Photo by Chris Chow
Myles Straw is quickly becoming a household name with many sports enthusiasts. The 25-year-old Houston Astros outfielder burst onto the scene in the 2018 season. With his blazing speed, Myles earned a starting role in the 2019 season, helping the Houston Astros win the American League and take the Washington Nationals to a game 7 in the World Series. While most people are familiar with Myles’ accomplishments on the field, many do not know that he is actually an avid gamer off the field. We were lucky to have an hour to catch up with Myles and talk about the role gaming played, not only in his childhood, but in his adult and professional life.
Early Years of Gaming
What was the first video game that you remember playing as a child?
Myles: It would have to be either Super Smash Bros or Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64. The first game I really got serious about was Runescape, but definitely Super Smash Bros or Mario Kart are what got me into gaming.
Growing up, were you more of a console, PC, or mobile gamer?
Myles: I remember playing the Pokemon games on my Gameboy but also the Call of Duty games on Playstation. I’ve never owned an Xbox so I was always a Playstation player. I wasn’t strictly on just one platform. I just played whatever was available to me at the time. If I was on the road, I would figure out a way to play mobile or on my Gameboy. When I was in hotel rooms, I would usually hook up a console. I played a lot of travel ball growing up, so I was always either on the road or in a hotel room playing on my Gameboy. In the minor leagues, guys had a game console that allows you to hook up your Playstation to a portable TV. We would be on the road and half the team is playing either Fortnite or Call of Duty on the road through their mobile hotspots.
What was your favorite genre of video games to play?
Myles: Growing up, the most fun I had was playing first-person shooter games like Call of Duty. I had a few buddies that played Runescape back then but when we got together, we would always play Call of Duty. I didn’t have too much of a preference because for me it was more about who you were playing with. If I hopped on Call of Duty by myself it wasn’t as fun as when I would have three or four friends next to me. I never was really too picky about what games we played because we would always have a blast.
Did your parents support your video game habits or did they try to restrict your time playing video games?
Myles: My parents never really got in the way. They gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted in my free time. I know a lot of parents are against it, but at the end of the day video games are a great way to keep kids out of trouble. They keep you inside at home, not on the streets, not spending money or anything. My parents were never against it unless I took it overboard and wasn’t doing anything else but playing games on the computer or something.
As a child, how much time per day were you allowed to play video games?
Myles: When I was 8 or 9, I could probably play all day. Now as an adult my time is a lot more limited, especially with a family and a daughter. I may hop on an hour a day while she’s asleep or I could go weeks without even playing anything. I try to balance it out and not go too crazy.
Was gaming ever a distraction for you in school or even in your professional career?
Myles: Honestly, not really. Like I said before, gaming was a great way to stay out of trouble. There has been times that all my buddies would be going out and I would stay home and play games. Some people may look at it as a distraction, but for me it would keep me out of getting in trouble when I would get bored. I think video games are a great way to keep kids out of trouble.
In the last 10 years, gaming has gone from a solitary activity to more of an online social event. Do you think that gaming can help kids develop social skills?
Myles: Well yeah, but not in the way of meeting random people from the Internet. Sometimes I will be playing Fortnite and there’s some young kid talking trash to everyone but it’s not always like that. These games can help kids learn how to communicate with each other whether it’s making new friends or explaining how to do things in Call of Duty. They still need to be careful of who they talk to online, but it can be a great way to get kids that are normally less social to break out of their shell.
Alright, so be honest with me. Growing up, how good of a gamer were you? Did everyone want you on their team or were you the last guy picked?
Myles: I was nasty! I was always pretty solid at Call of Duty but Fortnite was probably my best game. I would always talk a lot of trash while playing Fortnite and got quite the reputation in the clubhouse. If you know me, when I trash talk it’s always in a joking way among my friends and my teammates. We like to get each other all fired up and build on that energy.
Since the lockdowns began, have you spent more time playing video games?
Myles: Oh absolutely. I hope most people are staying inside and being safe. What else is there to do? Video games are a great way to spend the time and I catch myself playing them a whole lot more. I think a lot of people who are getting stir-crazy should give video games a try.
