Monday Tip-Off: No Such Thing as Too Much Content

Dwyane Wade with the basketball in NBA Live 16

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.

Ask most basketball gamers, and they’ll likely agree that there’s no way that you can have too many options, or too much content, in the games they play. However, there is a vocal contingent of fans who seem to grumble about being presented with too much customisation, or game modes that they aren’t interested in. Words like “overkill” may be used, as well as more self-centred declarations like “I don’t care about that”, and its even more presumptuous cousin, “Nobody cares about that”.

The fact of the matter is, when it comes to basketball games like NBA Live and NBA 2K, you really can’t have too many options. There’s really no such thing as having too much content. After all, if you’re happy with the default settings, there’s no need to worry about changing them. Likewise, if you’re satisfied with one or two of the modes that a game offers, you can simply ignore the ones that you have no interest in playing.

So why do some basketball gamers get up in arms about having too many options made available to them, or content that they’re not interested in?

Admittedly, presenting the user with a lot of options in terms of sliders and settings can be intimidating, and in turn, off-putting. The fact that those settings and options are available implies that they must be important, and therefore something that the user needs to worry about. It’s an understandable reaction, but it’s important to remember that they are options. To that extent, we all have the option of making no changes at all. Any adjustments we choose to make are optional, completely up to us. As I said before, if the default settings work for you, then great! If not, we’re given the capability to customise the experience accordingly.

MyLEAGUE Settings in NBA 2K16

You can find a prominent example of this in NBA 2K’s MyLEAGUE. Upon starting a new MyLEAGUE game, you’ll be presented with a host of different sliders and settings, allowing you to tweak the experience to your liking. It does look like a lot to concern yourself with when you just want to get into the mode, but the important thing to remember is that the default settings are optimised to cater to most gamers’ tastes as far as franchise modes are concerned. You only need to make changes if you find there’s something about those default settings that isn’t working out for you.

In fact, the mere inclusion of MyLEAGUE in NBA 2K15 and NBA 2K16 has led to occasional grumbling about why the mode is in the game in the first place. When Leftos has joined us to talk about the mode in a couple of episodes of the NLSC Podcast, I’ve made it a point to ask why there are two similar modes in the game. I know why, but it seems that some outspoken NBA 2K gamers still do not, so I’ve felt it prudent to get an explanation out there. In short, MyLEAGUE is in the game to provide more of a traditional franchise mode with sandbox elements, while MyGM is more RPG-like and not customisable.

The funny thing is, given the complaints about MyGM in NBA 2K14, you’d think that everyone would be happy to be given a new mode, and thus a choice as to which experience they want. Furthermore, anyone who prefers the MyGM approach doesn’t miss out, as it’s obviously still in the game as well. The problem is that for some gamers, neither mode is of great interest to them. They’re actually affronted by the fact that something they’re not interested in is part of the game, especially if the kind of content they are interested in seeing isn’t present, or up to their expectations.

It’s a perfect example of a kind of selfishness, myopic opinion, and confirmation bias that extends well beyond NBA Live, NBA 2K, and basketball video gaming. We see it all the time, especially online. “How can my favourite television show be cancelled when this rubbish is still on the air?” “Nobody likes that,” which really means “I don’t like it, and that point of view is obviously the correct one.” “He should just retire,” or similarly, “They should just give up.” “I don’t like that music, or that artist, so they shouldn’t get airplay.” What it comes down to is this: “I don’t like it, therefore it’s bad, and shouldn’t be made. Only the things I like should exist.”

Gameplay Sliders in NBA 2K16

Put simply, the world does not cater to the tastes and interests of any one particular individual. Content creators cannot possibly curate their content to please everyone, and they shouldn’t be expected to. Don’t like that song, or the artist? Don’t listen to them. Don’t want to play a video game, or a certain mode featured in a game? Play something else. Sure, you may sometimes overhear a song you despise, or see a game you don’t like sitting on a shelf, or scroll past a mode or menu option that you don’t care about. If the worst part of your day is being exposed to inoffensive content that you simply aren’t interested in, chances are it’s at least been a pretty decent day.

Of course, there is a way basketball video games can cater to an audience with varied tastes and interests. At this point, you can probably guess what it is: plenty of options, and lots of content.

Provide the user with a wide variety of options, and a suitable range of desirable and enjoyable game modes, and everyone wins. Well, assuming their preferred content is actually included, of course. To some extent, we all need to personally curate the content that we consume, and also realise that not everyone shares our tastes and opinions. We’re not harmed by the presence of a game mode we don’t want to play, or a setting that we don’t want to change. It’s unfortunate when a game includes content that we’re not interested in while not featuring something that we do want, but it’s not something to take personally. It’s not being done out of spite.

As I said though, the opinion that basketball video games have too many modes or options tends to be expressed by a vocal minority that wants everything done their way. Even if the amount of options is a little overwhelming at first glance, I’d suggest that most basketball gamers are glad that they’re there, just in case they want to make use of them. Increasing the amount of customisation and tuning options, as well as providing gamers with a selection of varied game modes, is one way that basketball games – and sports games in general – have really improved over the years.

Gameplay Sliders in NBA Live 16

It’s the reason that NBA Live really needs to flesh out its game modes, and bring back roster editing. It’s the reason why it was great to see gameplay sliders finally return in NBA Live 16, and why we need to see even more of them added in NBA Live 17. Whatever can be tweaked, tuned, and altered, the user should have access to. Whichever experience a basketball gamer prefers – franchise, online, team building – the game should adequately cater to their needs. For users who like a bit of everything, give them a great selection of modes to split time between. That’s one of the things that NBA 2K has done really well over the past decade or so, which has helped it to go from strength to strength.

When we’re talking about some of the most important design philosophies, basketball video game developers should always be mindful that when it comes to content and options, you can’t go wrong with overkill. In fact, it could be argued that overkill is flat out impossible here. Even if an outspoken minority of gamers complain because they feel overwhelmed, or because a game dares to have content that they’re not personally interested in, it’s far more important to cater to the majority of gamers who want depth, choice, and customisation. Too much content, too many options? I say there’s no such thing.

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