Monday Tip-Off: Cheating in Basketball Games

Tim Duncan vs. Zach Randolph in NBA 2K16

We’re at midcourt, the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Get your week started here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to basketball video games.

“If you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself.” It may sound like a trite and corny saying these days, but it still holds merit. There are times when it’s fun to use cheat codes or hack a game, and a lot of old school games all but require hint books and walkthroughs, but playing “legit” tends to be the more rewarding experience. Still, if you really want to cheat or cut corners in a single player experience, and you’re having fun doing so, so be it. Even if you do find that it gets boring after a while, you’ve only spoiled your own experience. No harm done, and you can just start all over again.

Of course, it’s a different story once you bring a second player into the mix. The connected experience is a big part of basketball games these days, and something that a lot of gamers really enjoy. However, more and more often, I’m seeing complaints from basketball gamers whose experience has been affected by people cheating online, generally through the use of hacked players in MyPARK. In turn, gamers with hacked players have defended the practice, and dismissed the complaints as petty whining. It’s a controversial practice and a divisive subject, so I thought it was definitely worth taking a look at.

I’ll just come right out and say that no, I don’t agree that the complaints about online cheaters are just “butthurt whining from cry-babies”; as an aside, those words are used so often against people who are calmly expressing valid criticism and concerns, that it’s hard to take the people making those accusations seriously. By its very definition, cheating is doing something that you’re not supposed to do, and it’s not sporting when people don’t play by the rules. That said, I do understand why some basketball gamers feel the need to hack their MyPLAYERs in NBA 2K.

As gamers, we have a love-hate relationship with grinding. It can feel very rewarding when we level up or increase our attributes, but it can also be extremely tiring. It’s a tough slog at times, and it’s fair to be dissatisfied with the progression system that’s in place. In NBA 2K, there’s a “legal” shortcut in the form of purchasing additional Virtual Currency, but that’s entering into a controversial practice in modern gaming: microtransactions. I’m not a fan myself, and I certainly understand the outrage associated with it. When it comes down to it, I understand the motivations behind hacking players.

LeBron James in NBA 2K16

However, to use another well-travelled phrase, two wrongs don’t make a right. Besides, everyone who plays NBA 2K is in the same boat as far as having to grind, or pay for boosts if they don’t want to deal with the hassle. Sure, you might have some extra VC through pre-ordering the game, but that’s yours fair and square, a reward for agreeing to put your money down early. Apart from that, it’s a level playing field, as it should be. When someone comes into MyPARK with a hacked player, maxed out and bypassing restrictions intended to keep the game balanced, then that’s no longer the case.

From 2K’s perspective, they’ve set forth a list of terms and conditions that must be adhered to, if you want to use the online services. A cynic would suggest that they’re only in place to maximise profits from microtransactions, and to be fair to that suggestion, 2K probably doesn’t want to miss out on those potential profits. However, it’s also being done in the name of fairness and sportsmanship, to keep gameplay balanced and competitive. If you don’t want to play by the rules that everyone is asked to follow, then you don’t have much of a case when you get banned.

The situation admittedly gets a bit murkier when we talk about in-game tactics that are usually seen as cheap. Kenny discussed the problems of seven footers camping in the lane in MyPARK, before Patch #3 for NBA 2K16 added a three second violation. As he noted, there’s merit in minimising the amount of NBA rules in a street ball environment, but it was a situation where gamers were taking advantage of an exploit, employing a tactic that a lot of people clearly saw as cheap and unsporting. Since the change was made, it’s probably fair to say that more gamers were complaining about the tactic than supporting it, and the developers responded accordingly. In situations like that, majority rules, as far as I’m concerned.

There’s also a problem of gamers who’ve hacked their MyPLAYER solely to play offline, but are finding themselves banned because of the online component of MyPLAYER accounts. This is unfortunate, and does highlight a problem with always-on connectivity and online components in single player modes, something I discussed a while back. However, given the way MyPLAYERs are utilised in NBA 2K, the connection between modes does make sense. If you’re going to hack your MyPLAYER for whatever reason, make sure that you’re not only playing single player modes, but that it’s an offline save, without VC or any other online features.

