is, on its surface, a curious game: it's essentially a baseball take on Puzzle Quest
, featuring crude parodies of famous players and figures around the sport, using performance-enhancing drugs that serve as the game's special powers. But it's the creator of the game that is particularly noteworthy. Dirk Hayhurst is a former baseball player who's become an author of several best-selling books about his life in baseball and some of the things that fans don't necessarily see about the culture. He's also become a provocative analyst
, and was part of the post-game show on TBS for the 2013 MLB playoffs. And now he's a game developer, and he took the time to talk to me about this baseball parody he's helped to create.
The genesis of Bush League came about when Hayhurst noticed that "There's no good baseball game out there that kind of trolls baseball. You have all these scandals every year, but you never to seem to have a game that has all these players and all the drama they get into. And it's such a big thing right now in Major League Baseball to get caught using steroids, right? I thought, why can't we just make a game where you have to use steroids to win, and just troll the entire industry? I'm kind of like a black sheep of the baseball world anyways, and I always have kind of shown the other side of it, I thought, this is a great premise for a video game. Let's make Candy Crush with steroids."
The hook to Bush League is in the way that it tries to parody baseball. Famous players and other figures around the sport both past and present are the opponents that populate the game, and their personalities and dialogue make light of things that, say, MLB: The Show or RBI Baseball 14 would never touch.
Hayhurst's unafraid to make fun of situations that he was involved in. There's one character, Purcey Tweeps, who parodies David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. Hayhurst criticized Price's performance after a playoff game he lost, and Price insulted Hayhurst's playing career and said "SAVE IT NERDS.". Purcey in the game makes reference to social media and to the nerds comment. Everything is a bit crude and over-the-top, but meant to, as Hayhurst says, "troll baseball" and "[service] that idea that baseball takes itself too seriously and needs a good mocking every now and then just to keep things even."
While Hayhurst financed the development of the game and his name is on it, he didn't just slap his name on it - he played an active role in development. "I was in charge of the art direction, the music direction... all the powers, I had to nest all the AI development, I had to decide the way it was going to look, the way it was going to feel, I had a say in all of that. At times I frustrated the guy doing the code, but it was a learning experience. And so there were things that I learned taking a shot at making a game that I never would have learned had I pursued a degree." Hayhurst says he realized his strengths were "the writing, and designing the characters and how the game should feel, and my coder had his strengths, which was taking all these wild ideas I had, parsing them down, teaching me the ropes, and making them work in the actual game.
Hayhurst doesn't want Bush League to be a static product either: he wants to, over time, update the game to incorporate other notorious events and scandals as characters and powers. He says he would love to tackle other sports in a similar way.
But given that he's created this media career for himself, is Hayhurst afraid of the blowback that could come from this parody of the sport and its players that he's created? He says "I don't think of the church of baseball as some holy sacrament that everyone has to be reverential to, especially guys like me that didn't have long careers. This kind of stuff deserves to get picked on a little bit, because it's quite ridiculous when you think about it. I have always done that. And I understand because I'm in the sports entertainment field, I'm criticizing the sports entertainment field. I'm not criticizing these individual players, I'm criticizing the Franken-player that we've made out of them by knowing very little about who they are and taking what we know publicly and hyping it up, and turning it into something it isn't. That is what I've always done, and that's what got me on TBS and ultimately keep it from it at some point, but that's who I am, and that's the style that I like to work in."
Thanks to Dirk Hayhurst for his time. Bush League is available now.
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Released: 2014-04-25 :: Category: Game