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 some reflections on how I’ve tried (and failed) to quit MyCAREER this year.
I’m having a problem in NBA 2K20: I can’t quit MyCAREER. I mean, I can exit the mode. I can find the menu option just fine and there’s no bug that’s preventing it from working as intended. No, I’m having trouble leaving the mode alone. I was all ready to quit this year. I reached the Hall of Fame in NBA 2K19, and felt closure. I felt the lure of MyLEAGUE and MyTEAM. Yes, I’ve set up a MyLEAGUE that I’d like to get stuck into at some point. Yes, I’ve played quite a bit of MyTEAM this year, and built a decent lineup without spending any money.
And yet, I haven’t let MyCAREER go as I intended to do. I tried out the new Player Builder in the demo, played through the story so that I could see what it’s like this year, and gave online a try. I thought that would be enough, but I kept getting drawn back in. I’ve played past the All-Star Weekend, and am just about at the point where the real 2020 season shut down. I’ve maxed out all my ratings and Badges, and am at the point where I can level up to 99 Overall with consistently great performances. My player is viable for online play, even if online play isn’t always viable. I’ve put quality time into MyCAREER…and I want to quit.
I examined the appeal of MyCAREER when I looked back at how career modes have overtaken franchise modes as the flagship experience in basketball games, and the fact of the matter is that they do hold a lot of appeal. They’re immersive, they can be quite enjoyable, the connected online experiences keep things fresh, and they demand a significant commitment of your free time. That last point in particular is important. While I haven’t spent any money to upgrade my player in NBA 2K20, I have invested time into the mode. There’s a desire to receive some kind of return on that investment, in the form of seeing the experience through to a satisfactory conclusion.
In other words, it’s addictive. Once you start, once you get hooked, it’s difficult to quit. I needed to max out my ratings, once it was clear it was doable without spending a cent. Even though there’s no Trophy/Achievement for it this year, even though I did it in NBA 2K19, I wanted to max out my Badges once that goal was within reach. At this point I’ve played over half a season, so it would feel wasteful if I just stopped now. I could simulate of course, but I’m very close to breaking the single season assist record (again). I’ve come this far, so what’s a little further, especially if it will allow me to find closure and break the habit? Just finish the season, and be done with it!
I’ve definitely found enjoyment in the familiar career experience, and having a player that I can jump online with has been handy to have when I’ve felt that urge. There’s also the matter of how I like to play. I prefer to play twelve minute quarters, and with MyCAREER, I can do that without actually doing it, since my player doesn’t play the entire game. Now that my ratings are maxed out, it’s also a very convenient way of farming VC to spend on MyTEAM packs, thus saving my MT and real money. I can see why I fell back into an old habit after swearing that I’d quit and thinking I could, having finally made it to the Hall of Fame and seeing the cutscene in NBA 2K19.
With that in mind, I can also see how I can possibly wean myself off the mode, and avoid it altogether in NBA 2K21. The problem is that once I get a good game going, it’s hard to abandon it as I’ll end up feeling like I have unfinished business. I made the mistake of starting a new MyCAREER game instead of leaving the mode alone, or even just quitting once I’d played through the story. Obviously, I’ll need to go cold turkey to quit MyCAREER next year, but how do I put it aside before then and spend more time with MyLEAGUE and MyTEAM? Fortunately, I have some ideas as to how I can leave it be, and ultimately break the habit moving forward.
First of all, I do need to get closure on the current game. To that end, I’ll break the single season assist record before I simulate the rest of the regular season. Frankly, I’m interested to see how the sim engine will make my player perform compared to the numbers I’ve been putting up in gameplay. After that, I’ll complete the Playoffs so that my rookie season is in the books, one way or another. As I am growing weary of the experience and have also really been turned off of The Rec, it should be easy to let MyCAREER go once I’ve finished the season and no longer feel as though I still have unfinished business. If I complete the year, it’s not going to feel like a waste.
From there, I’m actually looking forward to experimenting with a simulation. As I’ve noted before, the current approach to MyCAREER discourages experimentation. Of course, that’s only if you care about your NBA career, and intend to keep playing the save file. I’m interested to see if, after having a big head start thanks to an historic rookie campaign, I could actually simulate my way to qualifying for the Hall of Fame. I’ve already done it by achieving those goals during gameplay, so it might be fun to just mess around with a MyCAREER save. If I do feel like jumping online for an article (or if I’ve taken leave of my senses), my player will still be viable for that.
Needless to say, there is some danger in this approach. We gamers know the problem with declaring that we’ll quit after a set point: “Just One More Level“, as TV Tropes calls it. Whenever we’re hooked, it’s all too easy to play beyond what was meant to be “just one more”. I’ve had sessions with Fallout 3, New Vegas, and 4, where “one more quest” has taken me into the early hours of the morning. Now that the Lavamind classic Gazillionaire is available on Steam, I’ve been reminded that “one more turn” never means just one more turn. Even drafting articles or working on mods has seen me pull some very late nights, because I’ve wanted to finish what I’m doing.
I believe it’ll work this time though, because I’m feeling the tedium. It’s a weird mix of still enjoying MyCAREER to some extent while also being over it, yet still wanting to see it through. Fortunately, I’m close to a point where I can feel done with playing every game, and speed up the process. Once again, having achieved a big goal with MyCAREER in NBA 2K19, I don’t care as much about the ultimate results of this game. I only fell back into playing the mode out of habit, not out of a desire to set records and make the Hall of Fame as I did last year. If I stick to the plan – and maybe even if I can wreck the save to some extent – quitting the mode seems quite feasible.
I’m thinking it would also help to set some goals in MyTEAM, such as completing Domination – that’s something I haven’t done before, after all – or playing a few MyLEAGUE games to get hooked. The problem is that the Daily Spin encourages one to fire up MyCAREER for a chance at free VC. As such, even if I don’t actually play any games, entering the mode has become a daily ritual the same as logging into MyTEAM. Both are by design, of course; whatever it takes to trigger that dopamine rush, to keep coming back and hopefully, spend some money on VC. I’ve easily been able to avoid buying VC, but as I said, I’ve invested enough of my time to care.
And no, that time hasn’t been wasted; not in my opinion, anyway. I love basketball, I love basketball video games, and MyCAREER and its connected experiences do appeal to that love of hoops, virtual or otherwise. It’s become clear that I’m going through the motions to some extent, though. I’m chasing goals I’ve already reached, seeking PlayStation Trophies that offer a small dopamine buzz. There are other modes that I want to spend time with, but I do need closure on MyCAREER first. A couple more goals and I’ll have it. Obviously there are worse addictions you can have – on and off the virtual hardwood – but it’s still a habit I’m looking forward to kicking.