I’m not a huge follower of sports in general. Admittedly, I’m only in on the hype once the finals or Super Bowl comes. Outside of those events, I don’t really care about closely paying attention to what happens. I don’t play fantasy football or anything similar to it and I’m not one to talk to about statistics or analyzing a team post-game. However, I am a huge fan of sports franchises like NBA Live, 2K, Fight Night, and WWE if that counts. My first sports game would have to be NBA Live 2000 on the PlayStation, but it wasn’t the allure of playing the Lakers or anyone famous that lured me in. I liked the franchise mode and the ability it gave me to manage my team. I eventually bought sports games not to play the matches themselves, but to role-play as the team’s owner to manage the team while keeping our balance in the green. I had more fun in playing ‘business’ than in the actual sport. It was more rewarding for me to execute a profitable trade than making a jump shot along the three point line.
Some people think that sports games are for frat boy gamers, but that is a wrong assumption. If you like simulation, role-playing or tycoon games, then there’s a chance sports games can be enjoyable for you. While others might like to role-play as a legendary athlete, I prefer to embody the types of Mark Cuban and Bob Arum when it comes to their business acumen.
With great power, comes great responsibility
Sure, these guys are the ones who play the game but you’re the one who makes it happen. You are the enabler and you control almost every aspect of the team or athlete’s career. However, as Uncle Ben from Spider-Man says: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” The whole campaign doesn’t stretch to several decades for nothing. You need to be able to strategize and allocate your resources effectively. My first try at this, I poured all my resources into getting the all star players on my team. Made them do every training camp. Why would I get a player who had a 75 rating? I let some of them go and hired stars for my team. It worked for me for a while. However, it wen’t downhill shortly since I drained my bank pretty quickly. I realized how I abused my budget by wasting it on one or two star athletes that would suck my bank dry. Plus, the other players were unsatisfied with the little attention I gave them. I needed a well-balanced team and competent staff, but I failed.
So, I did a do over and started fresh with a new team. I maybe only had one mildly expensive star on my team. I took a more patient route, and was fine with passing on championships year after year. I didn’t shun the lower level players. Instead I got some decent trainers and developed their skills. Prioritized which training camps they needed based on their weaknesses. Spent my top money on staff that my team needed. I didn’t need to have the best for everything. It paid off in maybe five years when I won my first championship. It was the same feeling I would get whenever I built my own studio or city and it ended up successful.
As with all simulation games, you can’t use all your resources or have the best assets. You need to know what you really need and prioritize. It’s also important to think ahead and plan your road map to success because playing it as the motions go isn’t a smart plan at all.
They aren’t just dummies you control. You own and develop characters
When I first tried out My Player mode in 2K after several years playing live, I was in for quite a surprise and it forced me to stop being like Kobe Bryant. I’m still guilty of having a favorite player especially if I created them so I tend to let them shoot at almost every chance. I could get away with it on live, but 2K wouldn’t let me. Players have something similar to a report card or grade. Even if I made a lot of shots, my grade would always be a C or B because I wouldn’t pass the ball. I actually had to think of other people similar to how I am dependent on my party in Dragon Age. From the image above, you can see that you can customize how you look during certain occasions as well. You get the option to respond to dialogue prompts with interviewers and even your general manager. These aren’t just filler scenes though. What you say can affect your opportunities for better or worst. Before, I used to manage one whole team and players come and go. With gaming modes like My Player Mode, you focus on your own player throughout the years moving from team to team. It’s not just Basketball thought, individual oriented sports like boxing has you focused on one athlete at a time.
Personalizing the experience
Fight Night Champion had a really cool game mode wherein you played through a story line. It was pretty linear and you didn’t have the same amount of control like you did in Career mode. It would have been cool if they mixed these two game modes together so that you can have the best of both worlds. In a way, you can care about the characters and develop their skills as well. Previous Fight Nights had rivalry modes, but it can get pretty repetitive at times. It would be nice if you could have relationships with your trainer and fellow boxers. Consequently, how you interact can change the story to some degree. I know sports games might not need to add features like this since a lot of people play their games anyway. However, it would be a cool way to get more fans anyway. I’m sure their loyal fans would love a more personal experience too.