I like playing the career modes in sports video games. I like creating players and immersing myself in their careers. Because of the extent of the immersion I put into this game mode that I love, you could say I like to role play these games to some degree. My love of this mode goes so far that it isn’t uncommon for me to record the individual season statistics of my controlled player on an Excel spreadsheet, to see how well he performs over his career. However my one issue I have with these games is that I like to play one in-game season with the current sports game, with the real life rosters of the various teams of the sport games I choose to play with, and then play the next year’s edition of the game with the newer update rosters of the new season. However when a new version of a particular sports video game franchise is released, I always have to recreate that player from his first season. Why is there a lack of continuity in sports video games?

Some readers may be wondering why this is such a big issue for a grown adult like me, but to me this is the end of the world. This can almost ruin the game mode for me. As harsh as it sounds, it can get very boring to play an entire season of a sports game in career mode. Especially if you are a gamer like me who plays every game of the season, and does not simulate games unless he has to. For sports games that have lots of games in the season such as 82 for basketball and ice hockey, or 162 games in baseball excluding playoff games, the season can drag on and the game can get very boring and repetitive. Games in the season will feel exactly the same because of a lack of multiple AI, i.e. all teams play the same, even if their real life counterparts play differently, which can cause the game to feel bland and become a chore. Instead of just grinding along with the many games of the regular season, I choose to create this level of immersion to help make these games more interesting to me. However I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are some problems that claw away at me.

I always find it odd that created players in career mode are almost always ranked incredibly low with regards to in-game ratings. These ratings determine how good a player is at various things. I’m not asking for my players to be rated at the highest in every statistics available, so they can play like an Olympian God, but the players you create have such low base ratings it becomes a challenge to do anything on the field. I could start a career in one game and raise my players statistics, but in next year’s game I have to start from the beginning again. The time I have spent in the previous game has been effectively ignored and is completely useless to me now. When I was younger I could never understand why my player would severely regress in skill whenever I moved to the latest installment of the various sports franchise. While I understand the reasoning for having such low statistics in career mode is to allow the player to grind experience, to upgrade and create an initial challenge for the player, I still don’t like it. Simply because that initial challenge bump as the player acquires experience to upgrade ratings to get better, is a very short challenge bump. Within a month or two of a season, the player will have good enough ratings to easily be one of the best players in the league, and completely dominate every game. I could be leading a team to the finals of a sport, and then in next year’s game at the start of the season, I can barely keep my position on the bench of the team I was once the star player. That’s how bad my player has become. In real life that would never happen barring a freak injury that can ruin a player’s career. Where is the continuity?

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At the start of a career mode, your player can be ridiculously underleveled. This player showed here in “NBA 2K17” can barely make a lapup, the most basic shot in basketball.

Another problem I have with the lack of continuity with sports games has only recently become prevalent, with the addition of “stories” in sports career modes. While stories in sports career modes were to me, initially, an interesting way of improving a mode that at times can be bland, they have little to no continuity between games. For example I have played every iteration of 2K Sport’s NBA2K games since “NBA 2K12”, yet despite creating the same player every year, it always seems he is a rookie entering the league for his first season with different scenarios. In “NBA 2K15” my player will be a player who couldn’t even get drafted to a team, and then a year later in “NBA 2K16”, my player will be one of the hottest prospects to ever exist, a guaranteed first round pick. Instead playing as an NBA veteran of which my player should be, I am forced to endure a cheesy, cliché ridden story that lasts mostly for the rookie season, and has little to no impact on the second season onward.

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“NBA 2K16” had one of the worst “stories” in a career mode. You, the player, could only play 8 out of the 82 games of his rookie season. Instead the player had to sit through a linear, pretensious, cliche-ridden “story” where the player had no meaningful choices to make.

Sports games with career mode stories have recently become very stale to me because they have no continuity and are forced onto me, to the point I force myself to create different players than my usual players, for these story based career modes. The sentiment behind having a story may be nice, but the story never continues onto the next game. I have no incentive to care for any of the characters or the plot of the story, because in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter. Next year’s story will forget completely about the current story, there is no point getting immersed in these stories when the next game never mentions the player you created in that game, nor the story of the prior game. You can’t even resume the career of the player of the older game, you have to either recreate from the ground up, or make someone new.

