The Global Community of Text-Based Sports Sims - Wolverine Studios

Tim Moungey
Wolverine Studios Community Manager

One of the most underrated aspects of the gaming world – whether console or PC – are the communities that spring up around a particular product. This is even more so the case in the Internet age, where ease of low-cost digital communication has coincided with the rise of English as the primary global language to make the establishment of and connection between playerbases a simple prospect.

So it is that in my decades now of playing text-based sports sims that I’ve found literal lifelong friends – from places like Ireland, England, Spain, Brazil, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Slovenia, Germany, and many more countries too numerous to list here. And of course, all across the continental United States and stretching out to Hawaii and Alaska.

Primarily this occurs through multiplayer leagues – many of which run for literal years in real-life terms. And even when a league finally disbands, the creation of new ones finds many of the same people migrating from league to league – or, frequently – participating in multiple MP leagues at the same time. Chats spring up in Facebook Messenger groups or in other conversation mediums such as Slack, where the discussion becomes a mix of the game, the league, and off-topic/real life topics. Over time, this forges friendships – something that can be difficult in our adult years, as numerous research studies have demonstrated.

The friendships forged from these leagues can sometimes have far-reaching effects. Just to give one example, when I was looking for another job a few years ago, one of my European friends from a Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball league looped me in to a Creative Writer position at his company – a mobile game developer. I actually made it as far as the final round, where I finished second to someone who already had experience working with that type of development. While I didn’t get the job, it was still an opportunity I never would have had access to otherwise.

You might counter that the MP community is small, the bulk of text-sim players are those who play solo. This is true. But even the solo player base creates opportunities for community. See Paradox’s AAR forums, where players write stories about their games, our own Dynasty section, etc. It’s a display of creativity and imagination that draws people in, makes them want to read and stay around. (And in some cases, even purchase games because the story has hooked them in – something I’ve accomplished with more stories than I’ll ever know).

Though the MP base is small, and the overall sports text-sim market a niche within the video game industry (save for perhaps Football Manager, which enjoys the advantage of a lengthy history and showcasing the world’s most popular sport), that makes creating community and forging connections all the easier. And in a way, it’s fitting – just as the sports text-sim market is comparatively small, so too are the number of developers. Many of them are independent, solo projects programmed on a part-time basis until they secure a stable enough revenue stream to quit their day job and work on the games full-time.

Thus, ask Gary if he knows X or Y text-sim developer and he’ll almost certainly say, “Yes.” This developer community, despite technically being competitors in a business sense, frequently converse with one another, and many have met in real life. So rather than cut-throat as many industries are, there’s a spirit of cooperation and supporting one another – sometimes leading to business partnerships as developers come together under an umbrella. Such is the case with Gary and Brooks and Shaun in the PureSim days (who I hope will make a return to baseball at some point).

This developer community also frequently supports and encourages novice developers to grow the industry and bring in fresh talent and voices. Gary, as many of you know, began with .400 Software Studios, with Total Pro Basketball and Total College Basketball as a self-taught developer. Even me, your Community Manager, has dusty design documents from the beginnings of projects lying around (an Olympics-style text-sports sim, a basketball player RPG that would synergize with the Draft Day Sports basketball engine, even a traditional RPG that would be a Wolverine Studios genre first if it ever came to fruition).

But it isn’t just on the development side that sports text sims benefit from community. Professional licensing is expensive – a cost far beyond the reach of most independent developers. For legal reasons, team names and logos are fictionalized by default. With a modding community, who willingly volunteer their time, energy, and skill, real-world databases are created. These user mods greatly assist in the immersion factor of the game for players, who are used to the real world and sometimes don’t desire to immerse themselves in a fictional universe.

Finally, and this is one of the most recent developments in the sports text sim community, are streams and shares of video gameplay. Historically, game streaming has been the province of action-oriented games – leading to the rise of esports leagues (now considered a professional sport by many people). Text-based sports simulations typically haven’t received the streaming treatment. But that’s changing. We’re seeing more and more players streaming and creating “Let’s Play” video dynasties, and they’re attracting attention.

We’ve even started doing this ourselves by way of creating streaming developer diaries in the last week or so. They’ve been favorably received, giving us another avenue and opportunity to communicate directly with our players and gain their feedback on things such as proposed changes and feature wishlists. It’s a much more immediate, intimate experience that allows for faster compilation of player opinions, rather than just the old way of re-reading the forums and emails and compiling data that way (Note: We still use those methods, too. It allows us a more complete picture of what players want and think).

As you can see, the community involved in the sports text sim world, smaller than other genres though it may be, is not a single, monolithic entity. Rather, it’s a broad, literally globally-spanning phenomenon that involves numerous strands. Whether it’s the multiplayer leagues, the solo player dynasties, the tight-knit developer and modding groups, or the newly arrived streams, there’s plenty of ways to get involved in the rich, vibrant community of our genre. To take your first steps, why not visit our forums or download one of our free demos?