We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off with a thank you to the Rec quitters that left Kenny and I to play 2-on-5 in a game last Saturday.
Because The Rec can be very hit and miss when it comes to having fun and playing a good game of virtual basketball, I’ve played much less of it this year. It’s a bit more enjoyable when you head there with a friend or two, but with three fifths of our regular NLSC squad understandably skipping NBA 2K20 after being disappointed with NBA 2K19, most of the times I’ve ventured into The Rec, I’ve gone there solo. Kenny and I have hopped on for a few sessions together though, and while there’s been frustration, we’ve at least been able to work (and commiserate) together.
That’s what we did last Saturday. Both of us were having a quiet evening at home – kind of the way it goes with the current pandemic, after all – so I hit him up about jumping on for a game or two. The first game was a frustrating overtime loss that we really shouldn’t have been in a position to win, yet could’ve if not for poor decision-making and clock management by our teammates. Thanks to some mic trouble, we also weren’t able to chat during that contest. After resolving that issue, we decided to play one more game, in which our three teammates all quit in the first quarter after we fell behind 15-5. As I said, I’d like to send out a thank you to those Rec quitters.
However, it’s not a sarcastic thank you. Oh no; quite the contrary! I’m quite sincere in thanking those random teammates for giving up on the game after a shaky start. When I wrote an open letter to toxic players in The Rec, explaining a few of the concepts and realities that they don’t seem to understand, I addressed Rec quitters. While I acknowledged that rough starts are frustrating and certainly not ideal, they can also be overcome for a very satisfying victory. Quitting so soon throws away the opportunity to be a part of a gratifying comeback, which is exactly what happened on Saturday. Despite playing 2-on-5 and trailing by ten early, Kenny and I won the game 58-38.
In fact, to be honest it wasn’t the challenge that such a scenario usually presents. We trailed 16-9 at the end of the first quarter, but went on a 19-6 run in the second to take control of the game. Our lead was never seriously threatened in the second half, as we outscored our opponents 30-16 for a comfortable twenty point victory. Kenny had 29 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists, while I achieved my first ever online triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. Our opponents failed to take advantage of us being stuck with AI players, and while they chipped in here and there, they didn’t do all that much. Kenny and I were definitely carrying the team.
Of course, even though the AI players weren’t doing all that much, they were more reliable than the gamers who had been controlling them, and that’s why I’d like to sincerely thank those Rec quitters. If they’d stuck around, we probably wouldn’t have won that game. They’d most likely be making the same bad decisions that saw us to fall into that 15-5 hole to begin with, and forcing things in a way that wouldn’t allow a comeback to happen. It would’ve been a wasteful shame, too. Considering that our opponents weren’t able to take advantage of having a 5-on-2 user advantage, playing the right way with even numbers might’ve resulted in an even bigger victory.
It seems highly unlikely that it would’ve gone down that way had they stuck around, so again, thank you to those Rec quitters! Their absence resulted in Kenny and I having one of the most fun Rec games we’ve had in NBA 2K20, if not the most fun contest that we’ve participated in this year. With Kenny assuming point guard duties and I patrolling the paint with my centre, we were an effective duo, putting up stats and most importantly, getting the win. It felt good to finally get a triple-double in an online game, and while I didn’t set out to achieve it, I did want it the closer I got, and whooped with joy when I finally snagged my tenth rebound to make it happen!
On top of demonstrating why we shouldn’t be Rec quitters when faced with an early deficit that’s hardly insurmountable, it also brings to mind the issue of minimum users in team Pro-Am. With five users now being required to play 5v5 Pro-Am games, a lot of gamers have been forced into The Rec in NBA 2K19 and NBA 2K20, as it’s not always feasible to get five people together on a regular basis. In theory, one might meet new people through the game, or perhaps use the official subreddit to find a squad. In reality, most of us would rather play with the people we know, and there’s too much toxicity in the community to want to expand our circle of online teammates.
Instead, we’re left to deal with the myriad of issues that make The Rec an unideal alternative to team Pro-Am. Look, I realise that not everyone is a fan of AI players joining in on the games, because they want Pro-Am and The Rec to basically be the home version of the NBA 2K League. That’s all well and good, but as a concept, it’s too restrictive. I can attest to having a lot of fun with team Pro-Am in NBA 2K17, even in games where we had less than five of us playing. That’s probably because a lot of the other squads we faced were also running with only three or four users, so it ended up being fair. Even when we had an AI player, it wasn’t much of an advantage.
That’s an argument I commonly see from gamers who advocate for strictly requiring five users for team Pro-Am games: that AI players give teams an unfair advantage. In my experience, aside from perhaps getting the occasional cheap steal here and there, this simply isn’t the case. In our game on Saturday, the Rec quitters did make it easier for us to win, but that’s an anomaly. If our opponents had been more competent, I suspect the numbers game would’ve caught up to us, as a squad with five users won’t usually be at a disadvantage against one that has three AI players. That’s because any AI cheese tends to be outmatched by resourcefulness, lateral thinking, and stick skills.
More to the point, since Rec quitters are an inevitable hazard of playing walk-on, there’s always a possibility that a game will end up with AI players anyway. Team Pro-Am isn’t immune from this, either. If someone fouls out, suffers a disconnection error, or chooses to quit for one reason or another, they’re replaced by an AI player and the whole concept of enforcing five users in team Pro-Am goes out the window. Not only is the idea of maintaining the “purity” of team Pro-Am elitist to begin with, it simply isn’t possible to guarantee there’ll always be five users. Given that games can function and even be fun without a full squad, it’s an unnecessary restriction.
Notably, NBA Live 19 allows some online 5v5 games to be played with less than five users (and some LIVE Events can even be played solo), and putting aside issues with the gameplay itself, it works out just fine. Again, the NLSC squad played over 500 games in NBA 2K17, many of them with only three or four of us, and we had a blast. I believe the real issue here is only catering to one crowd or another, and that’s where having deeper matchmaking options comes in. Having casual and competitive 5v5 games, only matching up full squads with other full squads, or giving us the option to try our luck with a shorthanded squad, are solutions that would cater to everyone.
For now, I’m just grateful that a trio of Rec quitters allowed Kenny and I to have such a fun game in a mode that isn’t as consistently enjoyable as it should be. It’s something to keep in mind for how matchmaking should be handled in future games, but it’s also an example of why you shouldn’t give up after an early deficit. No one likes to lose, but it seems like a lot of online basketball gamers don’t like a tough challenge either, and sometimes that’s what stands in the way of victory. If randoms in The Rec aren’t up to the challenge, of course, then I’d much rather they quit. As you can see in the video Kenny uploaded, it’s far more fun and rewarding without teammates like that.