The NBA and its teams are always trying to find new ways to draw in fans. Doing so means pushing the limits of technology and how we take in all our various stimuli. Whether it’s through VR, streaming video, quickly edited highlights, social apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, or otherwise, the league isn’t content to sit by and let the product speak for itself while everything else in the world competes for fans’ attention (cough: NFL).
The Pistons are no different. They rolled out a game this week that’s novel at its most basic level (think: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!), but lets fans do something they always dream of in their driveway but never get the chance to do: play stars one-on-one. The nameless avatar sells his role really well. When he gets blocked, he shakes his head. When he hits a shot, he gets a smirk like, “oh man, did I really just do this?”
“During the filming you never want somebody blocking your shot or scoring on you,” Tobias Harris says in the video above. “But sometimes you just gotta put your ego to the side and keep it moving. Not gonna lie, when he did block my shot a couple times I think he got a little bit hype and a little gassed up inside, so I kind of had to get him back when I had to block his shot.”
And the Detroit players do their best to make the gameplay look real too. You run through the gauntlet of Harris, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and as you go along it gets tougher.
It’s a fun attempt at making the players more relatable and getting fans that much closer to their favorite stars. Lots of these guys are actively taking in the same media and technology we are, and they play the same games we do. When we watched Russell Westbrook simulating his moves for NBA Live 16, he was all-in. He played the games growing up, and he wanted to have as much fun as he could – while representing himself in the process.
“I hope fans get excitement and enjoyment out of it,” Harris says. “Kind of get to see us up front and close really, when sometimes at the game you’re a little bit far back. It’s right in your hand.”
Try the game out for yourself. It’s simple, but it’s pretty addicting. I’ve got to admit, scoring against Andre Drummond is pretty satisfying (even if you’re just using the arrow keys to do it).