monopoly city streets

Played around with this new online game for a bit. Bought the street I live on, then grabbed as much of the old part of Nerja as I could. Makes me think … even though it’s only a game, when given the choice, I bought 7 times more streets in Nerja than I did in Berkeley. Granted, Acton Street cost me almost as much as all of my Nerja acquisitions, but still … perhaps I’m trying to tell myself something here.

It’s hard to tell if this game would have lasting power … I could imagine it getting boring and repetitious pretty quickly. I also may not have the desire to be cutthroat enough to do well in the game … I was given the opportunity to build a prison on someone else’s property, which would be v.bad for that person, and decided I didn’t want to piss anyone off.

premier fantasy

Anyone out there know anything about the English Premier League? Here’s my fantasy lineup for week one:

GK: Tim Howard (Brad Guzan on bench)

D: Graham Alexander, Brede Hangeland, Stephen Warnock (Michael Turner on bench)

M: Andrei Arshavin, Tim Cahill, Dirk Kuyt, Danny Murphy (Bernard Mendy on bench)

F: Gabriel Agbonlahor (captain, counts double), Robbie Keane, Fernando Torres (Bobby Zamora on bench)

a form of divination

Was reading a new piece by Ted Friedman and came across this one, from a few months ago:

Strat-O-Matic and the Baseball Tarot: Sense and Synchronicity in Sports and Games

Short but sweet. An excerpt:

[I]n my romance with mathematical rationality, I had repressed my attraction to the other half of Strat-O-Matic’s - and almost all games’ - allure: the role of random chance. I carefully collated my statistics, ran my percentages - then played the game by rolling dice, over and over. Where reason ended and luck began was exactly where work became play. It was chance which produced the excitement of the games - the improbable rallies, the no-hitters, the walk-off home runs.

Since I can’t seem to mention it enough, I’ll add yet another recommendation for The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow, which I think works nicely alongside Ted’s essay.

Ted writes about Strat-o-Matic, one of many sports simulations that existed long before the age of personal computers. Games like Strat tried to reproduce as closely as possible past performances in sports, i.e. you could replay the 1971 baseball season and all of the players and teams would perform close to how they had in real life. I’ve played a few of these myself, you could say … all the way back to at least 1961 and as recently as this morning. One crucial change over time, which I think was made possible mostly by computers, is the category of “career” sports sims. In these games, you don’t reproduce the past, you reproduce the future. You can begin with an entirely fictional world … Out of the Park is v.good at this for baseball, as is the online game Hardball Dynasty … or start with the “real” world and then simulate seasons, years, decades into the future … the all-time king of these games is Football Manager. With the old-style games like Strat, once you finished a season, you had to start over, and the key to the game’s value was how closely it mirrored “reality” (although, as Ted points out, within that structure, the best parts were when chance overcame the percentages). With the newer sims, once you finish a season, you start the next one. You might begin your game managing Liverpool and trying to get Fernando Torres to score 40 goals, but several seasons down the line, you might be managing the San Jose Earthquakes with a roster made up mostly of “regens,” fictional players who are created each season to fill the player pool into the infinite future.

I mention this because once you get into the more explicitly fictional world of the regens, you have nothing to compare your game to in the real world. If you are replaying the 1971 baseball season, you don’t want Roberto Clemente to hit .241 rather than the .341 he hit in real life (it’s OK if he hits .300 or .380, that’s the random factor at work). But if you are “replaying” the 2018 soccer environment … well, who is to say how many goals Torres will score, when he’ll be 34 years old? Will he even be playing then? For what team? These modern sports sims are open-ended. You still want them to seem “real” … you don’t want a 12-year-old with no apparent soccer skills scoring goal after goal in La Liga … but beyond that, everything seems unpredictable. Your own game skills matter more here, as well. I can manage the 1971 Giants and take them to the playoffs, which is where they finished in real life, without too much input from me. But it takes my own abilities to figure out what to do with Fernando Torres or the San Jose Earthquakes in 2018.

Most important to me in these games is the immersion factor: does it feel like “real”? You can figure out the underlying computer code and work the game to your advantage, although the best games are very good and hiding the man behind the curtain. I prefer to act as if the game WAS real life, and see how I can do. It may or may not be relevant that I have sucked at Football Manager for 15 years or so.

a get a life moment (or two, or three, or a hundred)

I'm too old to play games. I need a life. But ...

I've been playing Football Manager since the mid-90s. I finished my dissertation while playing it, which I suppose may explain the quality of the diss. It was called Championship Manager then, and nowadays, in the States, it's called World Wide Soccer Manager. Whatever the name, it is an addictive management simulation that puts you in charge of a soccer club. Considering how long as I've been playing, you'd think I'd be good at it, but the truth is, I suck. I figure that's a sign of the quality of the game: I keep playing even though I'm no good at it.

One kind of game I've never gotten into is the Massively Multiplayer Online Game. I'm not friendly enough to want to hang out online with my fellow geeks. But ...

The folks who created FM have now created Football Manager Live. It takes the basic idea of Football Manager and adapts it to MMOGs. Which means it's the same, but not the same, it's addictive, but in a different way, and you pay as you go instead of just buying the game once. After months of trying, I'm finally into a beta ... the real thing comes out in a few weeks ... and holy shit. No wonder young men spend all their time in front of their monitors playing online games.

