One night earlier this week, I couldn’t sleep. Tossing and turning, I eventually acquiesced to my restlessness, rolled toward my nightstand, and grabbed my Nintendo Switch. I turned it on with a single button press, popped on my headphones, and managed to not stir my wife peacefully sleeping next to me or my dog snoring on his bed below. I finished the second half of an NBA 2K22 game I’d left incomplete the day prior and eventually got to sleep.
Terrible sleep habits aside, how cool is that? Yes, yes, I should cut out screens before bed, but that easy escape into a game is the only reason I have a Switch. It is, for me, effectively a mobile 2K machine. It’s a way to play my favorite game during the in-between moments of life, whether that’s late at night or on the couch as family watches the news (after I’ve spent all day with the news and have had enough). Or during the 20 minutes I’m alone as my wife finishes getting ready for a night out.
I’ve never been a “real” gamer. For the longest time, I didn’t realize you could even play 2K on a Switch. I thought the Switch was solely aimed at kids and could only play simple, Mario-esque games. I’m truly awful at first-person shooters like Call of Duty. I can hardly keep up in Mario Kart. But the idea of briefly getting lost in a fake world does tickle a particular part of my brain. I’ve long enjoyed playing the franchise mode — or dynasty, or league, or whatever you want to call it — in sports games. That’s where you basically control everything a team does and get to inhabit every player when playing an actual game.
Gaming doesn’t have to be complicated or even challenging. I like playing 2K offline, against the CPU, in a world that’s entirely my own, and away from some 11-year-old opponent who plays for hours per day and could destroy me. It’s my game and I don’t feel like sharing.
I’m playing video games like a caveman during the pandemic. It rules.
I’m aware gaming is big business, big culture, big everything. But I don’t have any need or desire, really, to feed into its larger ecosystem. I understand the appeal of an immersive, difficult, world-building, cooperative game like Elden Ring. I also understand that, as a grown adult who has built a life around other things, there is no practical way I could fit it into my existence.
Even if I could manufacture the time, I’d have to use it to develop the skills of someone who’s gamed for a decade in order to enjoy the punishing mechanics of Elden Ring. Hell, even people who’ve gamed for years found Elden Ring puzzling and challenging. As a person who’s really only played sports games, there’s no muscle memory for any other type of game.
The Switch’s ability to be used as a handheld has also been groundbreaking for me. That’s the only way I’ve used it. Sure, the Gameboy did it forever and a day ago, but this is different. There’s hardly any quality or functionality drop-off playing 2K on-the-go with the Switch compared to how I used to play it stationary on an Xbox One. The only drawback is the tiny buttons on the Switch, but I got over that with time.
That portability is huge for me. 2K on the Switch is a side project I can fire up quickly when I have the time. It’s not starting up a system, logging in, waiting for it to load, and then hogging an entire television. I hit the power button and I’m playing exactly where I was the last time I left off. It’s kind of how I imagine other folks play Animal Crossing — it’s a fun distraction and a way to pass the time without it taking over your time. It’s built to be a hobby instead of the the only hobby.
I like playing 2K offline, against the CPU, in a world that’s entirely my own, and away from some 11-year-old opponent who could destroy me.
For me, gaming doesn’t have to mean playing online or spending hours on end locked to a screen. I know dedicated 2K players are closer to real gamers than me — they compete as their single avatar, a part of a larger basketball game with other real people. Nope, not for me. You know what I like? Ripping dunks as LeBron fucking James against a hilariously overmatched CPU team. I like trading away players — cough, Russell Westbrook, cough — that don’t fit my imagined team. (Just FYI, my Los Angeles Lakers starting five is James, Tyler Herro, P.J. Tucker, Jerami Grant, and Anthony Davis. Just had to brag about my trades a little.) I like getting super into my season for 20 minutes at a time and then shutting if off when I have to go make dinner or do some other mundane task.
I suppose some could consider it a waste of money to buy a Switch just to use it for a single sports game that I only play offline. But gaming doesn’t have to be one thing to all people. The relatively low price of the Switch justifies fitting 2K into my life. Sometimes all I want to do is shoot a virtual three-pointer and now I can do it within moments of getting the urge…and from anywhere in the world. I can’t tell you the little serotonin boost that gifts me.
I don’t need to know if I’m actually good at 2K. People online would assuredly mop the floor with me. I don’t need to spend 20 hours just learning how to be decent like I would with just about any other video game, let alone something like Elden Ring. I’ve played every iteration of 2K for years. And now, with the Switch, I don’t need to turn to a different input or make the living room TV my own. I just need a moment to spare.
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So sure, I wish I wasn’t regularly wide awake at 1 a.m. But if I can’t sleep, I might as well get lost in my little mobile 2K machine. Forget counting sheep, I’d rather throw down nasty alley-oops as LeBron.
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