Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! Every Friday I cover a topic related to basketball gaming, either as a list of five items, or a Top 5 countdown. The topics for these lists and countdowns include everything from fun facts and recollections to commentary and critique. This week’s Five is a list of five factors that are drawing me towards playing older games rather than more recent titles.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a predisposition for playing older games, basketball or otherwise. My earliest forays into gaming came with a system that was already outdated before I was born, thanks to the Video Game Crash of 1983. I’m also a creature of habit prone to sentimentality and nostalgia, so I’m not one to readily throw the past away and never look back. I didn’t always have the latest hardware growing up, so sometimes I had to stick with the older games that I could run. It’s why I was still keen to update NBA Live 96 PC as others were gearing up for NBA Live 98.
Old habits die hard, so it’s no surprise that I remain open to playing older games, even though I own and can play more recent releases. Still, it’s not just nostalgia that has me reaching for old favourites over the last few NBA 2K games. It’s part of it, sure, but in all honesty, as far as my experiences on the virtual hardwood, I’ve had more fun going back to NBA 2K14 and an assortment of other older titles. Even though I was impressed by NBA 2K23 – and all of its nostalgic content – I soon put it aside to play my favourites from yesteryear, as well as search for new retro kicks. When I reflect upon it, there are five main factors that are continually drawing me to older games.
1. Familiarity With NBA Players
While I do still follow the NBA, it isn’t with the same enthusiasm that I once had. I’m not a big fan of the current style of play, I find a lot of Adam Silver’s changes to be unnecessary and off-putting, and while the talent is certainly there, the personalities of today’s game don’t hold a candle to the stars of yesteryear. Or maybe, I’m very rapidly turning into a grumpy old man! Whatever the case, I simply don’t have the same level of affinity for the league these days. I also haven’t been working on any current roster updates for several years now, so I’m not poring over lineups and stats as I used to. That lack of familiarity makes it much tougher to get into playing the latest NBA 2K.
Conversely, I’m far more familiar with the players in older games. When I say older games, I don’t just mean titles from the 90s and early 2000s, though I am definitely having a blast dusting those off again! The rosters in games from the early to mid 2010s also hold great appeal, and the games themselves are excellent. There’s no way to make this point without starting an argument about old vs. new and nostalgia vs. recency bias, so I’ll be diplomatic and say that however you feel about different NBA eras and their respective video games, familiarity is vital in cultivating affinity. I’m not saying older is unquestionably better, but right now, it’s more appealing to me.
2. Unfinished Business
As basketball video games have become increasingly deeper, it’s basically all but guaranteed that we won’t truly wrap up our business with them before the next one is released. On top of that, there are older games that I didn’t spend as much time with for one reason or another, either because of a poor first impression, or other things that were going on at the time. A second look with fresh eyes can change all of that, and a title that once left me cold can become a new kick as a retro gaming experience. If there’s a mode I can really sink my teeth into – like MyCAREER in NBA 2K14 for PlayStation 4 – then I’ll be inclined to make up for lost time and unfinished business.
Of course, sometimes there’s unfinished business in old favourites as well, if I’ve kept my save. Even if I’ve gained some sort of closure by playing through a season or two in a franchise mode, there’s always the prospect of picking it up again and continuing the journey. They may not have the seasonal and live service content of their modern successors, but there’s still fun to be had with older games. Sometimes, that might be tackling challenges to unlock a few Trophies and Achievements. Sometimes, a mode will hook you in and keep a game in your rotation. And sometimes, it’s just playing exhibition games with no stakes or goals, until you finally feel like moving on again.
3. New Experiences With Parsec
When you essentially grow up as an only child, you come to appreciate single player experiences. At the same time, I’d have friends over or visit their places, my cousin would stay with us in the school holidays, and in recent years, I’ve played 2K Pro-Am with friends in the community. I’m no stranger to multiplayer gaming, and do enjoy it as well. Needless to say, the busy nature of adult life means fewer opportunities to meet up and game. As for 2K Pro-Am, it’s not just an issue of scheduling, as our crew has come to find the online scene completely unpalatable. Fortunately, Parsec has provided another way to connect and play with my fellow basketball gamers.
Obviously, Parsec can be used to facilitate head-to-head and co-op games of NBA 2K23 PC if desired. KingJMASE has demonstrated that, putting it to fantastic use with the ESL! What originally drew Dee and I to Parsec though was the ability to connect on games that no longer have any online support, or never had it in the first place. Combined with emulation, we’ve been able to enjoy sessions with many old favourites, and give some overlooked titles a try as well. With the state of The Rec and 2K Pro-Am nowadays, connecting on everything from NBA Live 95 to NBA Jam: On Fire Edition promises to be a much better time on the virtual hardwood.
4. Modding Possibilities
Although the modding scene for older games is much quieter now, we still have all of the tools and resources, not to mention a bevy of releases at our disposal. Whether it’s a minimalist project or a larger undertaking, tinkering with those older games is still absolutely viable. I can’t help but think of modding ideas when I’m revisiting a game that still holds up today, and that more people might want to play if it were freshened up with some mods. Some of them are admittedly pipe dreams given their scope, but I’d never want to rule out the possibility entirely. Mods for the latest game will always be more popular, but there’s another reason to consider retro modding and gaming.
In a word: simplicity. Thanks to Looyh, we have the tools to make some incredible mods for NBA 2K23, and hopefully we’ll have similar resources for future games as well. Older games do tend to be much easier to mod, however. With direct access to the roster saves in older NBA Live and NBA 2K games alike, there’s no interference from official patches and anti-cheat measures. Modded files can be placed in a folder and loaded without the need for an unofficial plugin. Once again, we have the tools, resources, and ready-made mods on hand. I’m frankly far more excited about being able to create something cool for NBA Live 06 than diving into NBA 2K23 modding.
5. Less Grind, More Fun
Honestly, this is the major factor that’s drawing me to older games these days. As I said, I still follow the NBA, and it’s quite feasible to familiarise myself with current players and lineups. There’s plenty of content in newer games, mods that I could enjoy, and ways to connect with friends to play. There’s also nonsense that I just don’t want to have to deal with. After years of grinding up a MyPLAYER year after year, I simply don’t have the patience to endure what has become an increasingly boring and frustrating journey that I can’t even revisit when the servers are gone. I also don’t relish putting in the work to amass a great collection in MyTEAM, only to lose it.
Yes, there’s more content than ever in NBA 2K23, but so many of the experiences are temporary. Live service content and “always online” requirements have made games disposable, which in turn has dampened my enthusiasm and ability to get invested in them. That isn’t an issue with older games. If they have lost content and features after a server shutdown, what’s there is there, and it’s usually enough for me. If they haven’t lost anything, so much the better! Besides that, I’m not worrying about any agendas, rewards, seasonal content, or anything like that. I’m just enjoying virtual basketball, which is the whole point at the end of the day. It’s what older games were all about.
What keeps you playing (and/or modding) older games? Alternatively, do you find that you struggle to return to older games, and always move on? Have your say in the comments, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next week for another Five.