Monday Tip-Off: Next Gen Elitism Goes Back Generations

Monday Tip-Off: Next Gen Elitism Goes Back Generations

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with some candid thoughts on elitist attitudes regarding the Next Gen consoles, and how they’ve been frequently disproven.

So, look. Getting older has its drawbacks. Creaky knees, more responsibilities, and existential dread all come to mind. At the same time, it has its perks! One of them is that you care a lot less about trends than you used to. When high school is rapidly becoming a smaller and smaller speck in the rear view mirror, you don’t really care if you’re not on the cutting edge of fashion, or not completely au fait with the latest slang. Youthful status symbols become increasingly meaningless when you’ve been out of school longer than you were ever in it.

Well…to a point. Not everyone enjoys being completely out of touch, even if you’re still generally comfortable in your own skin. More to the point, if you’re a content creator, then you have to care about trends, algorithms, and current events, at least to some extent. Unless you’re exclusively covering retro gaming, you’re going to need hardware that plays the latest titles. To that end, I do have a gaming PC capable of running new NBA 2K releases, as well as a PlayStation 5. I also have an interest in other genres of games, so it makes sense to invest in those platforms. What doesn’t make sense is the elitism that I see regarding ownership of Next Gen consoles.

Specifically, I’m talking about gamers with the latest consoles that jump on social media and boldly declare that there’s no excuse not to own one. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that they feel this way because they believe that people sticking with a prior gen console and its version of a game is somehow negatively impacting the Next Gen release. They’ll even argue that the cost shouldn’t be an issue, because if you can’t afford the new consoles, then you obviously can’t afford to indulge in gaming as a hobby. Considering that far too many gamers justify microtransactions by calling others “broke” if they criticise the practice, I’m hardly surprised by such elitism.

Bam Adebayo in NBA 2K23 Next Gen

I am disgusted by the attitude and scornful of the misguided reasoning, though. After all, there are many reasons why someone might not be willing to invest in the latest consoles. Perhaps they’re satisfied with their older console and the prior gen version of a game, and are happy enough to stick with it as long as it’s being developed. They might be unimpressed with the new console, its library, or its version of the game that they play, and see no advantage in upgrading because it wouldn’t be better for them. Maybe they’ll simply budget for the one game on their older console that they still enjoy buying every year, but can’t justify a bigger purchase that they’re not keen on.

Whatever the reason, their decision not to upgrade doesn’t affect anyone else. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the elitists from making up ridiculous claims that it does. Again, the common cry is that it’s holding back the new flagship version of the game, to which I must ask: how? No, really, explain that, please! Considering that different teams work on the prior gen and new gen versions of NBA 2K, neither is diverting time or resources from the other. I understand there’s been an effort to bring some of the features from PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S to prior gen and the PC port, but if that isn’t viable, those platforms just miss out on them, while Next Gen doesn’t.

There might be a point about cross-generation progression in MyTEAM, but I doubt that it’s truly an issue. It’s not as though cards are being held back from creative and innovative concepts, or indeed, ideas that cater to the recurrent revenue mechanics (should you feel the need to shill for them), just because they’re available in both versions. It hasn’t stopped Next Gen from adding new modes that are exclusive, or end up being adapted for prior gen as best they can. There will of course be gameplay differences. Ultimately, it’s a case of getting Next Gen ideas into prior gen wherever possible, not restricting ideas for Next Gen based on any of prior gen’s limitations.

LaMelo Ball in NBA 2K23

I’d also like to address the ridiculous gatekeeping over terminology. I agree that once new consoles launch, technically they are the current generation. To that point, “Next Gen” and “Current Gen” cease to accurately describe the two most recent generations of consoles. Still, to all those who fume about PS5 and XSX|S being labelled “Next Gen” and claim they should be called “Current Gen”, while PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC are instead referred to as “Old Gen” or whatever, do note that 2K actually uses the nomenclature “New Gen” and “Current Gen” respectively. Besides, if we really want to be specific, we should actually say “Eighth Gen” and “Ninth Gen” consoles!

Returning to my point about getting older and not sweating the inconsequential, these debates over nomenclature and concerns that old consoles are holding back the new ones are not a recent phenomenon. I’ve seen a number of console generations come and go at this point, and the same arguments pop up time and time again. What do we call each generation? At what point do we drop terms like “Next Gen” and “New Gen”? How long are they going to keep releasing the old version? How long should they? Shouldn’t they just discontinue the old version and focus solely on the latest technology? Why are people refusing to upgrade to the latest and greatest hardware?

Now, there were some unique circumstances surrounding the launch of the ninth generation consoles. It came in the midst of a pandemic, and there have been some shortages at times, particularly when it comes to the PS5. The number of online scalpers definitely didn’t help! As time has marched on, it has become easier to get your hands on those consoles, compared to the pre-order frenzy that crashed online stores and saw resellers jacking up prices. It doesn’t change the fact that some gamers do remain unimpressed by the new consoles in general, or by the Next Gen/New Gen versions of NBA 2K specifically. There are still valid reasons not to upgrade just yet.

