In addition to our team-selected Game of the Year Awards 2020, individual members of the PC Gamer team each select one of their own favourite games of the year. We'll post new personal picks, alongside the main awards, throughout the rest of the month.
I registered at blaseball.com at the beginning of its second week of existence. By the end of that week I'd named a blaseball stadium. My suggestion became canon, because Blaseball isn't just a website that developer The Game Band created, it's a world that fans get to shape by participating in it.
The premise is simple, though it's grown more complicated as the weeks and months have passed. Blaseball is a free browser-based simulation of a baseball league. The league is loaded with goofball team names like The New York Millennials, The Houston Spies, The Breckenridge Jazz Hands, and the Canada Moist Talkers (the team I chose to root for). Teams, likewise, are full of weird player names. Jaylen Hotdogfingers. Eugenia Garbage. Oliver Notarobot. Polkadot Patterson. Cute, right?
Each season lasts from Monday to Friday, with a new game beginning every hour (though siestas, when the entire league takes a break for a week or more, are pretty common). During the week fans bet fake coins (you can beg the Blaseball Gods for more coins if you run out) and watch these speedy little games on a little text-only play-by-play. And during the season you can also spend coins on votes for new rules to be enacted in the following season, and blessings (like buffs) that your team can acquire to give them an edge.
Then there's Shame. Shame occurs if the home team scores the winning run in the bottom of the last inning. In regular baseball, this ends the game. In Blaseball, though, the game continues, with the loser forced to continue playing even though there is no hope for winning. In the official Blaseball Discord, this results in everyone watching the game typing SHAME over and over again. Simply describing this act feels inadequate. Witnessing and participating in it is sheer joy. You're gonna have to trust me on that.
Fake baseball, funny teams, goofy players, the occasional odd rule, that's enough right there for an enjoyable browser-based pastime. But each week-long season brings new surprises, particularly when it comes to "weather" like the hellmouth that opened in Utah and swallowed the Moab Sunbeams (the team is now called the Hellmouth Sunbeams) and an eclipse that lasted for all of season two and blinded the umps, who then began randomly incinerating players (rest in peace, Dickerson Greatness, and many, many others). Peanut Plagues followed. So did Lots of birds. Bloodrain. A black hole. It's downright Cthulhu in there.
But the best part of blaseball is the community. The fans. The day I registered there was very little to Blaseball but Blaseball itself. By the end of that week there were wiki pages for each team. There were stats-crunchers creating spreadsheets full of historical data. There was fan art and blaseball cards and twitter accounts and elaborate backstories written for every single player in the league. It was an explosion of fan fiction as hundreds of people brought the Blaseball's silly team and player names to life. It was genuinely remarkable to witness. Just check out The Moist Talkers' page. You can spend hours there, and that's just one team.
My own contribution to the lore of Blaseball was tiny but I am still weirdly proud of it. When someone asked what the Canada Moist Talkers' stadium should be called, I suggested "Gleek" which is a weird and sometimes unintentional form of spitting. And the stadium is named Gleek Arena. It's Blaseball canon. You can look it up.
That's the real magic of what The Game Band did when they created Blaseball. Yes, the game itself is amazingly fun and engrossing, with ridiculous events like the appearance of a vengeful Peanut God furious that players fed millions of peanuts to a squid. But the fans have shaped it and made it their own, not just by voting for new rules but by filling in the margins with delightful stories, songs, podcasts, twitter accounts, and more. They've even raised money for charity.
Blaseball is currently on an extended hiatus—its popularity at times has crashed servers, and The Game Band occasionally has to wave the white flag and spend some time regrouping. I hope it's back soon, but in the meantime there's still plenty to enjoy just by opening up the wiki or visiting one of the many spinoff sites. The fans have made sure of that.