Playing Oldschool Runescape (OSRS)
Right now, what video games are you playing?
Myles: I’ve definitely had a lot more time on my hands during the lockdown. I’m mainly playing Old School Runescape. Occasionally, I will jump on Fortnite but not too often. My friends keep telling me to download the new Call of Duty game but I likely won’t get to that. Those two games are pretty much all I play at this time.
Do you play Runescape on your phone or your PC?
Myles: Most of the time I play on my phone, but I do play on both PC and phone. It is just a lot easier to just play on my phone whenever I have some downtime.
Runescape mobile was released in late 2018. Would you still be playing Runescape if it wasn’t available on mobile?
Myles: I used to grind that game out on my computer when I was younger. I can’t say that I would still be playing if it wasn’t available on mobile devices. It’s so much easier to just watch Netflix and hop on my phone and play the game. The more click-intensive activities I prefer to play on my computer but for simple grinding I definitely use my phone more. My Iphone has a fairly small screen so it can get a bit clunky at times.
What is it about Old School Runescape that brings you back to a 20+ year old game?
Myles: First of all, I think it’s cool that it is two games in one. You can play both Old School Runescape and Runescape 3 with the same account. It gives me the option to play whichever game I feel like at the time. It’s really cool that you can play the same game in two different ways. Old School Runescape appeals to me more because it’s almost exactly the same game that I grew up playing. They have made an effort to not change very much about it so the fact that they left it alone really gets those nostalgia feelings going.
Runescape has many different activities such as staking, crafting, and boss killing. What is your favorite in-game activity?
Myles: My favorite activity is definitely bossing. I love the challenge that some of these bosses prevent. I also like the AFK activities when I play on my phone. I like to put on a movie and do some fishing or crafting. When I have a computer around and can do some of the more click-intensive activities, I love bossing.
If you could be a Runescape developer and change one thing about the game, what would it be?
Myles: To be honest, it’s tough. I don’t think I have an answer to that one. I am very content with the game the way it is. One of the reasons I play Old School Runescape is because it’s the same game from when I was growing up. I guess the answer would be that I would not change a thing. It’s a pretty solid game. I would say that maybe they could make a skill easier, but then that would ruin the point of the game. You still should have to grind certain things out. Why change perfection?
Mixing Online Gaming and Professional Baseball
When you play Runescape or any other video games, do you ever tell anyone who you are in real life?
Myles: Outside of my group of friends that I know in real life, I really don’t tell anyone. I don’t try to make a big deal about it. I just log on and play and go about my business so I don’t really see the need to tell anyone. I have a few friends who play with me and I’m sure they may have told other people who I am but for the most part I just try to keep a low profile and do my thing.
I know someone who met his wife online raiding in World of Warcraft. Have you ever met someone in a video game and met them in real life?
Myles: No I have not. What’s funny is one of my good friends met someone from a video game in real life. They have actually been friends for over 10 years now. I always thought that was pretty neat.
Does Runescape and gaming in general have a place in your professional career?
Myles: During the season, gaming takes on a much smaller role. When we are at home, I am spending all my free time with my family. Games take on a much bigger role when I have downtime in the stadium or am on the road. After a game I usually go back to he hotel, order some room service, and play some video games until I fall asleep.
What role does gaming and video games play in the Astros clubhouse?
Myles: We have a Playstation on the main TV. A lot of the Latin guys love playing FIFA and get super competitive with it. Since in the middle of the clubhouse a lot of the other players will gather around and watch the games. Most of the guys prefer playing video games on that main TV and it’s actually like a team bonding thing.
When you play video games with your teammates, are you usually playing co-op games with each other or competitive games against one another?
Myles: It really depends on the game. Like I mentioned before, the Latin guys play FIFA and they can get extremely competitive against each other. The guys recently got me into Clash Royale which those games can get super competitive. We usually go 1v1 or 2v2 against each other. The main game is Fortnite and we usually team up but even then it can get competitive. I guess it’s just in our nature to be that way.
Streaming and E-sports
Streaming has grown in popularity the past few years. Have you ever set up a Twitch account or streamed yourself playing any games?
