Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! This is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, either as a list of five items or in the form of a Top 5 countdown.
On August 26th, it will be thirteen years since Tim handed me the reins of the NLSC. Since then, we’ve certainly had our fair share of ups and downs. While I’ve greatly enjoyed running the site, there have been times when I’ve come close to resigning my position. Gaming communities all have their own politics and run the gamut of personalities, so naturally there have been moments where the fuss and drama has left me thinking “Do I really want to keep doing this?”
I’m very glad, and admittedly just a little proud, that my answer has always remained “yes”. The tough times have been valuable learning experiences, while the good times have been very rewarding and a lot of fun. I’m not planning on going anywhere, but since another anniversary has come around, I thought that I’d take some time to reflect on my Top 5 favourite experiences running the NLSC. Let’s begin with number five…
5. Getting the gig in the first place
For those of us under thirty – and that’s still me for a couple of months yet – thirteen years is a fairly significant chunk of time. For a lot of our younger visitors, that could be close to being your entire life. As you can imagine, we’ve had a fair amount of turnover in the community during that span, so unless you’re a truly grizzled veteran, you probably don’t remember the “early days”. Or, the “early days” that you remember are actually quite recent to some of us old-timers.
Before Tim gave me the NLSC gig, I ran a website called the NBA Live Domain (also known as the NLD). I’d like to think that it was moderately successful, thanks in no small part to the relationship that I developed with the NLSC’s founders (Tim, Lutz, and Brien), and their willingness to help me out with some promotion here and there. I was a big fan of their work, and it was always cool to see something that you’d created posted on the NLSC’s front page. Back then, there were quite a few NBA Live websites, but the NLSC – the NBA Live Series Center, as was its full title at the time – was the biggest and the best.
Some time after Tim landed a job with EA Sports on the NBA Live Development Team, he contacted me about taking over the site. Needless to say, I considered it a huge honour, and was very excited to be given the opportunity. There were certainly some challenges early on, not to mention some tough and even unpleasant moments in the years that have followed. However, I don’t regret taking the position for one moment, and the excitement that I felt having received the offer and ultimately being given the reins definitely remains a personal highlight.
4. Getting involved in the creative stuff
First of all, let’s cover patching. I’ve been patching since I discovered the NLSC back in 1997, hosting my work on the NBA Live Domain from 1998-2001. However, I’ve been running the NLSC for a lot longer, and have released a lot of patches – in particular, a lot of roster updates – during that time. I have a love-hate relationship with patching: it’s gotten to the point where doing the rosters is a chore and I don’t have the time or energy for it, but as a creative outlet, it’s something that I’ve truly enjoyed doing for the site over the years. Obviously, a lot of people in our community feel the same way, and as a group, I believe that we’ve become quite good at it.
I’ve always enjoyed writing and for a long time I wanted to have regular feature articles on the NLSC, which is why you see me doing The Friday Five every week. I’ve also had the opportunity to develop and re-design the site; graphic design isn’t my forte, but fortunately I’ve had some very talented people on the team to help out in that department. Over the years, we’ve been able to implement a better Forum, Downloads section, and content management system, which are now all integrated. We also have our Wiki, and full mobile support. I’ve enjoyed expanding our content and updating our design, and I’m proud of the improvements that we’ve made.
What does the future hold, you may ask? Well, we’re pretty happy with the current layout and design, though we may make a few tweaks here and there. I’ve recently noticed a couple of minor quirks in the formatting that I need to iron out when I get a moment, but we’re not looking to make too drastic an overhaul anytime soon. We’ll always look to add new content, and I’m really liking the stuff that we’re doing right now. As for getting back into patching a little more…well, I’ll see what I can do with the free time that I have. Unfortunately, that’s all that I can commit to right now.
3. The help it’s given me professionally (and vice versa)
For those who are unaware, the NLSC is not my day job. It’s a hobby that’s basically an extension of my enthusiasm for basketball video gaming. Nevertheless, it’s something that I do take seriously, as well as a lot of pride in. As such, even though it isn’t my job, I do like to approach it with a certain level of professionalism. I work in IT, so the NLSC does help keep my skills sharp, and it’s even landed me a couple of job interviews in the past; it’s certainly been worth putting on the resume! I’d also like to think that it’s helped out with my management and people skills.
As I mentioned before, I’ll be thirty in a couple of months. If you do the math, you’ll work out that I was a couple of months off seventeen when I took over the NLSC. I’d like to think that I was reasonably mature for my age, but I still had a lot to learn, a lot of perspective to gain. Again, I’d run a moderately successful website in the NBA Live Domain, but the NLSC was much bigger and much more popular. All of a sudden, a lot more people were trying to get in touch with me. As I’d quickly find out, not all of them had positive things to say, and not all of them were willing to be friendly, courteous, constructive, or reasonable about what was on their mind.
