We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games.
At long last, we’re on the verge of getting trailers and substantial information on NBA 2K17! It’s been a quiet preview season, with gamer frustration coming to a head on social media last week following some ill-advised trolling by 2K community representatives. Many of us have been frustrated at the lack of news and previews, but with less than a month until the Early Tip-Off Weekend, it would seem that the wait is finally over, as the first gameplay trailer is reportedly set to be released this week.
Without much in the way of news, all we’ve been able to do is wish, want, and speculate. Even in the busier preview seasons of years gone by, a significant part of covering basketball video games has been wondering what if, and talking about what we want to see. When there is news, it’s going to be posted and analysed. Should anyone that’s producing basketball gaming content secure some kind of an exclusive – a tidbit of information, a developer interview – they’re obviously going to push and promote it, us included. All content creators want to build their audience and brand, but there’s an underhanded way of doing so.
It’s the bane of the Internet, and the basketball gaming community is certainly not immune from it. Today, we’re talking about clickbait.
Now, it should be noted that while clickbait is a real phenomenon and a well-known issue with online content, it’s also one of those words that can get thrown around too easily. Much like the pejorative term “fluff”, it’s sometimes used to describe content that someone simply didn’t enjoy or personally find value in, regardless of its quality or any good intentions. Furthermore, as I previously mentioned, content creators do want to build their brand and grow their audience, so attention-grabbing titles and search engine optimisation measures are very important.
However, clickbait is widely regarded as a cheap and dishonest method of reaching an audience, and it’s a tactic that a lot of content creators are definitely using. These days, it’s very easy for someone to become an online content creator, and cover video games in one form or another. On one hand that’s great, as it gives creative and passionate people an outlet to entertain and inform. On the other hand, it waters down journalistic integrity and easily leads to the spread of misinformation, as some content creators definitely value entertainment over being honest, accurate, and informative.
A couple of weeks ago, YouTuber Agent 00 made a video talking about the practice of clickbait in the NBA 2K community, which I feel was spot on. It’s something that JaoSming talked about a couple of years back, and it’s still going on today: mislabelling videos in order to get more views, and promising viewers something completely different to what is being delivered. Agent 00 also noted that using words like “leaked” go a long way in getting clicks and views, and as a result, they’re overused and rarely in good faith. He parodies the practice in the title of his reaction video in response to the “Dream Lives On” trailer, a sarcastic jab that I enjoyed.
Let’s take a moment to put this into perspective. When it comes to all the bad things you can do to other people, engaging in clickbait and spreading a bit of misinformation about a video game is hardly a crime against humanity. The content creators and video game media who do this are not history’s greatest monsters. They are doing a disservice to their peers and audience, however, and deserve to be criticised and held accountable. In an age where we can educate ourselves about upcoming games and connect to the people who make them more than ever before, anyone who misleads or misinforms is perpetuating a problem with gaming that really needs to be eliminated.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a new or uncommon practice in the basketball gaming community. For a number of years now, we’ve seen deceptive titles, mislabelled gameplay footage, and flat out fabricated details in YouTube videos. During the NBA 2K15 preview season, one website that I won’t name was publishing articles alternating between claims that the PC version had been cancelled, or was not going to be a port of the PlayStation 4/Xbox One version, neither of which was true. Whether it’s a prank that’s intended to troll, or jumping the gun on a bad tip from a less than reliable source, it lacks integrity and isn’t doing the right thing by basketball gamers.
As of this August, the NLSC has been around for twenty years. Over that time, we’ve had a few people sign up in the Forum who claim to have friends or family on the NBA Live development team, who are apparently willing to risk their jobs and break Non-Disclosure Agreements to give us a scoop. I’m sure that you won’t be surprised to hear that in each and every case, the information being offered up was one hundred percent false, and the person in question had absolutely no ties to EA Sports. Of course, it’s easy to ignore a random Forum troll; a well-known YouTuber or major video game publication, on the other hand? Not so much.
Once again, I do understand wanting to build an audience and draw eyes and ears to your content. It’s obviously something that we try to do with our news and original content, though I pride myself in doing all that I can to avoid titles and headlines that read like clickbait. We have messed up on a couple of news reports, and had to post clarifications, corrections, and retractions, but I’d like to think that our track record is pretty good. We don’t have media credentials, but we are a site that’s by basketball gamers, for basketball gamers, so we always want to do the right thing by the basketball gaming community. Sites like Operation Sports obviously have similar goals and values.
The really unfortunate part of it all is that the clickbait approach is extremely effective in getting clicks and views. If we’re talking about the light-hearted, “listicle” articles that people like to read over lunch or coffee, I personally find them to be pretty harmless. There’s a time and a place for content like that, and it’s not meant to be informative or hard-hitting journalism. However, this gossipy, tabloid style of video game journalism does no favours to the industry, and is equally disrespectful to the people who enjoy the hobby. Are the clicks and views really worth the reputation of being dishonest? To some people, it would sadly seem so.
Personally, I’d prefer to take the hard road, and build our audience here at the NLSC with trustworthy news bulletins and engaging content, rather than cheap clickbait. That’s not to say we won’t have fun or publish lighter content from time to time, but our aim never is to mislead or misinform. I personally find it very refreshing to see YouTubers like Agent 00 speaking out against the practice of clickbait in the wider basketball gaming community. After all, at the end of the day, I feel that all of us who are creating content and covering basketball games should create the kind of content that we ourselves would like to consume. I’d suggest that for most of us, that isn’t false information, or mislabelled footage.