characters prefer escapism to reality. That can be done in multiple ways.

The book is a fun read if you're not expecting too much. It's got a good plot, it's paced well, and the setpieces are original and fun. Lately there's been a backlash about the quality of the prose, but that kind of seems beside the point to me.
   16. eric Posted: April 18, 2018 at 06:51 PM (#5656186)
The point they're trying to establish is that the characters prefer escapism to reality.


Really, it's a a lecture about society going that route. And I have to admit, I do appreciate the irony of a sappy action/love story movie (or book) trying to make that point.

I agree with your synopsis of the story. There are some lingering plot holes, but nothing too major. It's fun, interesting enough without taxing the ol' noggin, and has some nice visuals. Not a movie I feel has a lot of re-watch value, but I left the theater not wishing I had just stayed home and saved money, which is fairly high praise coming from me.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: April 18, 2018 at 09:28 PM (#5656267)
Although reduced to "points" there are also the judged sports (figure skating, snowboarding, etc.).

Sometimes those and especially things like the throwing field sports (discus, etc.) are different yet again in that they're the single best out of 6 throws/jumps, whatever. There's some similarity in the jumping field sports and weightlifting where you can fail a certain number of times as long as you clear the height eventually ... and you can pass on heights/weights. Or in the less applicable skating, snow boarding, skateboarding, diving, etc. "degree of difficulty" plays a big role. In short, winning is based on your best effort being better than everybody else's effort -- a bit like you win a baseball game if you have the highest-scoring inning. See also sports (rugby for example) where bonus win/draw/lose points are handed out based on scoring a certain number of tries.

And track races still aren't quite strictly time/speed. Although I can't imagine when it last happened, in theory you could run a 100-meter world record in the semi-final heat and not even medal in the final heat. So it's really about how fast did you run in your 3rd race of the event. Compared with discus where your winning throw could be anywhere from throw 1 to throw 6.

You get odd wrinkles in the grand cycling tours where winning (or finishing near the top of) some stages also brings time bonuses. So it's not strictly about having the lowest cumulative time in the TDF but also how well-timed your time advantages are. I don't think a TdF has ever been decided on time bonuses such that the guy with the best actual riding time lost to a guy with better bonuses but it could happen.

Then there's time trials and maybe still some traditional track cycling and traditional speedskating where competition isn't head-to-head but strictly a race against the clock.
   18. Walt Davis Posted: April 18, 2018 at 09:34 PM (#5656268)
On explaining baseball, of course you focus on the batter in explanation because he's the one who scores and everything that happens is the result of him hitting (or not) the ball. There's little to say about the pitcher and defense other than "they are trying to stop the batter."

You wouldn't try to explain basketball by starting with the explanation about man-to-man, zone, press defenses.

From my experience, it's once you get to tag vs force out situations where things start to get awkward to explain. Then why runners can't advance on a fly ball but can on a ground ball ... well, OK it's not that he can't advance on a fly ball it's that he has to "tag up."

I suppose this will be one advantage of achieving the dream of 100% TTO ball. :-)

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