Hindsight was a TV series that ran from January to March 11, 2015. Three months, ten episodes, and its life was cut abruptly short thanks to changes in control over at VH1. Even worse - it ended on a cliffhanger. My wife and I were devastated. Every Friday night that was 'our show.' If you never saw that one, it was about a girl who is about to get married but has cold feet. She steps into an elevator and when she gets out... it's the 90's. It was a comedy-drama and sure it was capitalizing off of a certain demographic's nostalgia. But we were totally that demographic, and the show had a certain sincerity to it rather than just hitting you over the head with "hey, remember Oasis?" references. And it was fun! Hang in there because I promise this is going somewhere by the way.
So after three months of watching Hindsight every Friday night and then having that taken away, we decided it might be fun to watch an actual 90's show on Friday nights. As chance would have it my wife had found the first season of Beverly Hills 90210 at yard sale and grabbed it for funsies. So we started watching that - both of us having watched at least some seasons when we were younger. It was fun and funny and silly and nostalgic. One season turned into two, and two turned into nine. And after that I suggested my favorite 90's teen drama - Dawson's Creek - to my reluctant wife. I reminded her that Kevin Williamson co-wrote the Scream movies. She gave it a shot and it soon became the standard by which all 90's teen dramas should be measured.
And so for the past three-plus years our Friday night ritual has been to binge-watch SOME 90's teen drama thing. It's been a blast. These sorts of shows are most definitely like soap operas with radical soundtracks, but they're a great way to blow off steam from a stressful week. We've done Party Of Five and My So Called Life and even managed to seek out the elusive Dawson's Creek spin-off Young Americans which only received one mid-season run. We snuck in a season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer at one point - and while this show is still fantastic, it's lacking in the melodramatic drama that makes this ritual fun. Which brings us to our current show: One Tree Hill. We were iffy on this one, but it turns out that it shares a lot of DNA with Dawson's Creek. Oh, and One Tree Hill is also a lot about basketball. See? I told you I was going somewhere.
Yes, if anything One Tree Hill is sort of a cross between Dawson's Creek and Friday Night Lights. We're only in the middle of the second season right now, but high school basketball plays a big role in this show. For weeks now I've been in the mood to play a basketball game because of this damn show. And then it hit me: I could make the character "Lucas Scott" in NBA 2K18's player creator and use him in the single player mode. This was somehow hilarious to me. I mean honestly, I realize how stupid it is, but it cracks me up because - besides me - who would even want to do this? I was sitting on the couch next to my wife and I looked up from the Switch and said "look, I know this will be the weirdest question I've ever asked you, but what color are Chad Michael Murray's eyes?" And so I went off and started "My Career" in 2K18 as Lucas Scott, #3 from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Incidentally, both Dawson's Creek and One Tree Hill were shot in Wilmington. Just saying.
Okay, so now about the game... I think the last game I played in the series was 2K12, so it's been a while. But I've played many entries over the years going all the way back to the original 2K. However this is the first time I ever made my own player and bothered with the single player campaign. I've always just picked a team (The Celtics) and played through a season. Controlling a single character is a totally different experience for me. It's a really interesting way to play this game. For instance the campaign starts with Lucas Scott in his first NBA game which means spending a fair amount of time on the bench. Watching the game from this first person view from the bench is surreal. I mean it's a really bad view of the action, and you're not doing anything at all. But it adds drama. It made things feel tense when I was finally called into the game. It made me feel like I had something to prove.
The audio presentation is insane. I should be used to the progressively advanced commentary throughout the series, but I'm still finding myself impressed. I'll be honest, my mind was slightly blown when the announcer said "this is Scott's first points in his NBA career." I mean, he knew to say the name "Scott." I'd probably be less impressed had I created my own character in the past I guess. But either way, it was awesome and again really added to the intensity of the simulation.
So the NBA 2K18 story starts like this: Lucas "DJ" Scott was some great basketball wunderkind who decided to quit playing ball to pursue an ill-advised career in DJing. Which isn't really explained all that well because he must have been successful considering this young kid's loft that he lives in has a basketball court inside of it along with some very fancy furnishings. Oh, and it looks bigger than my house. But then he must not have been successful because everyone's like "oh you're that kid who tried to be a DJ... thank goodness you came to your senses and are back to playing basketball!"