I won't bother going into the game's details ... if you know FM, you'll recognize FML, if you don't, you don't care anyway. It's interesting the things they've done to make it work online. To give one example: the schedule. In a normal sports management sim, you play the schedule, one game at a time, in order, just like in "real" life. But in an online game, the trick is to play the games when both teams are online. So you are grouped into leagues that fit your personal schedule ... in my case, I'm in an evening league because when I'm home on the computer during the day, people in Europe are home for the evening. So most of my playing time will come between 10 AM and 4 PM my time. You end up playing games "out of order" (not really true, because there is no order) ... if both owners are online, they can play their scheduled games against each other, with a deadline after which the game's AI will take over. Today, my first day of league play, I got in ten matches, and I'm in first place, but only because other owners haven't played any games yet ... on a per-game basis, I'm in fifth place out of twenty.

So far, the most interesting thing is that I get to be the Stereotypical American. Everyone makes fun of me for not knowing anything about "football" (usually in jest, although one guy basically said we were all stupid because I use the "Time Out" button to pause and look things over). In my 20-team league, I am the only American ... in fact, I'm the only non-European. Again, this is probably because I can play during the day, when Robin is at work, and my day is Europe's night.

Once paper grading begins again, I'll struggle to find time for this, but right now, it's fun. I even had a match against a fan of Norwich City who wanted to know how Darren Huckerby was doing in San Jose. I guess it doesn't totally suck being an American, after all.

2008 Rubio Begonias

Been playing fantasy baseball since 1987, a long time ago. Here is my team for this year ... 12 teams, AL and NL, 5x5 Roto standings:

C: Mike Napoli

1B: Derrek Lee

2B: Rickie Weeks, Kelly Johnson

3B: Edwin Encarnacion

SS: Rafael Furcal

OF: Chris Young, Adam Jones, Jeremy Hermida, Michael Cuddyer, Austin Kearns

UT: Ty Wigginton

SP: Johan Santana, Jake Peavy, Javier Vazquez, Ian Snell

RP: Joakim Soria, Huston Street, George Sherrill, C.J. Wilson, Bob Howry

the ambiguity of management

See if you can guess what is being discussed here, without following this link:

Having leant towards the positivist theories of Sir Karl Popper earlier in the thread/article, I hope you'll forgive my taking a sharp U-turn into the realms of critical management theory. This is the area of management in which I earn my real-life living and about which I am the most qualified to comment. I hope the following section doesn't come across as self-satisfied onanism and most can read it in the manner it is intended.

I decided to steal Popper's falsification theory (and slightly misuse it) in order to illustrate how the best laid plans of mice and men may come to nothing due to an event or series of events that invalidates the previously observed data…. [M]anagement does not follow the practice of positivistic science; it is at best a social science, at its most abstract an art form. Either way, it is influenced almost entirely by language usage and the human responses this usage engenders. Simply put, it contains the full spectrum of human motivations and emotions which can only be made sense of through a complex network of interrelating theory. It is impossible to determine through scientific enquiry why two seemingly similar people react differently when confronted by the same phenomena. For that you need to understand their personal histories, current motivations, future plans, chemical imbalances etc, etc….

And then we are back to the crux of the matter. Decision making. We must learn to trust our decisions and the only way we can do that is through experience, literally learning from our mistakes. We must expect to go wrong at times and learn to adjust our decision making process to minimise the chances of it happening again. As things go wrong less and less often we begin to gain in confidence and then can start to experiment in more creative ways. Eventually, management becomes easy because we can no longer be surprised and we can relax. Or does it? The management process can always throw you a curve-ball…. Past success must be unlearned when its practices no longer solve the conundrums of the present.

and then there’s fantasy baseball

I did a pretty good job of not boring readers with tales of my fantasy baseball team. I mentioned it at the beginning, back in March when he had our draft, and I'm going to mention it now, since the season is over.

Of course, you'll probably guess since I've brought it up here that things worked out well. The official counting needs to be done, but the unofficial figures are up, and I won my league by 3 points after sitting far back in second for much of the season. It was my first time playing Yahoo Fantasy Baseball, and it was OK … I don't like playing with a full MLB draft pool, and I prefer "sabermetric" categories to the more traditional rotisserie ones. But, to be honest, I was thinking of skipping the whole thing this year, which marked my 20th anniversary of playing fantasy ball … in our second year, all the way back in '88, I met the man who did the Sopranos F-Word Count, for what that's worth. Anyway, I accidentally ended up with a Yahoo team, figured what the heck, and now I'm the (unofficial) champ.

I ended up using 49 players, and no, I won't list them all here. But a lineup of the most-regular of my players would look like:

Jorge Posada, Prince Fielder, Orlando Hudson, Adrian Beltre, Hanley Ramirez, Chris Young, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson, Corey Hart

My rotation would be:

Jake Peavy, Jeremy Bonderman, Curt Schilling, Tim Lincecum, Joe Blanton

And my bullpen would include:

Jeremy Accardo, Brad Hennessey, Alan Embree, Antonio Alfonseca, Kevin Gregg, Rafael Soriano

The above shows why I find full-MLB leagues less interesting … you end up with an All-Star lineup, filling the last spot on your roster with a good hitter like Corey Hart instead of a crappy backup catcher like Eliezer Alfonzo.