This is Wayback Wednesday, your midweek blast from the past! In this feature, we dig into the archives, look back at the history of basketball gaming, and indulge in some nostalgia. Check in every Wednesday for retrospectives and other features on older versions of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and old school basketball video games in general. You’ll also find old NLSC editorials re-published with added commentary, and other flashback content. This week, I’m looking back at how NBA Live 09 led me to discover Fallout 3, and the way that the games are linked in my nostalgia for them.
I’m sure that some of you are thinking this is quite an unusual topic for a Wayback Wednesday feature. Of course, if you’re a long-time listener of the NLSC Podcast or a member of our Forum, you may well be aware that I’m also an enthusiastic fan of the Fallout series. Along with Bart vs. The Space Mutants, mentioning it on the podcast is something of a running gag. At the same time, my love of Fallout 3 in particular has a connection to basketball gaming. More specifically, when I reflect on Fallout 3, I’ll often associate it with NBA Live 09.
That may seem quite esoteric, but there’s a reason why the two games are linked for me. No, NBA Live 09 doesn’t exactly have any post-apocalyptic themes, and apart from basketballs being present as a junk/miscellaneous item in Fallout 3, it doesn’t have much to do with the hardwood, virtual or otherwise. Nevertheless, the two games are linked in my memory, and today I’m reflecting upon that connection. Let’s take a look back…way back…
Given that both games came out in 2008 – NBA Live 09 on October 7th, Fallout 3 on October 28th – the link is easy to understand from a timeframe standpoint. While the two games are obviously very different genres, they are still contemporaries, released in the same month and for the same generation of consoles (though Fallout 3 also had a PC release, whereas NBA Live 09 did not). My first hands-on experiences with both games therefore came around the same time, though in the case of Fallout 3, it was completely by chance. However, it was NBA Live 09 that led to me discovering the third mainline game in a series that has since become one of my absolute favourites.
Before we get to that, however, a little back story on my relationship with – or perhaps more accurately, ignorance of – the Fallout series. I promise it ties in with my history of basketball gaming. Although I had a long history as a PC gamer by 2008, I’d never gotten into the Fallout series. I’m sure I’d heard of it at some point, but I’d forgotten all about it by 2008. In 1997 and 1998, when Fallout 1 and 2 were released, I was playing the contemporary basketball games. When I did branch out into other genres, it was with titles like Mario, Donkey Kong Country, Goldeneye, Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, and adventure games from Sierra and LucasArts. Fallout certainly wasn’t on my radar.
I’m not sure I would’ve been into Fallout 1 and 2. I do appreciate them, and would like to spend more time with them at some point, but – and there are purists in the Fallout community who would be absolutely disgusted by this – they’re not my preferred style of game. Fallout 3 and subsequent games appealed to me as someone who grew up with first person shooters like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, yet also loved adventure games with entertaining stories and characters I could talk to. As I said though, it was ultimately NBA Live 09 that led me to Fallout 3, completely by chance early on in November 2008. It was the first time in a while that I’d discovered a new game.
That discovery occurred when I visited my cousin to hang out and deliver a belated birthday present. I’d already picked up NBA Live 09 for Xbox 360 at launch, but he hadn’t yet bought it for PlayStation 3, so I made that his gift. When I arrived, he was playing a game that clearly wasn’t basketball. He told me it was Fallout 3, explaining the back story and some of the series’ lore. We eventually ended up playing NBA Live 09 as he was keen to check it out, but I remember being quite taken with what I’d seen. I didn’t rush out and buy Fallout 3 that week, but I kept it in mind as a game I’d probably pick up at some point. It wasn’t too much longer before I did just that.
In the spirit of the Fallout series’ divergent timeline, it’s at this point I have to wonder what might have been. Perhaps in another timeline, another reality, I would’ve spent some time with the game, finished it, and then returned to the virtual hardwood in NBA Live 09. However, that’s not what happened. Oh, I did play NBA Live 09 from time to time, but my attempt at starting a Dynasty game with the Chicago Bulls was short-lived, despite the appealing scenario of an underdog team that had just drafted an exciting rookie in Derrick Rose. I covered the game for the NLSC of course, but at the time I wasn’t producing regular features. Besides, most of us were focused on PC.
