WASHINGTON – Aerial Powers has played videogames her entire life. Call of Duty, Apex Legends, NBA2K, she plays everything. She’s a gamer.
Never did she imagine that she would actually become a character in a videogame, and in less than a month the Washington Mystics forward will be. For the first time ever, the NBA2K franchise will feature WNBA players in this year’s edition to be released in September.
“I never thought that we were going to ever able to be in a videogame and now I’m in one,” Powers told NBC Sports Washington.
Entering digital gameplay is not a first for the WNBA. In 2017, NBA Live created by EA Sports introduced the league into their game in a groundbreaking move.
While monumental, the effort put in the addition of the WNBA seemed to be lacking as opposed to the men. There were glaring omissions: consistent commentary, online play, and franchise gameplay just to name a few. Playing with the WNBA teams also had graphics that appeared to be from older editions. It lacked realism that has become custom in many live-action video games. Two years later, proper attention is coming from NBA2K.
Earlier in the season 2K screened all of the players to get their hair texture, their skin tones, everything. Certain superstars, like A’ja Wilson of the Los Vegas Aces and Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm, were scanned in for NBA 2K20. They used the latest motion capture technology to give them the proper representation in the game.
Welcoming the WNBA to #NBA2K20 🙏 Get an inside look at gameplay and hear what it means to @Candace_Parker & @BreannaStewart to officially be in the game— NBA 2K20 (@NBA2K) August 8, 2019
WNBA Gameplay Blog ➡️ https://t.co/E0uJdMb27t pic.twitter.com/IyIOP71kaC
Former WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne was not one of those with the added simulations. Players expect that level of detail to grow to others in future years.
“[NBA Live] really didn’t hype it up. They didn’t do the graphics. The hair was not right, it looked stiff. The facial expressions weren’t expressive, but now [2K] has that,” Powers told NBC Sports Washington.
“I’m appreciative that [2K] took the time,” Powers told reporters on Thursday. “Because, you know, the guys already have that, they’ve had it for years. The fact that we’re able to get that now, it’s just going to make everything better, more advanced. People are going to want to play it.”
If it’s not understood already, Powers is the gaming aficionado of the Mystics. All of her teammates were quick to point to her when asked about the new gaming partnership.
Even without a gaming background, the rest of the Mystics easily understand the significance of being included in NBA 2K20.
“It’s awesome that young boys and young girls and even adults who play games will now be able to play as a WNBA player. It’s huge for our league,” Delle Donne told reporters on Thursday.
The only one that did not show an eagerness about being in the game was Mystics head coach Mike Thibault.
“Why would I be worried about NBA2K,” Thibault asked reporters jokingly. “I know I’m supposed to be in the game but I don’t know anything about it. I’m sure they got me yelling and everything else. I would like them to just make sure it’s edited for officiating.”
Powers expects that the new elements of NBA2K will add to the legitimacy that she believes is still lacking about the league. The league’s reach will expand to a new audience that might not have been exposed to women’s basketball. Those that dismiss the sport from a lack of awareness will now have another avenue to be introduced.
“Most of our haters are guys. Now, maybe we can start changing the mindset of the younger male generation to be more supportive and open of women’s basketball,” Powers told NBC Sports Washington.
And if their minds don’t change, Powers can just showcase her own ability in online play. Although she already knows NBA2K is going to shortchange her in their ratings.
“I think I will be underrated and maybe by the end of this year they’ll get me right,” Powers said. “I’m excited. I’m going to be playing myself online, beating people. I’ll be talking junk and they’re not going to know it’s actually me. It’s gonna be great.”
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