Kobe Bryant Drives in NBA 2K14 Next Gen

In fact, compared to previous generational jumps, it’s even more understandable that gamers are sticking with the prior gen version, even if they can afford to upgrade. In terms of graphics, the leap from eighth gen to ninth gen isn’t as impressive as eighth gen’s improvement over seventh gen. For many basketball gamers, NBA 2K14 for PS4/X1 remains the gold standard as far as visuals are concerned. As far as depth and quality, there’s less of a difference between the last two generations of PlayStation and Xbox consoles compared to the jump from PS1 to PS2 and Xbox to Xbox 360, or indeed the massive divide between 16-bit consoles and the tech that succeeded them.

Even if you want to argue that gamers who are sticking with the previous generation are getting the inferior release, the gap isn’t as big as it once was for prior gen. If you picked up the Super Nintendo version of NBA Live 98, you were getting a glorified roster update compared to the PC and PS1 versions. Conversely, if you played NBA 2K23 on PC, PS4, or X1, you were getting a game that still held its own against the PS5 and XSX|S release in terms of graphics, gameplay, modes, content, and features. In fact, thanks to all of the extracurricular nonsense in The City, it arguably had the superior take on MyCAREER! If nothing else, it certainly didn’t hold Next Gen back.

Of course, we’ve been seeing that argument get trotted out for many generations now, despite a continued lack of proof. For example, most basketball gamers would agree that NBA 2K16 and NBA 2K17 for PC, PS4, and X1 were fantastic games, myself included. They were continuing to innovate and improve during what was then most assuredly the current generation, and bringing that greatness to PC. Somehow, those games achieved this high level of quality despite releases for PS3/360 lasting right through to NBA 2K18. It’s almost as though continuing to support older platforms for a few years beyond the release of their successors has no negative impact whatsoever!

Next Gen Elitism Is a Weird Flex, But OK (Jimmy Butler, NBA 2K23)

Elitists have to perpetuate the lie that supporting the prior generation is somehow damaging, though. Otherwise, they’re just shaming people for having a different preference as far as gaming, or how they spend their money, or for not having the means to upgrade. And yes, some elitists will do that openly, but many have enough self-awareness to try and hide it (yet not enough to rethink their gatekeeping). It also ignores the fact that prices and availability of the latest consoles varies depending on where you are in the world. You may be interested in upgrading, but compared to sticking with the version for the platform you already own, it’s simply less viable.

We could tumble even further down the rabbit hole here. We could point out how people’s insecurities with their own choices lead them to judge others so that they feel justified. After all, elitism comes from feelings of inferiority as much as superiority! There’s the issue of people who play on PC because of modding or a preference for the platform. They’re stuck with a prior gen port once again, and it’s understandable if they aren’t willing to buy a console for just one game when they’ve already invested in a powerful gaming rig. Just because you can afford something, it doesn’t mean you see it as a good investment. And, once again, there’s no shame if you can’t afford it!

I must agree with ShadyMike here. This is what an acceptance of microtransactions and pay-to-win (or pay-to-enjoy, as the case may be) has brought us. This is why people are shunned in The City and The Neighborhood for how their MyPLAYERs are dressed, just as gamers are bullied for using non-premium skins in Fortnite. If people will be chided for allegedly being “broke” just because they refuse to be an ATM for Take-Two, then there’s going to be elitism about the choice of platform as well. It’s utterly ridiculous! Prior gen is not holding Next Gen back, and as long as it’s being supported, then it’s a product that gamers are allowed to purchase and enjoy.

Jayson Tatum in NBA 2K23 PC

As always, I’ll state that I don’t expect that I can put a stop to this toxic discourse. Anyone who indulges in that elitist gatekeeping is highly unlikely to be interested in a dissenting opinion, especially one that’s expressed in more than 280 characters. Still, one has to try. We should challenge that stance, because it’s nonsensical. We should ask: if continuing to release NBA 2K for the previous generation of consoles is so damaging, why didn’t it harm NBA 2K15, NBA 2K16, or NBA 2K17? Why did NBA 2K continue to get better and better on PS3 and 360, when the PS2 releases continued up until NBA 2K12? We should expose it as a completely unfounded assertion.

It’s the only argument the elitists have that sounds in any way unselfish, rather than being based on feeling important. As I said, some do just openly financially shame others, but they will often at least try to cover it up with the veneer of caring about the quality of the product. Make no mistake, though; elitists are always gatekeeping right from the start. It’s the reason why they advocate for timed Locker Codes, loot box mechanics with no guaranteed rewards, microtransactions, and lengthy grinding. If other gamers can reap benefits without turning gaming into a job or spending money – if they aren’t missing out on or giving up something – then elitists don’t feel special.

Some people are early adopters, while others prefer to wait. If a company is still willing to cater to the latter group, so be it! When it comes to NBA 2K, the prior gen version doesn’t harm the PS5/XSX|S release in any way, and it’s absurd to try to turn it into a status symbol. There are plenty of valid reasons why people stick with what they like until it’s no longer available, just as there are many valid reasons why people readily jump on new technology. If you know your basketball gaming history though, you’ll know how long this tedious shaming of prior gen releases has been going on, and that generations of games disprove the tired rhetoric that these elitists spout.

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