Like a good chair, video games can provide a sense of comfort and security despite their subject matter. Maybe you play League of Legends every night, or World of Warcraft religiously, or something else entirely, but odds are that there’s a game you keep coming back to when there’s nothing else to play. For me, I sink dozens and dozens of hours into the NBA 2K series of games because I’m a massive fan of the sport along with the games themselves. That’s not a qualitative statement however, because I think there’s tons of room for improvement in the series, from bug fixes to features, and even new modes entirely.
Before I jump into what I’d like to see out of a new entry in the series, let’s talk about what’s in it already. If you recall, last year there was a massive hubbub around the gross monetization practices around NBA 2K20, thanks to a trailer showcasing literal slot and Pachinko machines inside of a basketball game. NBA 2K as a series has a long and gross history of shitty monetization in the form of a virtual currency called “VC,” which is literally short for virtual currency. From upgrading stats, to unlocking apparel, moves, and basically everything else in the game, VC is integral to certain competitive modes in the series.
Despite wanting to engage with some of these modes, particularly the career mode which has you making a character and bringing them through their career as a player, the reliance on VC keeps me away. Instead I focus on the franchise mode, where I can take control of any team or teams I want, and play through something like 80 seasons before it ends. I’ve never made it to the end of the mode, so I genuinely don’t know what happens.
So with that context in mind, let’s talk about the future of the NBA 2K series. As a child of the 80’s and primarily a fan of 90’s and early 2000’s basketball, I tend to gravitate towards that style of play in the game. Focusing on traditional player roles that don’t really jive with the realities of today’s game. Modern basketball has kind of made the traditional big men positions obsolete, opting for shorter, faster and more dynamic players who can space the floor better than their massive predecessors. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just how the game is these days. But when I craft my teams I usually end up filling the gaps on my roster with players that reflect an older style of basketball. Since it’s a video game, it works out just fine for me, but it does feel like I’m playing wrong from time to time.
Let’s put aside workload, licensing issues, and literally every aspect of reality that would impede my pitch for a new mode in the NBA 2K series, and let’s just pretend it could happen. I would like to be able to combine my love of the franchise mode, with the eras of basketball I remember.
I want the vintage teams, jerseys, and stadiums to reflect this era of basketball. From different announcers, fans, and even retro styled graphics packages in the game, I want to relive this heyday of basketball in a video game, the way I dreamed of when I was kid. As of right now, I can play with the 98′ Bulls if I wanted to, but it’s literally just taking that roster and putting them on a modern court. That’s fine, I appreciate that functionality, but I want to relive vintage seasons and rewrite history. I want play styles, game tempo and rule changes to be represented, and not just feel like a retro skin for a modern game.
It’s a lofty request that is far too specific for it to ever become a reality, especially when you consider what I’m asking for is to travel back in time with modern computers and design sensibilities, and make NBA 2K1996… or NBA 1K96? I have no idea what it would be called, but you get the point.
Maybe I’m being overly nostalgic, maybe I have too much time to think about new modes for games and a need to write things for my gaming website, lest I go insane. Or maybe I just watched the first few episodes of the excellent ESPN and Netflix documentary series, The Last Dance, that chronicles the final season Jordan played with the Bulls, and want to interact with it. Who could say?