Despite being off work and mostly offline the past fortnight, I couldn't help but be caught in the cultural phenomenon that is Blaseball. It's a browser game simulating a supernatural baseball league, where players place bets on teams like the Chicago Firefighters (motto: "We're from Chicago") and Charleston Shoe Thieves ("Your kicks are my kicks"), vote on rule changes, and pray that players like Jessica Telephone or Blood Hamburger aren't struck by a peanut allergy or incinerated by a rogue umpire. While I wasn't online to play last season, I did spent a lot of time cooing over fan art on Twitter. The fan art community is: very good.
Blaseball is not a regular sports betting game, mind. All sorts of supernatural quirks can change the rules or turn players to ash. Players can also buy votes (not for real money) for a say in future changes and events, from stat rerolls on players to the introduction of a peanut economy. The developers, The Game Band roll with fan fiction and theories, and even supposed server failures can be big events. I honestly don't know how planned any of it is.
After Blaseball went down to a "502 Bad Gateway" error in the middle of a match between the Charleston Shoe Thieves and Los Angeles Tacos last week, it seems time was fractured, leading to an interdimensional peanut addressing players then the Los Angeles Tacos becoming Unlimited Tacos to reflect their new infinitely shattered home city. It's an event known as The Grand Unslam and immortalised in this fan's fantastic picture:
(You will need to click through to tweets for the full versions of artwork, and I'm sorry for the inconvenience but I wanted to keep their original messages and credits firmly attached.)
I didn't know what Blaseball was for ages. Being on holiday, I took a little glee in the freedom to not learn about a video game for once. I was still admiring the fan art. Building on the loose mood the game sets through text, fans have together spun a world that's kinda horror but mostly colourful, playful, and pretty damn queer. Blaseball is, as far as anyone is concerned, played by humans, animals, demons, cryptids, and everything in between. People often draw favourite players, like Landry Violence of the Hades Tigers:
Though Landry was later incinerated, RIV:
Here's the adorable Richmond Harrison of the Canada Moist Talkers:
And Caligula Lotus of the Boston Flowers:
Halexandrey Walton of Yellowstone Magic wields her bat in her jaws:
While the Tigers' Jessica Telephone has a legendary bat named the Dial Tone:
Team posters are popular, like this striking one for the Hellmouth Sunbeams (motto: "Stare into the Sun..."):
Or this fun one for the Houston Spies:
Me, two weeks ago: Yeah, I don't really "get" sports. Like they're fine, but they've never really been my thing.— Pyromantic (@PyromanticArts) August 5, 2020
Me now: BLASEBALL. LETSGO. SPIES!!!!!!! LETS GOOOOOO!!!
@Houston_Spies @blaseballcomms #blaseball pic.twitter.com/jyMDU4vHXX
Such fun posters:
Some pictures commemorate matches:
Others celebrate transfers:https://twitter.com/telekeys/status/1290054765271949312
Or express a... threat? A mood? A motion:
Baseball cards are popular:
So many baseball cards:
All of the baseball cards:
— Carina Guevara (@cari_guevara) August 9, 2020
Some fan art is just an ethos:
And, of course, many acknowledge that The Commissioner is doing a great job:
When it was finally time to sign up, I struggled to pick a team to support. The Hades Tigers (motto: "Never look back") have a thrilling vibe and Jessica Telephone is an obvious hero of the sport. The Tigers having so many fans (especially after winning last championship) does mean they have a load of great fan art too, which I won't deny is one of my main motivations:
Really, so much great Tigers art. It's always pleasing to imagine a baseball shirt with VIOLENCE across the shoulders:
number one blaseball team the hades tigers pic.twitter.com/Zu9zOcTzHC— allissa 亮 (@formyths) August 1, 2020
I will confess that Boyfriend Monreal singlehandedly almost got me supporting the Kansas City Breath Mints:
?? Boyfriend, Boyfriend, vote for Boyfriend! Who’s the best? It’s our pal Boyfriend! ?? pic.twitter.com/MLWQWacWZw
— annie! (@dancynrew) August 5, 2020
And I was tempted by the whole idea of the Houston Spies:
But... one team had a scrappy, dirtbag, outsider vibe I really liked:
Amongst all this great fan art, this one bold image is what won me over to the Charleston Shoe Thieves:
Your kicks are my kicks. Let's go, Shoe Thieves!
There are so many more good pictures than I could possibly include, this is just a sample. Hit #blaseball on Twitter and go wild with gawping yourself. You can also read this fan wiki for retellings of matches and backstories, a collaborative storytelling project which is a bit too much for me but I still respect it. You're encouraged to believe whatever you want about the sport of Blaseball and its players. And draw cool pictures of it.
Blaseball is "taking an extended siesta" after the championship wrapped up on the weekend, but is planned to return for weekly leagues with new features, fixes, and such. For now, you can head on over to Blaseball's site to sign up for free and poke around the wreckage of last season, trying to understand exactly what happened.