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Ethan Sturm | Rules of the Game

The power of MVP

Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 08:11

Every dorky kid has those video games that define their childhood. For some, it’s The Legend of Zelda. For others, Super Smash Bros. was their cup of tea.

Well, as an aspiring sports fanatic, my early teenage years were defined by EA Sports’ MVP Baseball.

MVP Baseball was incredibly ahead of its time in terms of sports simulations. Maybe it was the hitter’s eye that allowed you to pick up a pitch out of the pitcher’s hand, or the realistic way you had to flick the control stick to go with an outside pitch or pull one on the inside corner. Perhaps it was the way you could use the c−stick to make diving stops in the field or carefully stretch your lead before breaking for second. Or it could have just been that while every other player in the game was real, Barry Bonds was replaced by a white guy named Jon Dowd.

Whatever it was, it had me hooked. I would go through entire seasons — all 162 games — in a couple of months. I’d get tossed for arguing a call even though it had no effect on the actual outcome of the game. I’d commentate on the Cy Young race, or play a game with my friends where we’d snake draft four teams each and then build a team out of the best players.

EA Sports is famous for its soundtracks, and thanks to the hours I put in to that game, I still have every word of every song encoded in my head, from The Bravery’s “Honest Mistake” to Louis XIV’s very odd “Finding Out True Love is Blind.”

What’s amazing is how well it’s held up to the passage of time. Sophomore year, a friend of mine had a Nintendo GameCube on campus and we decided to give it a whirl. As I dominated him with my secret weapon — Zach Greinke’s 50 mph curveball, which no one can hold off of when it drops out of the zone — I was amazed by the fact that I didn’t feel like I was playing a game from six years earlier, a time before Twitter or Facebook.

Of course, the reason I had to be playing a game that is now more than seven years old is because Major League Baseball pulled the rug out from under EA Sports, signing an exclusivity deal with Take−Two Interactive, makers of the 2K Sports games. 2K was never able to live up to MVP Baseball — I never bought a single one — and baseball video games were relegated to a spot far behind Madden and FIFA.

But finally, after years and years of darkness, there may finally be a light at the end of the tunnel. The exclusivity agreement expires in 2012, opening the door for EA Sports to move back in on the baseball video game market. EA has only become more powerful since 2005, and you would have to imagine they have the resources to get back in the game.

The only question, it seems, is whether they’d want to. And, on that note, I will desperately plead that they do. The next generation of sports gamers deserves a chance to play an MVP game, and I wouldn’t mind getting back into baseball gaming either. The nostalgia market would undoubtedly boost sales — I’ve been dropping MVP Baseball casually into conversations today, and the reactions have been incredibly positive — and, by adding baseball back in, EA Sports would complete its stranglehold on the sports video game market.

I’m currently a senior in college. In six months, I will be a college graduate. Please, EA Sports, give my childhood one last spark of life. Jon Dowd and I will both be eternally grateful.

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Ethan Sturm is a senior who is majoring in biopsychology. He can be reached at Ethan.Sturm@tufts.edu or @esturm90.

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