I’ve mentioned previously the danger I face from watching sports. How it gets me in the mood to play sports games, which inevitably frustrate me. I’ve mostly resisted the urge in the past few years, at least as far as buying any new games, but this NBA season must have got me so fired up it overrode my common sense, because I went out and bought NBA 2K15 a couple of months ago.
I was mostly intrigued by the MyCareer option, where you make a player and he goes through an entire career, from a Rookie Showcase game that determines his draft position, up to retirement. Of course, there were things I didn't know when I started out. I didn’t realize the default (and lowest) difficulty for MyCareer is All-Star. I didn’t realize I was going to hate the shooting mechanic so much. I didn’t realize there was going to be a stupid teammate grade you get at the end of each game, but that you can see updating throughout as you do good or bad things.
The game is not nearly intelligent enough to be allowed to grade you. If your offense makes three passes in a possession, it give you credit for good ball movement. Even if all three passes took place in a five second span, followed by one guy standing in place dribbling for 10 seconds, then throwing up a contested shot (the game rewards “hero ball” iso crap waaaay too often). The game penalizes you for what it calls bad shot selection, bad attempts at steals and blocks, bad passes, not getting back in transition, but it’s all screwy. I’ve been penalized for bad shot selection for taking a 3-pointer when my team was down 10 with 30 seconds left. I’ve been penalized for not getting back in transition, when the game decided my character was going to stand and bitch about not getting a call. If it had been up to me, he’d have been running, but the game would not allow me to make him run, then docked me for it. One time, I grabbed a rebound, then my character sprained his ankle on the landing, so he let go of the ball. So I was penalized for losing the ball, even though my teammate Joakim Noah grabbed it. Then Noah stood there waiting for me to stop hopping around before handing me the ball, just in time for us to lose the ball because we didn’t get across halfcourt in 8 seconds. Since I was holding the ball, I got tagged for the turnover, even though it’s Noah’s fault for being a witless buffoon. That’s complete bullshit.
Which is another thing, your teammates are morons. I got drafted by the Bulls, which you’d think would make things easy. But Mike Dunleavy gets at least 2 shot clock violations per game, and Jimmy Butler dribbles out of bounds roughly the same number of times (it’s funny how off the game is from reality. It doesn’t think much of Butler, but Kobe and Rondo are both still presented as being really good players). Gasol and Noah will call for passes then turn away as I pass to them, leading to a turnover (which gets pinned on me, rather than them). There is no way in hell Thibs would have named me starter when Rose got injured, not with Hinrich and Aaron Brooks on the team. He definitely wouldn’t have left me starter over a healthy Rose, or be playing me more minutes than anyone else. I was the third worst player on the team, and I played the most. It makes no sense, given the game will let me skip the parts where I’m sitting out. I’d be content to play as a part of a bench unit, but while the game lets me discuss things with the GM, “Play me fewer minutes” is not a topic option.
Which makes me wonder how much of what’s happening is predetermined. Am I losing all the time because I stink, or because the game thinks this is an interesting plotline to present me with? Is that why Rose got hurt, so there was an excuse to make me starter? Are my teammates going through those stretches where they screw up everything possible because the CPU is trying to force me to take over? If it wants me to take over, why does it penalize me when I try to do more, take more shots, gets steals and blocks? Having my teammate grade go down for “bad” attempts at those disincentivizes me to try. I’m better off just passing the ball to a teammate and setting screens, since I get a little positive boost for that. Winning a game only nets you 20 of the skill points you need to upgrade your player, but getting an A+ teammate grade nets 175 points. How does that make sense?
I will say the game nailed the social media aspect of it. There’s nothing like losing by 20 and having some dumbass opine it’s my fault, because as the point guard, I should have grabbed more than 2 rebounds. Also, Pharrell’s music selection was very good on the whole. There are a couple of songs I don’t like, but overall, it’s good. I’ll sit in the menu screens for awhile just to listen. Also because I’m trying to gather the nerve to play and lose another frustrating game. The postgame press conference, where you're given an option of 4 answers to a specific question, can be fun, though there are times I want to type my own responses. Granting they'd mostly involve hurling expletives at my useless teammates, but it might help me move on to the next game.
The game lets you use skill points to try and boost your attributes, but I can’t tell it helps. Sometimes it seems like the game specifically tries to mock my attempts to improve my guy. I maxed out his ability to Shoot in Traffic, and my next game I shot worse than I ever had before, 2 for 16, almost all close-range shots. I max out my Hands score, I get stripped going up for a shot the next game, by Enes freaking Kanter. Twice! The only thing that guy knows about defense is he can’t play any. Forty games into my third try at a rookie season (the first abandoned 10 games in, the second during an abysmal Rookie Showcase), I didn’t feel I had any better grasp of what I ought to be doing to be successful. I wasn’t shooting consistently better (I still can’t distinguish a difference between a “slightly early” shot release and a “slightly late” one on free throws), or playing better defense. I couldn’t get guys to take the open shots I got them consistently (I would have had twice as many assists as I did if they’d just fucking shoot the 10 wide open 3-pointers I got them each game). So I retired, citing not being good enough as the reason, though "I don't enjoy playing" would have been just as valid.
I'm on a 4th attempt, the first to last past the rookie season, and it's the same thing. I don't feel like I'm better. If anything, I think I'm getting worse. The game doesn't flow smoothly. The things I enjoy seeing when I watch basketball on TV, I can't replicate in the game, outside of sporadic moments. There was one game against the W2izards where I either stole the ball from John Wall or forced a turnover like 4 times in 3 minutes, to the point they subbed him out of the game for a few minutes. That was pretty cool, and I thought it meant I was figuring things out, but no, isolated incident. I still can't figure out what it wants from me. We had a playoff series against the Hornets, and in Game 7, I tried to take control. I took almost nothing but layups, and they kept rolling out. On defense, I tried to force Gerald Henderson and Lance Stephenson to beat us with 3s (neither is a good shooter from long-range, Stephenson shot 17 goddamn percent last season). Naturally they hit their 3s, and we lost. When things like that happen, I can't help concluding the game is cheating, and I have no clue what to do. I try passing to open teammates on fast breaks, they lose the ball, or brick the shot, and the computer inevitably scores going the other way. It starts to feel like one of those RPG boss fights you aren't supposed to win, but are expected to stay alive for a certain amount of time anyway. I hate those.
I think I've given up on NBA 2K15. It's frustrating to play, and frequently makes me want to either smash my controller, or kick my TV screen in.