Now, as anyone who’s worked in retail or any kind of customer service job will tell you, this not an uncommon occurrence in the real world. It can be rough, but I was learning how to deal with it while doing something that I was passionate about. That isn’t necessarily the case when you’re on a checkout, flipping burgers, or waiting tables. I was able to learn from my experiences and the challenges that I faced with the NLSC, and employ those techniques in my day job. Likewise, as I got a little older and more experienced out in the real world, I could take what I’d learned in the workforce and apply that knowledge to what I was doing with the NLSC.
2. Interviewing Sean O’Brien on the NLSC Podcast
Yes, I’m mentioning our interview with Sean O’Brien once again. No, it’s not meant to be another cheap plug. Well, I guess it kind of is; it was a big deal for us, and we naturally want as many people to listen to it as possible. However, it’s because it was such a big deal for us that it ranks up there as one of my favourite experiences running the NLSC. When you’re running a gaming website, it’s a special opportunity whenever you’re able to interact with someone who’s actually involved in developing the games, and I had a lot of fun recording that show and finding out about NBA Live 15.
Of course, we have had a variety of interviews with developers in the past, including written Q&As, and Scott O’Gallagher’s two appearances on the Podcast while he was with EA Sports. However, we’ve also had a few features fall through in the past, so being able to have the Executive Producer of NBA Live 15 on the show for a lengthy chat – especially before a lot of other sites have been able to report a whole lot of details on the game – was simply awesome. I really enjoyed being able to deliver that kind of content to the community, not to mention learning a lot of things about the game in the process.
Speaking of the Podcast, I was initially a reluctant participant, only joining the show in Episode #7 after it had gone on hiatus for a few weeks, and no one else was available to co-host with Leftos to keep it going. I fancy myself a better writer than I am a public speaker, so at first I wasn’t too eager to get involved. However, I’ve had a lot of fun getting together with the guys to record a show every week (give or take a couple of breaks), so a big thank you to JaoSming, Arcane, Leftos, Lean, Pdub, Qballer, and all our special guests who have joined us so far. I have a great time being a “digital broadcaster”.
1. Attending Three NBA Live Community Events
There’s really only one experience – or, more accurately, three experiences in the span of three years – that can possibly top that. When running a video game website can net you three free overseas trips, it’s definitely been worth the odd stressful moment or nasty remark in the Forum. My trips overseas to attend NBA Live Community Events have actually been the only time that I’ve left Australia (unless you want to count going to the beach and swimming in the Pacific Ocean), so suffice to say, they’ve been rather unique opportunities.
Now, an overseas trip on someone else’s dime, getting to attend the 2007 NBA Draft, visiting Madison Square Garden, and seeing a bit of Vancouver and New York is definitely awesome. However, my experiences during the community events themselves are just as special to me. Getting to hang out with other enthusiastic basketball gamers, getting our hands on the game early, meeting with the developers and being able to provide feedback, gaining insight to share with the community…amazing. I definitely hope that I get an opportunity to do it again some day.
The experience also gave me a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the way that basketball video games are made. It’s why you won’t see me jumping on the bandwagon and calling developers stupid, lazy, and uncaring. I’ve met several producers through attending those events; none were stupid, none were slackers, and all of them wanted to make the best game possible. Unfortunately, sometimes things go awry and the final product isn’t what everyone was hoping for, but it’s not for a lack of passion or effort. I’ll always appreciate that insight and glance behind the scenes, and the opportunity to represent our great community.
Oh, and I finally got to meet Tim in person at the first event in 2006. That was cool.
Once again, there have been a lot of ups and downs during these past thirteen years. Honestly, I don’t like to dwell too much on the bad stuff, especially the really unpleasant moments. There have been challenging times, and moments where certain people in the community have made things quite personal and nasty, or simply lacked patience and understanding. At the end of the day though, that hasn’t prevented me from enjoying what I do with the site, and hopefully, in most people’s eyes, I’ve been able to do a good job. I’ve certainly received a lot of support along the way, and I’m very grateful for that.
That’s all for this week. If you’ve got any fond memories of your time here at the NLSC, I’d be keen to hear them. Likewise, if there are any questions that you’d like to ask me, go ahead. Please note that my answer to any questions about roster updates is going to be brief and to the point (sorry, no time these days), and I don’t really want to reflect too much on past dramas (no point bringing up bad blood, or giving some of the trolls any more attention than they deserve), but maybe I could offer up a few entertaining stories. So, as always, feel free to have your say in the comments below, or in the NLSC Forum. Thanks for checking in, please join me again next Friday for another Five.