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While “NBA 2K17” had a better story than it’s predecessor, I still had to replay my way into the NBA even though I had made it to the NBA in “NBA 2K16”.

To me what is really disappointing about the lack of continuity in career modes is that there is one game that is so close to being what I want from a sports game career mode. I admit I am only a recent convert to Sony Interactive Entertainment San Diego’s “MLB: The Show” series. In comparison to some of the sport series I’ve referenced on here, which I have played since the early-to-mid noughties, but only in the last year did I start to play “MLB: The Show 16” and saw a feature that should be the standard for sports career modes. I speak of the ability to import your game saves from the previous year’s game into the newer current release of the game. This feature should be an industry standard. It allows players to continue playing with the career saves they started a year ago, instead of forcing players to start again with a new career. There is continuity!

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Yet a part of me hates how there isn’t an option to change the imported rosters to a real life version, because unfortunately in a career mode you don’t have control over whom to trade or who to sign. You are instead left at the mercy of the AI and while sports games in general have some, at times, questionable AI in regards to their roster management, “MLB: Road to the Show” has one of the worst management AI in a sports game ever. The game’s AI will make some of the dumbest trades possible, which would never happen in real life. Organizations will trade away key franchise players and future stars for low-level prospects; whose potential talent is terrible in comparison to the talent being traded, or in my personal experience, the team will trade for positions it already sufficient numbers in. My career modes in “MLB: Road to the Show 16” are often ruined because my team starts trading away all of my valuable and useful teammates, usually for below-average pitchers we don’t need. Before these trades we already had enough pitchers in the MLB starting rotation and even more in the minor leagues! There is no wonder that the team starts to lose a lot more than it used to after these trades occur. Pitchers can’t bat! I won’t even begin to mention in other scenarios how players will leave their real life teams for teams that they would never play for, whether it be a trade or a free agency signing. For example Alex Rodriguez would never have left the New York Yankees, prior to his retirement in 2016, simply because no team could have afforded his ludicrously expensive contract. It is for this reason I prefer to play with the real life rosters; to avoid the unnecessary drama of unrealistic trades and player signings.

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Expect to see trades like these very frequently in various career modes. Useful players and promising prospects will be traded from your team for players that aren’t needed.
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Expect players in career modes to degrade and retire differently than their real life counterparts. My career mode saw Ichiro Suzuki and Bartolo Colon retire and as of the 2016-17 both players are still active in the MLB.

I’m sure many gamers won’t care about the lack of continuity in sports career games, but to me this is a big deal. Is it that bad to want the hours that I spend immersing myself in career modes to be worth something? In real life a player does not have to restart his career after one year. He doesn’t have to do the same things year after year to get back to his former skill level. After many years of playing sports games, all this does is create needless repetition. I don’t even play career modes nowadays because of this. I instead create the players I want in the main menu, assign them to the team they were a part of in a previous game, and then play a “franchise” mode with a “player lock” on the player I have created. Because the player lock feature only allows one player to be controlled, this allows me to replicate the gameplay of career mode, where the gamer only controls one player. Coupled with the ability to control trades and player signings and various other options and controls such as stopping trades altogether, it makes the game much more stress-free without having to worry about my best teammates being trading for useless wastes of space, or seeing players sign with teams they would never sign for. Some of the older games still have fan support, such as “NBA 2K14”, for in-game modifications, even after all these years. These modifications can allow me to have up-to-date rosters with accurate statistics, ratings and realistic cyberfaces so the players look lifelike. I don’t even need the newer games for franchise or career mode. If I prefer the gameplay of the older games (which I usually do), upgrading to the newer games isn’t necessary. But should I need to do all this? If sports games supported career mode save transferring or transferring of created players to the newer versions of the game, it would allow players to feel like their progress and effort on the previous game was worth it. “MLB: The Show” proved that save transfer is technologically feasible, so why can’t developers put this feature in their games?

Do you think there doesn’t need to be continuity in career modes and I’m making a fuss over nothing, or do you agree with me that there should have be thought and effort put into sports game career mode continuity? I’m interested to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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