The story is hilarious in that it often doesn't make a ton of sense. Like, the little local tournament that I played in at the beginning known as the "Proving Ground." So, my team lost all three stages of that tournament and yet there's a scout from The Celtics who wants me come try out? Really? The best is the parts of the story that the writers outright decide not to bother explaining. The aforementioned loft for instance. Or your roommate whom you tell your agent is staying just temporarily because... IT'S A LONG STORY! Ha.
But whatever. The sub-par writing actually helps to make this feel like a silly soap opera so it's all good. It actually adds a bit of unintentional charm. So does the random instances where players' faces are graphically distorted. I saw one dude at the Celtics tryouts who looked like he was wearing coldcuts on his face where someone might have a beard. It was horrifying. And slightly baffling given that the game requires a 16GB download on top of the cartridge install. But I can't really complain about all that because honestly there's far more moments where I'm really impressed with how well this game looks and runs on the Switch. Loading screens aside.
I will say that shooting is actually challenging in this entry. There's a new shot accuracy gauge thing and I'm having trouble adjusting. Obviously I need more practice. I spent some time doing just that (and was pleased to be able to emulate Ray Allen's jumpshot style in a menu), but I'm considering shutting the little shot gauge indicator off altogether and just going by "feeling." I don't want to overthink things and I feel like the gauge is throwing me off.
Anyway, my agent just got the word that The Celtics are offering me a one year contract, so now it's off to training camp. A bummer though, Lucas can't keep his #3 as it's a retired number so he was reassigned #43 instead.
So training is done pretty well. Basically between games you get to pick three skills work on, and then based on how well you do there you sort of level up your primary and secondary perks. It's slow progress, but it does actually feel like "training" y'know? Like I'm personally still having some trouble getting used to the timing of releasing the ball, so I've been working on three pointers. Doing so not only is helping to slowly improve that perk in-game, but it's also helping ME - the player - get better at feeling comfortable with the controls. It's good stuff.
So far The Celtics are 0-2, losing first to The Cavs and then to MN. Both games were super close, so it was frustrating but interestingly I'm finding myself less worried about the team's record right now and way more on my own player's advancement. In the first game I only got to actually play for a combined total of like three minutes. The second game was probably more like five. Now you can easily skip all the parts of the game that you're not playing to speed things up, but for now I'm enjoying WATCHING the game while I'm not in it. It's sort of like why I don't like fast-travel in Skyrim or Breath Of The Wild - it's as if the journey outside of the exciting bits actually makes the exciting bits better. Which is to say that the build-up of anticipation created by watching the game from the benches makes the moments I'm called in far more 'real.'
Oh, and shouts to KG who did some commentary on this most recent game. It was awesome to hear him ruminate of his time with The Celtics. I don't know, him just naturally dropping anecdotes about Rondo and Pierce and Posey... that just really brought me back and put a smile on my face. As he's talking I'm looking around TD Garden from the virtual benches and thinking that I've lost count of how many games I've watched inside of that building.
I used some points to unlock the Paul Pierce jumpshot animation which seems a bit easier to get the timing down on shot release versus the Ray Allen one. Plus, Paul Pierce is one of my favorite players of all time, so there's that. Shooting (well) is honestly the most frustrating thing about this game. I don't mind that I have to pay dues starting out and will only get minimal minutes in a game. But shooting well is really difficult, and I think that a part of that is because you need to spend time training and earning XP to up your stats. That's both cool in a sort of authentic way, but also frustrating. Either way, I'm still having a lot of fun here.
And that's how it's been going. NBA 2K18 is a blast. It's a game that I've taken to getting in a few games throughout the week - much like I've been doing with Paladins (again). The story is nothing amazing, but it has its charm. More importantly there is a total loop that sucks you in as you slowly make some progress with your character. I've never played a sports game like this - that is using just a single player. So for all it's worth, my lost season of One Tree Hill has been a lot of fun. Ha!