Stephen Curry in NBA 2K16

Furthermore, it’s asking 2K to immediately know and always trust everyone’s intentions after hacking their MyPLAYER. I’m not suggesting that all banned and disgruntled basketball gamers are being dishonest when they say they had no intention of playing in MyPARK, but it’s demanding a lot of trust. Give some people an inch, and they’ll take a mile. I can sympathise with 2K here because of my own experiences running the NLSC. Many a time, we’ve banned a troublemaker, only for them to contact us afterwards insisting that a family member used their account and started all those flame wars. It does happen, of course, but it’s also a convenient excuse for people who flipped out, then realised they went too far.

I’ve seen some of the gamers who advocate for hacking and cheating argue that they paid for the game, and therefore they’re entitled to do what they wish with it. Well, there is the small matter of the End User License Agreement (EULA), and the fact that we essentially purchase a license to use games and software, not ownership of the software itself. More to the point, the gamers who are objecting to hacking and cheating…well, they also bought the game! If purchasing the game is all it takes to validate one’s stance on these matters, then technically, both stances are equally valid. In reality, it’s a flimsy justification.

Should cheating be allowed in offline play? Sure, why not? I’d also be in favour of relegating hacked MyPLAYER accounts to separate parks rather than outright bans. I’ve seen that suggested in our Forum, and I think it’s a good idea that keeps cheaters away from gamers who want to play fair, while also allowing gamers who don’t intend to use their hacked MyPLAYERs in any other mode but MyCAREER to keep doing what they’re doing, and ignore the consequences in MyPARK completely. After all, the latter group doesn’t cause problems for their fellow basketball gamers, and have just been hit by an unfortunate by-product of the connectivity between modes.

Gamers who are getting into MyPARK with hacked players, upsetting the balance and not playing fair, on the other hand? As I said, relegating them to their own park away from everyone else would be fine by me, but by the same token, I don’t feel any sympathy when the ban hammer falls on them. I’m always going to side with the people who want to be sporting, rather than those who are looking to spoil everyone else’s fun. Besides, what kind of accomplishment is it to win time and time again due to hacked shortcuts and underhanded tactics?

Anthony Davis dunks in NBA 2K16

Again, in-game tactics that are often considered to be cheap and questionable are a trickier matter. When I used to play NBA Jam Tournament Edition with my friends back in the day, we usually employed “gentleman’s agreements” as far as the use of cheat codes. That’s harder to do when you’re not sitting next to someone on a couch, and when obviously cheesy exploits are discovered, it’s commendable for the developers to address them in a patch, no matter what genre of video game we’re talking about. Sometimes, rules need to be changed and updated. Basketball itself has provided many examples of that, as the sport has continued to evolve since 1891.

Look, no one’s trying to make cheaters in basketball games out to be hardened, inhuman criminals; well, most people who object to the practice aren’t doing that, anyway. It’s more a case of “Come on, don’t be that person”. Don’t be the person who steals money from the bank in Monopoly, and then flips the board when everyone else notices and calls them on it. Don’t be the person who thumps themselves on the chest as they win online game after online game, only because they’ve hacked their way to an advantage. Don’t be that jerk that no one wants to play with, because you don’t think the rules apply to you, and you’re not willing to play fair.

If you cheat offline, you’re only cheating yourself…from a certain point of view, anyway…and that’s not necessarily going to spoil the game for you, so no big deal. When you cheat online, however, you’re messing with other people’s fun, and breaking the rules that everyone’s agreed to abide by. In that instance, let the ban hammer fall where it may.

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December 15, 2015 8:08 pm

Was tempted to write something about this topic – since it’s an issue I’ve been rather outspoken about in a few threads – but once again you’ve hit the nail on the head. I personally think once VC is involved, there are no excuses, since people do purchase it (I myself being one who has in the past).

Second last paragraph in particular sums up the situation pretty well. I tend to think of people who do try and cheat the system as being in the younger demographic; possibly those who don’t have their own credit card and maybe have to ask their parents for every transaction. Furthermore, the mentality to max out everything is one you have when you’re much younger. I used to create 99 guys in NBA Live 98, but I have since grown out of doing that.

In any case, you make some pretty good points… for a butthurt crybaby.