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.
Yes, October 16th is my birthday. Today, I’m no longer an old man of 30, but an older man of 31. Appropriately enough, I’m eating cake as I write this Five; Boston Mudcake, despite the fact I’m a Chicago Bulls fan. All in all, I’ve had a pretty relaxed day today, not quite as productive as I’d normally like to be, but hey, I had the opportunity to take a day off, and it’s my birthday.
I hadn’t really prepared a topic for this week’s Five, beyond the fact that I knew that I was going to call it my Birthday Five, and talk about something that was somehow related to my birthday, while still tying it in to the stuff we cover here at the NLSC. So, what I’ve decided to do is talk about some of the ways I feel that we change as we get older, as it pertains to being a basketball fan, and a player of basketball video games. These are my reflections, on my 31st birthday, about growing up. Well, growing older, at any rate.
1. You change the way you play basketball video games
As I’ve mentioned many times before in the Friday Five and on the NLSC Podcast, I like to think of myself as a sim basketball gamer. I want to see the games achieve a high level of realism, I like to play in a realistic style, and while I’m also a big fan of games like NBA Jam, NBA Hangtime, and NBA Street, when it comes to the five-on-five titles, I want a sim style, not an arcade approach. However, when I was younger, I definitely cared a lot less about that. I remember playing NBA Live 95 on Super Nintendo, and averaging over 40 points per game with Scottie Pippen, and probably anywhere between five to eight steals per game as well. Also, lots of dunks.
Sure, I played with the rules on, and I knew the basics of basketball, but I didn’t yet have an appreciation for the strategy and finer points of the sport, nor the desire to replicate what I saw on TV without too much exaggeration. Now, some people still take that approach to basketball video games, and that’s absolutely fine. At the end of the day, you play the games the way that’s fun for you. Sometimes when I play, I’ll change things up with a more casual attitude, too. But speaking from personal experience, as I grew older, I definitely developed more of a desire to play realistically, and became a sim-oriented gamer. It went from “let me dunk all the time with my favourite players” to “let me create my own reality, based on reality”.
2. You both care more and less about basketball video games
We’d all like to think that with each passing birthday, we get older and wiser. As outlined above, I believe our perspectives on basketball video games can and do change over time, but it’s not just in the way we play them. As we get older, we learn to be more critical, and – aside from a vocal minority, mostly comprised of haters – we learn how to criticise in a way that’s constructive, and demonstrates that we know what we’re talking about. Through running a website dedicated to basketball games, getting an insight into their development, and having played them for so long, I still have a keen interest in the genre, as well as specific expectations and firm beliefs about what NBA Live and NBA 2K should strive for and achieve. In that respect, I care more about the quality of the games than I did when I was in my early teens.
At the same time, in some ways, I think I care less than I did when I was in my early 20s. Or, more accurately, I’m not wrapped up in the games to the point where I’m blinded by outrage, and can’t see the forest for the trees. I know that the people developing basketball games aren’t clueless, and want to put out a good product. I know that that’s easier said than done, and plans do go awry despite the best of intentions. I know that difficult business decisions are made, and that because they’re using someone else’s license (namely the NBA’s), their hands are sometimes tied. I care greatly in that I want to see basketball video games constantly improve, and I’m disappointed in their shortcomings, but I don’t take shortcomings and undesirable situations personally. I care, and I’ll critique, but I know it’s not the end of the world.
3. You stop being a fanboy/hater
Well, some of us do, at any rate.
Time for another confession: even though these days I’m a strong advocate of the mantra “fans not fanboys, critics not haters”, and I don’t care for the silliness that goes along with today’s console wars…growing up as a kid in the 90s, I was absolutely a fanboy! A Nintendo fanboy to be precise, so I always got a kick out of the fan art in Nintendo Magazine System (Australia’s official Nintendo magazine, the equivalent of Nintendo Power) depicting Sonic the Hedgehog being humiliated by Super Mario. Furthermore, Nintendo won that war, so nyah nyah, fellow thirty-somethings who were Sega fanboys back then!
Ahem. The thing is, I got over that. And while I still hold Nintendo in high regard, I haven’t actually owned a Nintendo console since the N64 (though I’ve played the Wii at friends’ places). Since then, I’ve had a PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 4, choosing each console for my own reasons. Likewise, my NBA fanaticism and love of the Chicago Bulls was much more fanboyish back in the day, my opinions certainly more biased. As I got older, and had to experience a rough era for the Bulls, I became more open-minded, and gained more of an appreciation for what other teams and players were doing. I’ve always remained a Bulls fan, and there are teams that I’ll cheer against, but without the childish fanboy obnoxiousness of my younger days.
Also, despite the impression that some people seem to have of me, I also maintain that I’m not an NBA Live fanboy. I do have a certain attachment to the series, and believe it’s for the benefit of basketball gaming that it continues to get better, but…well, for a supposed NBA Live fanboy, I certainly have a lot of good things to say about NBA 2K, and have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of Visual Concepts’ games. So there!
4. You still care about your birthday, and age is just a number
I guess the latter is easy to say when you’re still pretty young at 31, and in good health. I’ll admit that I did freak out a little bit before my 30th birthday last year, which I think a lot of people do. It’s the next big milestone in Western culture, and so you take stock of your life, stress about not being exactly where you want to be, stuff like that. But then you realise that you’re still quite young, and even though you may have to buckle down and work harder on some things, time is still on your side, and you (hopefully) have many more good times ahead of you. It’d be cliché to say that life begins at 30, but if nothing else, let it be said that it certainly doesn’t end at 30.
While we’re being a bit more serious and reflective, you also find that your birthday still feels important. Sure, there isn’t the same excitement and enthusiasm as you had growing up, but it still feels significant, and not just because another year has gone by. Yesterday, I felt neither anxious nor excited, but when I woke up today, I felt good. It was nice getting birthday messages throughout the day from my awesome family and friends, and having an excuse to take it easy (being self-employed helps there, too). As you get older, good relationships with your family and close friends you can rely on are things you certainly don’t take for granted. I’m very lucky in that regard.
5. You know who you are and what you like
Sure, your opinions, tastes, and preferences may change a little as you get older, especially as the people you meet introduce you to new things. But as you get older, you also become stronger in your convictions, and better at arguing a point. And I feel that I can make a good case for the opinions that I hold. But since this is my birthday, I’m going to invoke birthday boy privileges, and declare all my opinions as though they are fact. And for 24 hours at least, people will have to humour me. That’s just the way of things. So, with that in mind…
My favourite team is the Chicago Bulls, and the greatest player of all-time is Michael Jordan. The Simpsons at its peak is better than Family Guy…actually, I’d still say that it is. Leonardo is the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, because he wears a blue mask, and wields katana; blue is the best colour, and swords are awesome. Holden is better than Ford…rest in peace, Peter Brock. Strawberry milk is better than chocolate milk. PC over Mac…alright, so I guess I am still a bit of a fanboy. I do have an iPod, though. Ocarina of Time over every other Zelda game. Goldeneye isn’t overrated, just a classic that’s been surpassed. And there’s absolutely a market for both NBA Live and NBA 2K. See, I managed to bring it back to basketball video games, eventually!
Well, that was fun, and hopefully it was some enjoyable light reading for a Friday, but next week, I promise I’ll discuss a less self-indulgent subject. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the rest of my birthday! As always, I invite you to have your say in the comments section, as well as join in all of the discussion that’s taking place in the NLSC Forum. That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.