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Monday Tip-Off: Playing The Long Game

Monday Tip-Off: Playing The Long Game

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 recap of my experiences vying for The Long Game Trophy by playing all four years of a college career in The Long Shadow, NBA 2K21 Next Gen’s MyCAREER story.

I have to say that as far as Trophies and Achievements are concerned, The Long Game is aptly named. Spending four years in college at the start of a MyCAREER game is definitely a lengthy slog! There’s no simulating – not that you’d really want to, when you’re grinding for VC and Badges – and with only nine other teams, it can be repetitive. At the same time, the idea appealed to me. Less than 1% of PlayStation 5 gamers have attained the Trophy for completing The Long Game, so it’s obviously a rare feat. I figured it would be interesting to take the road less travelled.

It’s also the first time we’ve had this opportunity in MyCAREER. Every other game that’s included a college career has seen our MyPLAYER declare for the Draft after their freshman year. Now we actually have a choice, and it’s a decision that we have to weigh up as a real player might. Is it worth taking the extra time to develop before entering the league – especially as it’s grinding against easier competition – or do you go after the big bucks (or in this case, VC) as soon as you can? To me, the choice was easy. I’ve been a one-and-done player before; now that I have the opportunity, I’m playing The Long Game! Please be advised that there are some story spoilers ahead.

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Monday Tip-Off: I’ve Got To Use My Imagination

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 thoughts on how we no longer have to use our imagination when it comes to career and franchise modes.

Yes, the title of this week’s column is indeed a reference to a song by Gladys Knight & the Pips. That’s about as far as the reference goes, however. Truth be told, I only know the song because Forrest Gump is one of my all-time favourite movies, and it’s on its soundtrack. In any case, imagination is a core component of gaming, no matter the genre. Whether we’re playing single player or multiplayer, we immerse ourselves in a virtual world. We share the goal of the player character, whether it’s saving the world, winning a championship, or causing mayhem as a goose.

Imagination has always been – and to some extent still is – a big part of basketball gaming. Whether we’re assuming the role of a general manager or coach, taking control of a star player, or stepping onto the hardwood or blacktop with our own avatar, there’s an element of fantasy at play. Of course, many years ago, we had to be far more imaginative as far as scenarios and stories. In franchise and career play, we filled in the gaps, created our own back stories, and would even role-play in our story section. These days, we don’t have to use our imagination so much, especially in the story-driven MyCAREER. Needless to say, there are benefits and drawbacks to this.

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The Sunday Substitute: My Last 5 MyCAREER Campaigns From Worst to Best

My player in NBA 2K16 posing with DeMarcus Cousins.

What’s that? A surprise edition of The Sunday Substitute to start the new year? With the next generation of consoles here, I’ve decided to reflect on my PS4 MyCAREER experiences and rank them from worst to best.

MyCAREER has been a part of my basketball video game experience ever since I first picked up the mode in NBA 2K10, back when it was called My Player. However, it wasn’t until I purchased my PS4 that I played the game annually (except for NBA 2K18). During my run on PS4, I made a conscious decision to make each MyCAREER experience unique. For this reason, I played a different position for each game.

Every situation had its strengths and weaknesses, but some stood out more than others. So, I’m going to rank each of my last five MyCAREER campaigns on PS4 from worst to best. Let’s get this show on the road!

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Wayback Wednesday: A MyCAREER Scoop for NBA 2K16

Wayback Wednesday: A MyCAREER Scoop for 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 recalling the time that I received a scoop about MyCAREER in NBA 2K16, which I ultimately didn’t publish.

Back in July of 2015, we were all awaiting further previews and details of what to expect from NBA 2K16. There had been rumours that MyCAREER would include some college gameplay, due to the leaked achievement list and research unearthing a licensing agreement between 2K Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company. As screenshots continued to leak, it seemed increasingly likely that MyCAREER would indeed feature a collegiate career as part of its story. By September, trailers confirmed those details for Spike Lee’s MyCAREER joint, “Livin’ Da Dream“.

Although I was posting rumours and confirmed details alike as they made the rounds, there was one post that I didn’t make. An anonymous source sent me a scoop via the NLSC’s contact form, offering up snippets of information on what to expect from the MyCAREER story in NBA 2K16. Obviously anyone covering video games enjoys being able to break news and confirm rumours, but I was hesitant, and ultimately elected not to post a bulletin discussing those details. Why did I make that choice? Let’s take a look back…way back…

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Wayback Wednesday: Orange Juice in NBA 2K17

Wayback Wednesday: Orange Juice in NBA 2K17

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 story of Orange Juice in NBA 2K17’s MyCAREER.

After NBA 2K14 brought us the first story-driven MyCAREER mode, and NBA 2K15’s story delivered us the gift of infamously bad acting from NBA players, NBA 2K16 tried taking the concept to the next level with Spike Lee’s “Livin Da’ Dream“. Although the production values and acting were a lot better, the story had its own issues, and didn’t gel with the RPG aspect of MyCAREER. As such, the story-driven approach would be retooled in NBA 2K17, increasing the amount of gameplay in our rookie seasons while also allowing for more flexibility with the player character.

2K would also bring in Aaron Covington, co-writer of Creed, to write and direct the story. Michael B. Jordan, who starred as Adonis Creed in the aforementioned film, was also signed on to play Justice Young. Together with the MyPLAYER character, The President of Basketball – aka Pres – he formed a duo known as Orange Juice. The name drew some scorn when it was revealed, but how does the story and its impact on NBA 2K17’s MyCAREER hold up today? Pausing for a moment to note that there will be spoilers, let’s take a look back…way back…

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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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Monday Tip-Off: The MyCAREER Cinematic Universe

Marcus Young in The Prelude (NBA 2K19 MyCAREER)

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 look at the plots and characters that keep appearing in MyCAREER stories.

Writing about Jackson Ellis for Wayback Wednesday got me thinking about recurring characters and call backs in MyCAREER stories. While I’d like to see MyCAREER move away from the story-driven approach, or at least evolve into a fresher, more dynamic experience, I do find that I can still have fun with the concept. Whether it’s suggesting new scenarios or coming up with a handful of off-the-wall theories and alternative interpretations, the subject doesn’t have to be something I only grumble about over and over again.

Some of the MyCAREER stories have definitely turned out better than others, both in terms of their narrative and the way in which they affected the gameplay experience. From a gameplay perspective, each story is self-contained. Nothing that we do with our individual MyPLAYERs will carry over to the next game, at which point league history – all stats, awards, and championships – reverts back to reality. However, there are references to previous stories, recurring characters, and even a few subplots with NPCs. Just for fun, let’s try to piece together some kind of canon for MyCAREER’s stories. We’ll call it the MyCAREER Cinematic Universe.

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