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 affiliations in MyPARK.
The Playground has never been my main mode of choice – Pro-Am is more my speed when it comes to NBA 2K online – but I’ve had some fun with it over the years. More to the point, it has become one of the most popular modes in the game, and through the introduction of The Neighborhood, a major part of the main MyCAREER hub. From its introduction as The Park in NBA 2K14 to its rebranding as MyPARK and subsequently The Playground, the mode has gone from an online offshoot of NBA 2K’s career mode to its own fully fleshed out and immersive experience.
As much focus as it receives and as popular as it is, however, not all Playground gamers are completely satisfied with its evolution. One aspect that was left behind in the MyPARK era is affiliations. It’s not uncommon to see Playground gamers asking for the return of MyPARK affiliations in response to 2K’s Tweets, though as of NBA 2K20, it’s yet to make a return. What was it, and why was it so popular? Let’s take a look back…way back…
When The Playground – then called The Park – debuted in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of NBA 2K14, it was far more basic than The Neighborhood we now see in MyCAREER. There was an urban aesthetic, but no open world to explore and interact with. 100 MyPLAYERs could gather on a server and play streetball, much the same as we can in today’s Playground, though the stakes were lower. It was still very much a prototype of the experience that’s now on offer; an offshoot of MyCAREER, something fun to dabble with rather than a deep mode in its own right. There was no doubt that it was popular though, and so it was expanded upon starting in NBA 2K15.
MyPARK in NBA 2K15 was much more than a mere rebranding. It introduced the concept of MyPARK Rep, a level system that is still utilised today (albeit not always in the best possible way). Raising your Rep unlocked various rewards, from Park-specific abilities and animations to MyPLAYER clothing. At the Pro 3 level, you were able to travel to other parks, and earn extra VC by defeating your rivals. This is where MyPARK affiliations come in. Essentially a faction or clan system, gamers could choose one of three parks to belong to and subsequently represent in inter-park competition. It also represented your choice of aesthetic and style of play.
If you’re a dedicated park player then the MyPARK affiliations probably need no introduction, but they were the Sunset Beach Ballers, Rivet City Roughriders, and the Old Town Flyers. Each park provided its own distinct atmosphere. Sunset Beach – as the name would imply – was located beachside, and took inspiration from real venues such as Venice Beach. Rivet City was industrial, with factories looming behind its eight courts. Old Town featured an urban backdrop, in the vein of venues like Rucker and Dyckman Park. As noted, the themes of these parks weren’t just limited to their aesthetics, as they also represented the style of basketball favoured at each location.
The Old Town Flyers were about up-tempo, flashy play. As such, choosing them as your MyPARK affiliation resulted in bonuses to playmaking and defensive attributes. The Rivet City Roughriders favoured physical play, so picking them granted boosts to athletic and rebounding ratings. As for the Sunset Beach Ballers, making shots from anywhere and everywhere was the name of the game, which meant a slight increase to both inside and outside shooting. You weren’t just picking the aesthetic you liked, but ratings buffs that suited your style, as well as potential teammates and opponents that shared your preference. It offered a sense of community, and identity.
As special events such as the MyPARK championship and Rival Day were added, the importance of MyPARK affiliations grew and provided new experiences and content. This included special venues for inter-park clashes, and affiliation uniforms. Even if you weren’t particularly interested in those events, the presence of different MyPARK affiliations allowed the NBA 2K team to get very creative with each of the venues. NBA 2K16 and NBA 2K17 introduced distinctive new looks for all the parks, from Sunset Beach’s water park to Old Town’s carnival to Rivet City’s Hangar-like factory. They were memorable places to call home, or travel to in search of competition.
You only have to look at the complaints about the lack of changes in NBA 2K20’s Neighborhood compared to NBA 2K19 to realise how important it is for Playground gamers to have new aesthetics every year. Indeed, that controversy began back in NBA 2K18, when The Neighborhood debuted and all gamers found themselves in the same world map with the same courts. Logos for Sunset Beach, Rivet City, and Old Town have made cameos on the blacktop, but it’s not the same. The season in NBA 2K20’s Neighborhood has just changed, but for gamers who remember the different venues and MyPARK affiliations, changes to decorations and foliage aren’t enough.
Beyond the theme, aesthetics, and general vibe – which are important – it’s safe to say that Playground gamers miss the faction/clan aspect of MyPARK affiliations. As I said, they offered a sense of community and identity. Even the trailer for MyPARK in NBA 2K15 emphasised this aspect, along with the notion that joining the park of your choice gave you something to play for every day. I’m not suggesting that the lack of MyPARK affiliations in the last few games is solely responsible for the toxicity that now permeates The Playground, but it has contributed to a lack of unity. Without that incentive to play and represent a chosen park, many just loiter or back out of games.
Looking back, MyPARK affiliations hit on some important points across the board. It provided Playground gamers with a meaningful choice for their MyPLAYERs, one that encompassed desired aesthetic, boosts based on preferred style of play, and a sense of community and belonging. Without it, The Playground has become far more homogenised and generic. There aren’t any new parks to choose from. There’s less incentive for cooperation and goodwill because there are no factions to represent; only your own individual or squad rank, record, and rep. And of course since the servers are shut down, it’s impossible to go back and enjoy those unique venues now.
Features come and go in basketball games, and concepts do evolve. To that end, some features do have a shelf life and need to make way for new ideas. However, MyPARK affiliations feels like something that 2K moved on from too soon, and unnecessarily. From the aesthetics to the competitive and cooperative aspect, a faction system would still have a place in the new approach of The Neighborhood and The Playground. It can even offer a returning gamer bonus, as NBA 2K17 did with your MyPARK rep if you chose the same affiliation you had in NBA 2K16. Again, the park has never really been my thing, but it’s clear that enthusiasts of the mode want to pledge allegiances.
Perhaps the best thing about MyPARK affiliations, especially when compared to the more unnecessary bells and whistles of The Neighborhood and current Playground, is that it was about basketball: where you played, how you played, who you played with and against. It invited creativity and offered gamers a choice with distinct branding, identity, and advantages. With The Playground becoming more and more about meta gaming and elitism, it’s no wonder gamers want MyPARK affiliations to return. It represented a community spirit and sense of choice and creativity that has since been missing. Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of the concept.