The Friday Five: 5 Unlucky Moments in Basketball Video Games

The Friday Five

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA, or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.

Another Friday the 13th is upon us! For those of us who aren’t superstitious, it’s just a day like any other, perhaps even a day of good fortune since the weekend is right around the corner. For those who suffer paraskevidekatriaphobia, however, it’s a day of bad omens and misfortune, and we’ve had three of them in 2015. And yes, despite what my spell checker claims, that is in fact a real word that describes a fear of Friday the 13th. I Googled it.

In previous editions of the Five that have fallen on a Friday the 13th, I’ve discussed unlucky moments in NBA history, and some of my favourite players to have worn the number thirteen. This time, I’m going back to the theme of bad luck, as I examine some of the unluckiest things can happen to us when playing basketball video games. Of course, these things don’t require a supposedly cursed day to occur; unfortunately, they can strike at any time, on any given day.

1. Disconnections & Network Errors

Kevin Durant in NBA 2K14

One of the reasons I don’t much care for playing online against random opponents is the tendency for poor sports to quit or disconnect when they’re losing. However, genuine disconnections and network errors can occur, and it’s always frustrating when they do. You can usually see it coming: lag will increase until gameplay ultimately freezes, then resumes with a notification that the connection has been lost. It’s not so bad if it happens early on, but particularly annoying – and unlucky – when you’re a fair way into the game.

In fact, Murphy’s Law pretty much guarantees that you’ll be well into a competitive game that you’re really enjoying before an issue arises with your connection, or the game’s server. Whether you happened to start playing around the time of scheduled server maintenance, there’s an issue with your Internet provider, or someone else in the house does something to disrupt your connection, bad luck can easily spoil your online experiences with basketball video games. Having said that, the offline experience certainly isn’t immune to such misfortune…

2. Game Crashes

LeBron James vs. Derrick Rose in NBA 2K16

No release is ever completely free of bugs, and as we all know very well in this community, basketball video games are no exception. When you’re talking about the PC version of a game, there can also be issues with insufficient specs, hardware conflicts, and so on. Beyond that, some mods can also cause crashes, either because they’re incompatible with other mods, or because there’s a problem with them specifically. As with the aforementioned disconnections and network errors, crashes almost always seem to occur at the most inopportune time.

Not that there’s ever a really good time to be struck down by a crash in basketball video games, of course, but it seems like it’s always bound to happen late in an exciting game that you’re really enjoying. If you’re really unlucky, you might find that the crash renders a save file unreadable, or that a bug in the mod you’re using is unfixable, requiring you to start a season all over again. It’ll leave you wishing that the game simply crashed upon loading, saving your time and sparing you a lot of frustration.

3. Losing Game Saves

Luc Longley in NBA Live 96

While it’s aggravating when a bug in the game or a problematic mod causes a save to become corrupted and unusable, it’s arguably even worse when it’s completely self-inflicted. After all, there’s no one to blame but yourself when you delete or overwrite a saved game. Even if it wasn’t an accident, it’s a decision that you may come to regret later, when you decide you really weren’t finished with it. There’s also the pain of externally modifying a saved file for whatever reason, completely messing it up, and losing all your progress because you didn’t keep a backup. It bears repeating: always keep a backup!

A long time ago, I got into the habit of saving twice, whether I was working on a custom roster, or playing a mode like Dynasty or MyCAREER. It may seem like overkill, and a bit paranoid, but I believe it’s a good habit to get into, just in case something goes wrong. Unfortunately, it can’t bring back saves that were deleted, overwritten, or on hard drives (and in some cases, floppy discs!) that are now long gone. Off the top of my head, there are saved games from NBA Live 95, NBA Live 96, NBA Live 2000, NBA Live 2001, NBA Live 2002, NBA Live 2003, and NBA Live 2004 that I really wish I still had. Even if I’m not playing those games regularly anymore, it would be fun to revisit them at times. The moral of the story is save twice, backup often, and don’t be quick to assume you’re finished with a save.

4. Glitches that favour the CPU

LeBron James dunking in NBA Live 2005

When we play basketball video games, we play to win. Sure, those of us who are good sports will accept that we may not win every single multiplayer game, and those of us who value realism will understand that it’s not such a bad thing if we don’t win every game against the CPU when we’re playing a season, especially if we’re controlling a mediocre team. However, we still aim to win, and it’s frustrating when we lose in a way that doesn’t seem fair. Never mind that we might be trying to exploit glitches and whatnot to beat up on human and CPU opponents alike; it doesn’t feel good when the sneaker is on the other foot. We’re hypocrites like that.

The thing is, when you’re playing against another user, you can agree to some ground rules as far as avoiding exploits and cheesy play. The CPU, cold and unfeeling machine that it is, is not going to enter into any such agreements. After all, how else is it going to take over the world? Ham-fisted Terminator references aside, it’s frustrating and certainly unlucky when the AI manages to benefit from some sort of glitch. I once lost a game in NBA Live 2005 when the CPU put in a tip attempt on a full court three, with the tip coming after the buzzer. Somehow it counted, and I was left seething. Granted, I used the incident to spice up my story thread, but it was still terrible luck, snatching away what should’ve been a hard-fought victory.

5. Beginner’s Luck…when you’re not the beginner

Blake Griffin in NBA Jam: On Fire Edition

So, those are all some frustrating and unlucky moments that we can encounter when playing basketball video games, or indeed, video games in general. However, we can avoid those situations, to some extent. If you don’t play online, you won’t really suffer from outages. If a game is patched and relatively crash free, your PC can handle it, and you’re not using any troublesome mods, you’re probably in the clear for the most part. You can be careful with your save files, and avoid losing them. And while the CPU may occasionally benefit from glitches, there are likely exploits that you can take advantage of, as well. But there’s one thing that’s perhaps more annoyingly unlucky than all of those issues, and there’s little you can do about it: being beaten by a rookie gamer, despite being very good at the game in question.

You know how it goes. In fighting games, it usually takes the form of button mashing. By a complete fluke, the inexperienced gamer is pulling off special moves and combos, and you’re defeated despite your experience and refined technique. In basketball games, it’s usually a simple and undisciplined approach (such as trying to drive the ball in for a dunk on every play) somehow getting the job done against your superior knowledge of the controls and basketball tactics. By sheer good luck, they’re finding exploits and methods of countering everything that you do. And it’s just bad luck that it’s happening to you, the seasoned basketball gamer. Just try to be gracious in defeat.

What are some of the unluckiest moments you’ve experienced in basketball video games? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.

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