To that end, when it came to basketball gaming, I was either playing NBA Live 06 PC, or creating roster updates for various PC releases. Whenever I fired up the Xbox 360, it was to venture into the Capital Wasteland, not take to the court. Part of it was the freshness of the experience. It had been some time since I’d really gotten into a game that wasn’t a basketball title, except for old favourites that I’d grown up with, or the latest WWE release. NBA Live 09 was being made fresh daily, but sessions with the game weren’t part of my daily gaming routine. Maybe I was still reeling from the disappointment of there being no PC version, or perhaps I just needed a bit of a break.
However, I do now wish that I had spent more time with NBA Live 09. Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely do not regret all those hours with Fallout 3, and getting into that series. While the NLSC is all about basketball gaming, it’s good to have varied tastes. You open yourself up to many more experiences, and it even shapes one’s perspective when it comes to basketball games. For example, playing Rocket League has allowed me to make comparisons when I talk about NBA 2K needing proper matchmaking. I’d say my time playing various Fallout games has provided me with a point of reference when discussing the merits and drawbacks of the RPG mechanics in MyCAREER.
Beyond that, I’ve had a lot of fun with Fallout 3 and its successors. Still, whenever I dust off NBA Live 09, I do feel some regret that it fell by the wayside, in part thanks to my enthusiasm for Fallout 3 (and all of its DLC that came out in 2009). NBA Live 09 was a fine game for its time, one that took further steps in the right direction as the series struggled out of the gate on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and continued to lose ground to NBA 2K. I wish I’d been able to divide my time more equally between the two games. If I’d been able to get into a Dynasty game before Fallout 3 was released, I’d have likely had more incentive to fire up NBA Live 09 more often than I did.
Nevertheless, the two games remain closely linked for me despite being very different genres. Being released around the same time, I associate them with the same period in my life, and that forms a huge part of our nostalgia for video games, TV shows, films, and so on. Obviously one is a snapshot of the 2009 NBA season, while the other is set in the future with a 50s aesthetic – I’m sure I don’t need to specify which is which – but they both represent what video games were like in 2008: the graphics of the time, the basic design concepts, and the fact that they aren’t chock full of microtransactions, catering to the single player experience in a way that modern games often fail to do.
I think it’s only natural to form these links between games as part of our nostalgia for them. Looking back, Goldeneye and NBA Hangtime are adjacent in my memory, because I played them so often with my friends and I loved the Nintendo 64, weird controller and all. Grand Theft Auto III on PlayStation 2 is a game that I’d associate with NBA Street more so than any NBA Live title, as I mostly played the latter on PC at the time. I can make similar connections with several other old favourites due to the way they complemented my basketball gaming habits, and the memories that I created with them at the same time I was hitting the virtual hardwood in a particular title.
None of those links are quite at strong as the one I’ve formed between NBA Live 09 and Fallout 3, however. While other titles and genres have complemented my main basketball game of choice, Fallout 3 actually displaced virtual hoops in my gaming rotation in a way that other releases haven’t. Not only that, but it ended up keeping me from spending more time with what was a fine game in its day. I’ve revisited Fallout 3 several times over the years, and while it’s not always easy to make an old sim title part of your rotation again, I wouldn’t mind having more of a run with NBA Live 09 some time. It’s too late for that Dynasty game, but not to create some other memories.
It’s ironic that the game that took my attention away from NBA Live 09 wasn’t NBA 2K9 – especially as that was the year NBA 2K surpassed NBA Live in sales – but one from an entirely different genre. Arguably, that stands as a reminder that even though we’re very passionate about basketball gaming around these parts, there’s more to video games than hoops and other sports titles, and it’s worth taking a break from the virtual hardwood every once in a while. I guess only one question remains: “Ghosts“, or “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire“? The former is one of my favourite tracks in NBA Live 09, but as was the case in 2008, I’m giving the nod to Fallout 3 here.