When playing as DJ, you'll encounter NBA 2K19's "The Neighborhood." Think about it a hub of activity for DJ's livelihood. At a MMO-lite twist, it's possible to walk around with numerous (hundreds, possibly, if servers fill up) of other player-controlled DJs, playing pickup games, trading scores in minigames or interacting. The existence of other players is normally pointless outside of light rivalry, however; I ended up only ignoring the audience.

I shortly realized The Neighborhood just replaces NBA 2K19's core menu. In that way, it is merely a clumsy method to navigate. Want a haircut? Walk the cube into the barbershop. Wish to change clothes? Go home first. Need new shoes? Jog down to Foot Locker. Looking to catch a fast pickup game? The courtroom is down the road on your left.

Plodding because this navigation is, there is a touch of character and culture inside. At the barbershop, DJ is served as a neighborhood celebrity while they talk about overall gossip. The friendly (if drowsy) attendant of a food cart brings in some laughs. These spaces will also be nicely decorated, cramped and flush with older brick buildings circa 1930s New York. It is a powerful representation of the impoverished to lower-middle-class upbringing of NBA stars who got their start in places like Harlem's Rucker Park.

On the other hand, The Neighborhood is also sullied by corporate sponsors. A bit of gentrification from the old neighborhood? Maybe. But it is not just a Foot Locker place sitting on a corner or Gatorade-sponsored fitness center. The owners of this barbershop present DJ with a present, JBL cans, of which DJ chimes in, "Are these the new JBLs?" Gatorade is a central part of the narrative, called out from the broadcast team during games as far as it's promoted during gym training sessions (buying virtual containers of Gatorade for stamina comprises a spiel about electrolytes).

Selling a bit of advertisement space -- even overdone advertisement space -- is not inherently problematic. It is emblematic of an online-connected era. There's an authenticity in rotating courtside banners and between-play chatter from the announcers, changing as the year moves on with new sponsors cycling in. The insistence on using Virtual Currency (VC) for all of compounds the matter, though. 2K19 MT would like you to drink Gatorade, but it's also considering getting you to invest more actual money in the game.

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