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Wayback Wednesday: Livin’ Da Dream in NBA 2K16

Livin Da Dream Title Screen (NBA 2K16)

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at Livin’ Da Dream, the MyCAREER story in NBA 2K16.

Career modes have come a long way since they were essentially franchise modes with player lock. The concept has continued to evolve this generation, with MyCAREER pioneering the use of in-depth stories to accompany the gameplay experience. This hasn’t been to everyone’s liking – indeed, I’ve been critical of the approach on more than one occasion – but there’s no denying that a tremendous amount of work has gone into the production values of MyCAREER stories. 2K has also brought big names on board to bolster both the writing and performances of the tales told in MyCAREER.

After telling the story of competing with Jackson Ellis in NBA 2K14 and enlisting the help of several NBA players to voice themselves in cutscenes mentoring your player in NBA 2K15, 2K went all out in NBA 2K16. They brought in acclaimed (and now Academy Award-winning) director Spike Lee to develop a story for the mode that allows gamers to live out their dreams of playing in the NBA. That theme gave the story its title – Livin’ Da Dream – and it was a significant milestone in the continuing evolution of MyCAREER. Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Monday Tip-Off: Crafting a MyCAREER Story

NBA 2K19 MyCAREER Story Scene

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 few thoughts on how future NBA 2K games could craft a better MyCAREER story.

As much as I’ve criticised the approach, I am somewhat fascinated by the concept of the MyCAREER story. It’s been done rather badly in a couple of games, be it the way it’s affected the gameplay experience, the narrative, or both. As such, it would be nice to have the option of a straightforward career mode. At the same time, a lot of effort has gone into the approach over the years, and it’s paid off with a couple of rather good and enjoyable tales. Since the concept doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, it’s vital that Visual Concepts does the best job possible with it.

When it comes to the MyCAREER story approach – in particular, the times it hasn’t been done well – there have been a few common drawbacks since its debut in NBA 2K14. Ill-fitting back stories and unlikeable personalities for the player character, annoying NPCs and cringe-worthy cutscenes, a lack of story branching, meaningless decisions, and general intrusiveness, are among the most prominent issues. The good news is that these problems can be remedied, and if backed by a well-written narrative with characters that aren’t annoying in a bad way, a story can enhance MyCAREER. To that end, this is how I’d like to see the MyCAREER story crafted in future games.

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Wayback Wednesday: The Legend of Jackson Ellis

Jackson Ellis in NBA 2K19

This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m taking a look back at the virtual career of Jackson Ellis in NBA 2K, and the legend that it has spawned over six games.

Minor spoiler alert: in NBA 2K19’s MyCAREER mode, Jackson Ellis makes a return to the virtual hardwood. One of the most memorable characters in basketball video games, this year he enjoyed his most prominent role since NBA 2K14, when he was introduced as the rival of your MyPLAYER. Not only has Ellis resonated with NBA 2K gamers, he’s clearly a favourite of the development team as well. Even though he’s only stepped onto the court in a couple of titles, he’s appeared or been referenced in every MyCAREER mode on the current generation.

So what’s the story behind the infamously brash and outspoken Jackson Ellis? Well, the exact story differs for each of us, but in broad strokes, Visual Concepts has been weaving a subplot with Ellis over the past six years. To appreciate the Legend of Jackson Ellis, we need to return to where it all began in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One version of NBA 2K14. To that end, let’s go back…way back…

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The Friday Five: 5 More MyCAREER Story Theories

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 NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. In this week’s Five, I’m offering up some more theories and alternative interpretations for the stories in MyCAREER.

It’s time once again to indulge in a bit of creative writing and fun speculation! Last November, I wrote a Friday Five that took the stories that NBA 2K has implemented in MyCAREER, and twisted them around with some theories and interpretations that somewhat altered their tone. It’s still one of my favourite articles that I’ve written, as reimagining the MyCAREER stories in a darker or more dramatic light turned out to be a fun exercise. NBA 2K18 has provided us with another story to pick apart, and I have a few more ideas, so it seems like an opportune time for a follow-up article.

Once again, I do have to stress that I don’t actually believe these interpretations and theories, even though I do feel that a couple of them actually fit quite well. In fact, if you told me that the first theory was indeed intentional and what’s actually going on, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised. This is all meant to be in fun though, so don’t take it too seriously. With that being said, you may find that a couple of these theories make a little too much sense. At the very least, I hope it’ll be an amusing read to take you into the weekend. Let’s once again go tumbling down the rabbit hole; tinfoil hats are of course welcome, but completely optional.

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The Friday Five: 5 MyCAREER Story Theories

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 NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.

One of the most common complaints about the current approach to MyCAREER mode is that the story is basically on rails, and the player character’s back story is predetermined and not always “one size fits all”. Although we can customise our MyPLAYER’s appearance and make a few decisions along the way, the impact those choices have on the plot is minimal at best. When it comes down to it, taglines like NBA 2K16’s “Be the Story” ring a little hollow, since they suggest a deeper connection to the character than we might have, and more influence over our destiny than the games actually allow.

Of course, while we may not be able to change a lot of what we see in the cutscenes, there’s still room for some imagination as we play the games. If fan fiction and ambiguous endings have taught us anything, it’s that we can interpret stories in differing and creative ways, and make up our own minds about certain plot points. To that end, I thought I’d have a little fun and throw out five theories – or if you prefer, five alternate interpretations – for the MyCAREER stories we’ve seen so far. Needless to say, there are some spoilers here (both for the games and other media), so proceed at your own risk.

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