Myles: I actually have never done any streaming. It’s not that I try to keep a low profile or anything. I just have never done it. If I were to stream myself playing a game, it would probably be Fortnite or Call of Duty. It has always seemed like so much work setting up the camera and all that, and at the end of the day I would rather just play the game without all the attention.
Do you follow any streamers or watch broadcasts of any particular games?
Myles: Last season I watched a lot of Fortnite streams, mainly Tfue. My teammates actually got me into it at first. I would watch Fortnite streams with them and then started doing it on my own. It’s super interesting to watch those professional players; like they are so good at the game. I like to watch them to get ideas and try to improve my own gaming. I learn a lot by watching guys like Tfue play these games. These guys are usually the best of the best and it’s crazy what they can do.
Major League Baseball had an MLB: The Show tournament this spring with players from each team competing in a virtual season. How come you didn’t take part in this?
Myles: Well, they only take one player from each team and I believe they chose Lance to represent us. To be honest, I’m not really the best Show player. I used to play the game all the time when I was younger, but I never got really good at it. Some of the guys get so fired up when the newest version of the Show comes out and they play it non-stop. I would probably be one-and-done if I was in that tournament and I wouldn’t want to let the boys down like that. Plus, I have a reputation to protect here. A quick one-and-done would not be best for it.
Are you excited about any up and coming video games that haven’t been released yet?
Myles: To be honest, I really am not. I will always hear about the next Call of Duty game and get hyped up for it. I really don’t get too excited for new games until I actually get to play it. A lot of games don’t live up to the hype, so I try not to get too amped about it. When I was younger, I definitely would look forward to new video game releases. I would be at Walmart buying the games on the day they were released and then probably wouldn’t sleep that night. I’m now at the age where I really don’ have time to look forward to new games so I just wait until someone introduces one to me.
Do you follow any competitive gaming or E-sports?
Myles: I really don’t think so. I follow Tfue some and occasionally I will browse the “Explore” page on Instagram. I don’t follow any of the actual teams or tournaments though.
League of Legends and CSGO are two of the largest competitive E-sport games. Have you ever watched their tournaments or world championships?
Myles: I have not but I probably should. On Twitch some of those professional gamers just blow me away with their skill. I just never really got into either of those games.
Do you consider E-sports players athletes?
Myles: That’s a tough question there. I don’t know that there is a right or wrong answer to that. I may be biased based on what I do, but in my mind there’s a certain definition for an athlete. For me, they have to compete physically, but at the same time if they consider themselves athletes, who am I to say no? I’m not the type of person to put someone down just because they have a different opinion than me. Whether they feel that they are or are not, that’s not for me to define. It’s actually kind of scary how good some of these guys are at playing their games and I’m impressed with that. At the end of the day, I have respect for someone who’s the best at what they do.
E-sports have been growing at an incredible pace, with some teams and players earning 6 and 7 figure contracts. Do you think E-sports leagues will ever grow as big as traditional sports leagues such as MLB, NBA and the NFL?
Myles: I really don’t think so. It’s amazing where they are at right now, and how fast they are growing. The thing to keep in mind is that traditional sports are also growing. I still think more people want to watch a physical sport rather than a video game, so I think they will have a hard time reaching those numbers. At the same time, there are some streamers and professional players like Tfue who make more than some professional sport players so I could be completely wrong. E-sports are very new meanwhile baseball is over 100 years old.
After you’re done with baseball would you ever consider sponsoring or owning an E-sports team?
Myles: To be honest it’s never crossed my mind, but it sounds like something I would be interested in. It’s a growing industry from what I can see. I think it would be cool because I’ve always played video games so it would be investing in something I am passionate about.
As you can see, video games have played a vital role in Myles’ childhood and career. For years, video games were considered childish and a waste of time by many people. Nowadays, video games can have a positive effect on people’s lives and help them grow, socialize, and learn new skills. Gaming is now a multi-generational pasttime that both children and adults can enjoy together.
We thank Myles for giving us an insight into his life and the role that gaming played in it. We wish him the best of luck in the 2020 season and in his career.