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 basketball video games, the real NBA, or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
There are a lot of things that feel good when you’re playing a basketball video game. Knocking down a three-pointer, whether it’s a wide open shot or you’re drilling it right in the face of a defender. Throwing down a dunk, especially when you see a brand new animation, or when the slam caps off a big scoring run. Great defensive plays that end with a crafty steal, intimidating block, or an embarrassing shot clock violation for your opponent, also feel pretty good. When you’re playing a basketball video game, you can sometimes get just as excited as you do when you’re watching or playing the real sport.
That’s what makes basketball video games such a satisfying experience. I mean, we wouldn’t be playing them, talking about them, modding them, and yes, even complaining about them, if we weren’t getting something out of them, and they didn’t hold any value to us. In this week’s Friday Five, I wanted to talk about some of the specific moments in basketball video games that I find to be the most satisfying. These are the moments that go beyond the thrill of simply nailing a triple, or rocking the rim.
1. Ending an Online Game without a Ragequit or Server Error
Yes, I’m taking this opportunity to throw another jab at sore losers who quit or disconnect in order to avoid losses when playing basketball video games online. And yes, it’s also feels quite satisfying to take another swipe at them! In all seriousness though, when you’re playing an online game against a random opponent, there’s always that fear that if you happen to pull ahead late in the game, a ragequit or disconnection is looming. So, when you do earn the victory, your opponent is a good sport, and the game finishes as it should, you’re left with a feeling of satisfaction.
Let’s all give each other the benefit of the doubt, though. Genuine disconnections do happen, because servers aren’t infallible, and games will crash. I’ve had really fun games against people I know and trust come to an abrupt and disappointing halt because the connection has been dropped. When that’s happened to you a couple of times in a single gaming session, it’s almost cause for celebration when you finally manage to finish a game, win or lose. I’ve mentioned several times before that online play really isn’t for me, but it’s still something I like to try every once in a while. When I do, and everything goes smoothly, it’s immensely satisfying.
2. Pulling a Great Card in Ultimate Team/MyTEAM
Any basketball gamer who’s spent a considerable amount of time with the card-based team building modes – Ultimate Team and MyTEAM – knows the heartache of buying a pack or completing a challenge, only to receive a disappointing haul. If you grew up collecting basketball trading cards as I did, it’s probably an all too familiar feeling. While the auction features in the most recent games can help you snag a card you’re after, the asking prices are often quite high. If you don’t have the coins or MyTEAM points to make a bid, you have to rely on the luck of the draw with packs and challenge rewards.
But man, when you do pull a great card, it’s an exciting moment! If you’ve been waiting to nab your favourite player, or perhaps a particular jersey for your team, it’s very satisfying to see those cards reveal themselves when you open a pack. It’s also nice when you can find a great deal on a card that’s been put up for auction, but having good luck with a pack is just a touch more exciting. To date, picking up a ’93 Michael Jordan card in NBA 2K14 after buying a few retro Chicago Bulls packs is probably my best “get”. Still no luck with Scottie Pippen in Ultimate Team, though.
3. Earning a Comeback Victory over the CPU
The comeback logic in some basketball games can be extremely vicious. As I’ve previously discussed, it needs to be in order to ensure that the AI can keep pace with a human opponent, and it’s only realistic that there’s a chance a trailing team can make a comeback, even if it’s a slim one. Obviously, because the AI can (and will) stack the odds in its favour, cutting into a big lead and ultimately pulling ahead of it can be a tall order. On the higher difficulty levels, you’ll pretty much need to play perfectly to make it happen, and even on an easier difficulty setting, it’s harder to accomplish now that “video game tactics” aren’t as effective as they once were; as it should be.
Therefore, when you do come from behind and successfully pull off a comeback victory, it’s extremely gratifying. It’s the culmination of patience, perseverance, and good strategy. I actually enjoyed a comeback win in NBA 2K16 with the Boston Celtics earlier today, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in an NBA Today game. I was playing pretty badly in the first quarter, falling behind 28-15, and trailed for much of the game. However, I stuck with it, cut into the deficit, and finally pulled ahead in the final minutes after exchanging small leads throughout the fourth. As a side note, I highly recommend Shady Mike’s sliders. The game plays great, and the stats in 12 minute quarters are pretty spot on. Look for them under the name #Shady.
4. Completing a Modding Project
This might seem like a weird one, but with such an active modding community here at the NLSC, I expect that more than a couple of people can relate to it. Because modding and creating new content for basketball video games is a big part of what we do, for some people the creation of that content has become a significant and enjoyable part of the gaming experience. Some modding projects are quite large and take a long time to create, which is one of the reasons why we insist on asking permission and giving credit where its due, when using someone else’s work.
I speak from experience when I say that while making those big mods can feel very rewarding, it can also be very tedious at times. However, it’s all worth it when you’re done with a project and can look at the finished product, knowing that it’s complete and came together just the way you wanted it to. The same goes for any mod that isn’t necessarily large in scope, like a roster update, but has taken a lot of work and testing to get right, such as animation editing. When you spend time modding the games as well as playing them, it’s very satisfying to see everything fall into place, and your efforts come to fruition.
5. Finishing a Season with a Championship, After Playing Every Game
Getting back to actually playing basketball video games, perhaps the most satisfying experience is when you play through an entire season, and get to hoist that virtual Larry O’Brien trophy. If you happen to play twelve minute quarters on top of that, the 82-game regular season and Playoffs will feel like a marathon, but winning the championship will in turn feel even more gratifying. I’ve managed to do that in multiple games, including my NBA Live 06 Dynasty with the Chicago Bulls, and my NBA 2K13 MyCAREER playing for the Denver Nuggets.
Now, don’t take that as me getting on my high horse, and looking down on people who simulate games and/or play shorter quarter lengths. Honestly, that’s a very sensible way to get through multiple seasons, and if you’re playing MyLEAGUE in NBA 2K, there’s an option to recalculate your statistics based on twelve minute quarters, if having realistic numbers is important to you. However, if you do decide to dedicate yourself to playing every single game with full length quarters, you’ll find that winning it all is a satisfying end to a lengthy journey. I’ll hazard a guess and say that it’s not quite as exciting as winning the real NBA championship, but nevertheless a lot of fun, and a more attainable goal for most of us.
What are some of your most satisfying moments in basketball video games, be it NBA Live, NBA 2K, NBA Jam, or another title? Let me know in the comments below, 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.