Every few months, it seems, we hear about another attempt to create ‘electronic sports cards’ as part of some online game. The game creators try to drum up interest by playing up the ‘collecting’ angle and create ways to build a team or online collection that try to mimic the experience of collecting physical cards.
Here’s some advice.
You want to create a video game where you can trade or use some sort of purchase angle to acquire the virtual players to have more success? Fine. Might be fun if you’re into social gaming. Just don’t try to pass them off as “the baseball cards of the future”.
Collecting baseball cards is a physical experience.
You go to the store or order online. You get the box in the mail. You can’t wait to rip open the box. You touch the packs. You smell them (even without gum, card packs still have a smell). You open the packs and feel the cards. You flip them over and look at the back. You hope to find something special inside. If you do, you let out a little excitement. You look at. Touch it. Put it in a holder and look at it some more. Dig it out a few years later and remember when you pulled it. You might remember the day itself and who you were with when you got it.
Staring at a computer screen and trading for pixels isn’t the same.
Dream Nine, which was featured on ESPN.com last week, is the latest. A ‘virtual card collecting game’ is how they described it.
Ain’t no such thing.
Now, I have to say that if you had dropped a game like that in my lap when I was 10, I probably would have wet my pants (even if home computers had been around).
I couldn’t have even imagined the concept. My era was dice and score sheets and outdated rosters.
It’s not, however, something that would have replaced the experience of collecting baseball cards. Not for me. Maybe today’s kids are a lot different. Many don’t collect like the rest of us adults did (and still do) because they’d rather play video games. And that’s fine, I suppose. Times change. The two aren’t the same, though.
If you collect vintage cards, holding them in your hand takes you back to that time like no video game can.
Pick up a T206 some time. You can’t replicate the feeling of holding something that’s more than 100 years old and wondering who collected it and how they felt about it. An online image can show every last detail. I’d rather pick it up and see if I can still smell tobacco.
I’d rather run my hand over a nice-looking game-worn relic card.
Seeing a drop in the number of kid collectors has pushed card companies to dip their toes in the virtual world. I understand. I think it’s a separate marketing demographic, though.
I love technology. I love that I can grab a tablet computer and read just about any book I want and not have to worry about finding space on a shelf. I don’t need to collect books, though. Buy one and you generally know what you’re getting.
That’s not how it is with baseball cards.
There’s a symmetry and a relationship with them that can’t be replicated on a computer screen.
I’ll play your game. I might even like it. But stop selling it to me as a method of collecting. Mainstream media, stop telling me this is the ‘wave of the future for card collectors’.
It’s not the same.