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. This week’s Five looks at five ways that playing MyCAREER messes with your overall game on the virtual hardwood.
Putting aside MyCAREER in favour of MyNBA, fun match-ups in Play Now, and a little bit of MyTEAM, has been a breath of fresh air. As always, I must emphasise that I’ve had thousands of hours of fun with MyCAREER and its connected modes. I mean that literally, as I’ve checked the Hours Played count on PC and PlayStation alike! It was a mode that I was playing out of habit though, and when I finally broke that habit, I found that I was enjoying basketball gaming in a way that I hadn’t been for quite a while. In short, it was time to move on, and I finally did.
Not only was it refreshing, it was also eye-opening. I was aware of how playing MyCAREER had become a habit, to the point where I could say that grinding had become oddly addictive. However, as I’ve shifted away from MyCAREER and its connected modes, I’ve been caught off guard by how my style of play, as well as my expectations of gameplay, had been affected by playing the mode for so many years. It’s something I noticed when I first started playing head-to-head games on Parsec, as well as diving into MyTEAM and MyNBA. Simply put, as fun as it can be, playing MyCAREER messes with your virtual game. Here are five examples of how it does.
1. The MyCAREER Style Doesn’t Mesh With Other Modes
Although franchise modes, card collecting modes, and exhibition play do have their differences, they have far more in common with each other than any of them do with MyCAREER. It’s why they’re sometimes referred to as the 5v5 modes, even though there’s 5v5 gameplay in the NBA side of MyCAREER, not to mention Pro-Am, The Rec, and certain Playground events. It serves as convenient shorthand to distinguish those modes from the player locked gameplay of MyCAREER and the online team play experiences. It’s easier to go between MyNBA/MyLEAGUE/MyGM, Play Now, Play Now Online, and MyTEAM, because it’s ultimately a similar style of gameplay.
MyCAREER and the connected modes stand out as their own thing. You only control one player, so while you are obviously following the action, you’re concentrating on your avatar and playing your role. After all, that’s all you can control. In the NBA side of MyCAREER, you often need to play selfishly, and usually unrealistically, in order to efficiently grind and level up. Sure, it’s all virtual basketball at the end of the day, but career and online team play modes have their own style and approach that greatly differs from more traditional gameplay. It can be a shock when you go back to that experience, to the point of feeling rusty despite all of your recent hours on the sticks.
2. Developing A Reliance On CPU & Online Teammates
As noted above, the nature of player locked gameplay in MyCAREER and its online modes results in generally focusing on your player and their role. This leaves a lot up to your CPU teammates, or the people you’re playing with online. Naturally, you still have to have good court awareness and pay attention to the play in order to perform to the best of your abilities when player locked. Furthermore, even in modes where you can control the entire team, you can still only control one player at a time, so you will be relying on your AI teammates to pull their weight. The difference is that you can switch control between players, and it’s on you to make things happen with everyone.
I’ve mentioned my love of assists before. When I’m racking up dimes in MyCAREER, team Pro-Am, or The Rec, my part in the play is to get the ball to my teammates, and let them knock down shots. As soon as the ball has left my hands and is in theirs, it’s up to them to take the shot while I focus on getting back on D, or moving without the ball. When controlling the entire team, you have to make the pass and finish the play. While you can carry your team in MyCAREER, you do cede some responsibility. In online games, you have the luxury of other gamers who can make decisions and use their stick skills to help get the job done. With full control comes full responsibility!
3. You’re Used to One Player’s Abilities & Animations
A key to success in MyCAREER, and the online connected experiences in particular, is to create a powerful build that has all the right elements. That means the appropriate attributes, the most powerful Badges, and the most effective animations. Choosing a shooting animation with a generous window for Green Releases and a visual cue that you can master is a major part of the meta. Every year, there’s a search for the “best” animations to use, which does lead to homogeny. The developers are obviously aware of this, which is why certain animations in NBA 2K22’s MyCAREER are Seasonal releases. They’ve openly stated that the intention is to get people trying out new ones.
If you know what you’re doing with the MyPLAYER Builder, you’ll have created an avatar that plays the way you want, with animations you can dominate with. When you’re controlling five players on the court however, you need to learn how to use all of them effectively. You need to familiarise yourself with all of their shot releases, and know their strengths and weaknesses. Your ability to do that can be impacted if you’ve grown accustomed to only controlling your tailor-made MyPLAYER. It means having to reacquaint yourself with controlling a variety of players with their own feel and skillsets, and getting the most out of them. Also, there’s no array of OP Badges!
4. It’s Easy To Forget About Lineup Management
One of the obvious differences between MyCAREER and modes such as MyTEAM, MyNBA and other franchise modes, or even just exhibition games, is that so much of the control is taken out of your hands. You don’t call the shots as far as substitutions, you can only suggest moves you’d like the virtual GM to make (and even then, only after earning the privilege), and you probably won’t be playing as much as you like for the first quarter of the season. This is part of the mode’s challenge and appeal, of course. You have to work with what you’re given, and you’re just one player. In the online modes, it’s about stick skills and working as a team with your fellow gamers.
In other modes, you don’t have to just play with the lineup you’re given, and you don’t need to earn and unlock the ability to make changes. You’re in complete control; well, you may have to share control if you’re playing co-op, but you’re not at the mercy of MyCAREER’s rotation and substitution logic. There have been times when I’ve just played with a default lineup instead of trying to make strategic adjustments, or I’ve put up with undesirable automatic substitutions because I’m used to ceding control to the AI. Automation can be handy, but it being the norm in MyCAREER has led to me neglecting the ability to manage my rotations. It’s a habit that I’m still trying to break.
5. No Longer Having To Grind Feels Weird (But Welcome)
Here’s the thing about going “No Money Spent” in MyCAREER: you resign yourself to doing extracurricular activities. That means hitting up the Daily Spin or Daily Prize on a daily basis, or at least as often as possible. It means partaking in whatever mini-games or story content will earn extra VC. It also messes with your game on the court, as you’re trying to put up stats to maximise your VC and Badge XP earnings. In other modes, you just play basketball; you just try to win games. That’s what’s so refreshing about those experiences after spending years with MyCAREER. You don’t have to worry about attribute upgrades, your Overall Rating, Badge progress, and so on.
It’s a welcome feeling, but it’s undoubtedly weird as well. As tedious as grinding can be in MyCAREER and its connected modes, it also offers immediate satisfaction in other respects. Every game you play is another step towards buying more attributes upgrades and unlocking new Badges. You’re conditioned to get a rush from seeing your Overall Rating rise, your MyREP/Season level increase, and progress meters filling up. In a way, you miss that when you leave MyCAREER behind. At the same time, those mechanics are designed that way to keep you grinding, and perhaps start paying. The more you reflect on that, the less and less you seek that dopamine rush.
If you’ve played a lot of MyCAREER before switching to other modes, have you had to shake off rust, break habits, or relearn certain techniques? What other modes have you found yourself being rusty at after a long absence? Let me know 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 Friday for another Five.