The story didn’t end there. The simulacrum that was “The Show” began to create its own reality.
In April, Major League Baseball sponsored a video game tournament in which real-life baseball players took control of their virtual teams to compete in the “Players League.” (Tampa Bay pitcher Blake Snell won)
The “baseball season” had become a simulation of itself.
Fortunately, MLB was able to put together a shortened season that began in late July.
Fans weren’t allowed into the stadiums due to concerns about social distancing. This created a problem both for players used to feeding off crowd energy and for audiences watching the games at home. Would baseball be baseball without the sound of fans cheering and jeering every play?
Baseball turned to a simulacra solution. MLB The Show 20 had the sounds baseball needed.
The game’s creators, San Diego Studio, had visited every major league stadium in the country to gather situation-specific sound and make the game as realistic as possible. So, MLB used these simulated crowds to replace the real crowds.
“Keep in mind that these sounds—artificial, determined by an algorithm that’s getting cues from a system designed to track and record every pitch—are heard both by the players on the field and the fans at home. Fans are hearing, through their TV, artificial sounds from a baseball video game that are piped into the stadium’s PA, with their texture determined by the same video game’s algorithm, mediated by the broadcast speakers in the stadium designed to pick up the “crowd” noise, in order to relay it back into your home. If you could watch the exact same sequence of pitches and plays on MLB The Show, you would hear the exact same crowd. An illusionary crowd.” – “Baudrillard in the Time of COVID” by Chad Post, Three Percent
The NBA, WNBA, NFL, and others have also been broadcasting fake stadium noise, sometimes supplemented with a “tap-to-cheer” app.
And as if to make things even creepier, baseball teams began selling fans cardboard copies of themselves to sit in the stands. Other leagues followed suit.
The NBA one-upped them all, putting fans in virtual seats using Microsoft Teams when it returned in the fall to wrap up its season. This created a bizarre display that was pretty distracting for people watching at home. The league did away with them for the 2020-21 season.