The Stoa

(Noun, Ancient Greek) A sheltered walkway or porch often used as common spaces.
A blog about digital/gaming communities and the importance they have.

The Baseball Analogy

This is an off-topic post. I am currently working on my first big article, and it has turned out to be a much larger task than I anticipated. Today, I will share with you an analogy I came up with a long time ago that I used to attempt to recite often.

Here is some quick context: There is a term often used in Team Fortress 2: friendly. A friendly player is basically a player who is intentionally not contributing to core game play; instead, they are goofing off, acting silly, etc.

The opposite end of a player who is doing nothing could be called a “tryhard”’: a term for a player who effectively is taking the game too seriously.

In my Team Fortress 2 community, our servers can only hold 24 players at a given time. During peak traffic, these spots are coveted by members of the community, who will sometimes wait until a spot opens up. Because of this demand, one of our rules is that we don’t allow “friendly players” when the server is at maximum capacity. Additionally, they are not allowed to be friendly if the result of their doing so is throwing their team off balance. For example, if the teams are something like 7 versus 8, but the team with 7 players contains a friendly, meaning it is actually 6 versus 8.

When these events occur, we will typically start by quickly asking the offending player to please participate and explain why, based on what criteria makes sense. This almost always results in the offending player being offended. Not understanding our perspective or accusing us of being tryhards.

After repeated instances of this occurring, I came up with the baseball analogy. I’d like to think that the way we operate our servers is more comparable to a game of baseball. Baseball is a sport that can be played competitively in a professional setting, similar to video games. But it can also be played non-competitively for fun, charity, a school activity, etc.

The idea is that it is fun when everyone is just having fun. While there isn’t much expectation of being great, at least everyone is doing their best and playing the game. A friendly activity wouldn’t be so enjoyable if you had a person randomly walking around the field, disrupting it for everyone, and then getting upset when being asked to move aside. Conversely, in the context of tryhards, it wouldn’t be so fun to be playing a casual game where one person (or someone’s parent) is taking things far too seriously.

An important detail is that there are definitely scenarios where these variations of behavior are OK. There are times when you can casually go for a stroll on a baseball diamond, and there are times where a team is working together for a very serious victory. That is the joy of having the freedom to approach a game like Team Fortress 2 in the way you want to play, because there are options out there for anyone.

These variations in behavior aren’t a problem; no one in these scenarios is automatically bad because they choose to do things differently. However, in these defined contexts, they do not always mesh together. These groups of people may not get along during a specific scenario, and that is OK.

We don’t want to punish friendly players or tryhards if we can help it, but sometimes our baseball field isn’t right for their game.