I'm Leaving My Abusive Relationship with NBA 2K
As I sit at my computer, reflecting on my time with NBA 2K, it's hard for me to not judge myself so harshly. The signs of what they were doing are all so clear now, but I must remind myself that hindsight is 20/20.
It was 2010, and EA Sports had abruptly decided to discontinue the NBA Live franchise. I looked to other games to fill the void, but nothing made me feel the way basketball did. I quickly found myself in an emotionally vulnerable place, and NBA 2K sensed that.
Long before NBA Live's cancellation, I made the promise that I'd never fall for 2K's allure. I had seen how it treated its other lovers before me - lack of effort, glitchy gameplay, unnatural movements, the list goes on. I knew repeat abusers like 2K don't ever change, but they also know how to take advantage of a person who was as susceptible as me during that time.
When 2K11 was released, Michael Jordan, my all-time favorite player, made his virtual return. It had been eight years since Black Jesus was in a video game, and I hadn't played with him since the NBA Live 2000 game that came free with my Nintendo 64. 2K knew my weak spot, and they attacked.
I eventually succumbed to the pressure and rented the game from a nearby Redbox. It wasn't supposed to be a long term thing, just a date. But that date transformed into a fling, which turned into a relationship. And similar to many relationships, I became complacent and married the bitch. Well, that and the fact 2K was the only available option on the market.
Over the next ten years, 2K gripped their claws into my empty soul and disguised it's brainwashing as a mutual relationship. There was nothing anyone could say to convince me otherwise. I mean, even NBA 2K18 wasn't enough to shake some sense into me. As abusers do, 2K would always find a way to make up and promise it wouldn't happen again. They then gifted me, what I thought was an enjoyable 2K19.
Although I had been through this before with 2K, I convinced myself things would be different this time around. In reality, I just didn't have the strength to walk away from something I had invested so much time into.
But when 2K20 came out, you were right back on your bullshit. When we're together now, I can sense you've moved onto other things. It's almost as if you just stopped caring or trying at all - Like you've moved onto the next phase of your life. As much as I tried to believe that I was making things up, I knew deep down inside that both Prospero and Scarlett were on your mind.
Still, I wanted to believe we could salvage what we had left. I kept telling myself, "Oh, Bigleys, you're just mad because you keep losing online." For a while, that was correct; Your boy is straight trigger trash when he loses a game of 2K. But as I played more, my skills began to develop. I started moving up the ranks and beating quality opponents. The brainwashing had set back in; As long as things were going my way during games, I could sell myself on anything. My lowest point was blocking a wide-open LeBron James dunk from behind with Carsen Edwards for the third time, and convincing myself that it was realistic.
Eventually, the same sense of emptiness that I felt so many years ago had returned. Even winning didn't bring me joy. There were about 10-12 plays in every game where I felt a responsibility to message my opponent and apologize for your actions.
It was time I took back control over my own life. I knew…I knew it was time to leave. I mean, for fuck sakes, how long did you expect me to turn a blind eye to the fact that you've turned competent NBA players into virtual versions of Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly?
It took a lot of self-reflection to finally ask myself how much more abuse was I willing to take before I finally said enough's enough. If there's anything positive that came out of this, its the compassion I've gained for domestic abuse victims.
No matter how much you mistreated me, I just kept coming back. It didn't matter how many times you would force me to run out of bounds, blow wide-open layups, or pass the ball 10 seconds after I pressed pass — I always convinced myself that things would get better. But they didn't…they didn't get better, 2K. Grand Theft Auto shouldn't be a better basketball game than you when we both know GTA doesn't even allow you to play basketball in the game.
With all that said, please take this as my official notice that I'm leaving you. I can't change you. The only person who can change you is you - developers at 2K. Holding this anger inside of me is bad for the health of both my Xbox controllers and myself. If this letter helps just one victim of 2K abuse to find the inner strength to leave, then it's all worth it.
So this is goodbye, 2K, forever…Or at least until 2021 when EA sports inevitably postpones another NBA Live…