Monday Tip-Off: Sportsmanship & Online Basketball Gaming

Kevin Durant dunking in NBA Live 16

We’re at midcourt, and 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 caught Episode #144 of the NLSC Podcast, you’ll know that I went on a bit of a rant about a recent experience I had while playing NBA Live 16 online. In a nutshell, I had an opponent who was losing quit with a couple of seconds left in the fourth quarter, to avoid the loss and rob me of the win. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly pleased by that turn of events. The word I used on the Podcast was “scumbag”, and I stand by that description. It was not the sporting thing to do, plain and simple.

The matter of sportsmanship in online basketball gaming is an important one, and since podcasts aren’t everyone’s favourite medium, I’ve decided to write about it in this week’s Monday Tip-Off. Of course, the issue isn’t exclusive to basketball games, but when it comes to both major hoops titles, unfortunately there aren’t really any measures in place to prevent or at least discourage it. Don’t like the way things are going? Want to avoid picking up a loss? Then just quit, or cause a disconnection. Or preferably, don’t. To put it bluntly, it’s incredibly poor form, and shouldn’t be allowed.

You may feel that it isn’t a big deal, that it’s just the way it goes with online play. I would strongly disagree with that assertion, however. This is something that both EA Sports and 2K Sports need to find a way to address, and behaviour that certain basketball gamers need to cut out.

As I explained on the Podcast, I decided to have a quick online game of NBA Live 16, for a change of pace and to see what the online experience was like this year. If you’ve tuned into the Podcast or read some of my previous columns, you’ll know that I’m not much of an online gamer. Nevertheless, I gave it another try, and a random match-up resulted in a fairly competitive game in which I finally got the upper hand, taking control in the fourth quarter. At this point, I started to feel a little concerned that my opponent might quit in frustration, but as the game wound down, it appeared as though I was in luck.

Dwyane Wade with the basketball in NBA Live 16

Unfortunately, I was not. As I was running out the clock with less than 24 seconds left – after all, running up the score would’ve been bad sportsmanship in its own right – my opponent intentionally fouled me to stop the clock. A couple of seconds later, I was greeted by a disconnection error. While I suppose I can’t entirely rule out the possibility of a genuine server hiccup, the timing and nature of the disconnection was suspicious. I feel quite confident that it was one last desperate tactic to avoid a loss, a middle finger thrust in my direction before the final buzzer could sound. What had been a fun game turned into another example of why I favour single player modes.

Now, some people may read a tale like that and feel compelled to respond “Suck it up”, “Get over it”, or “Too bad, these things happen.” To that, I say…no. No, this isn’t whining, and this isn’t a petty complaint. The fact that it does happen does not make it alright; that’s circular reasoning. At the risk of invoking false equivalency, let me throw out an example. Let’s say your car is stolen. Are you just going to shrug it off and say “Ah well, that happens sometimes”? I’m going to say, probably not. If you’re treated unfairly, rudely, or suffer an injustice of some sort, does the fact that “these things happen” make it alright, or wrong to grumble? No, it absolutely does not.

In the grand scheme of things, having some sore loser rob you of a win in an online game certainly isn’t a grand injustice, so please don’t think I’m equating it to some great tragedy or wrongdoing. But in the context of basketball gaming, it’s a lousy thing to do, and a waste of someone else’s time. Granted, if I’m playing a basketball video game online, I do obviously have some time to spare. Still, it’s not unreasonable to expect your opponents to do the right thing. In my view, online basketball gaming can be too easily spoiled by bratty gamers who are upset because they lost. If anyone needs to get over anything, it’s them. A loss isn’t the end of the world, after all.

Neither is missing out on a win due to a sore loser, of course, but it certainly leaves a bad taste in your mouth. If you’re a frequent online player, you probably run into this kind of thing way more than I do, and frankly you shouldn’t have to deal with it. Look, I’ve been on the wrong end of some really bad losses playing online. I’ve lost in frustrating fashion due to lag, wonky game mechanics, and on one occasion, an accidental full court three-point attempt that went in and erased a late lead, swinging the momentum in my opponent’s favour. These things happen, and while it isn’t fun to lose, and I don’t aim to lose, there are going to be times when I do lose. And whenever I’ve lost, I’ve taken it in stride, because there’s no dignity in being a sore loser.

John Wall with the layup in NBA Live 16

So, what can be done? First and foremost, some people need to change their attitudes. As I said, sometimes you lose, and you need to accept that. Shake it off, learn from the experience, and keep trying. In time, you’ll get better, and win more often. To echo what I said in my column about cheaters who hack the games, don’t be that person who flips the board in Monopoly when they lose, because that’s a person that no one wants to play with. Show some common courtesy, and treat others as you expect to be treated. You wouldn’t like it if someone quit or disconnected on you because they were losing, so don’t do it to your fellow basketball gamers, either.

Expecting everyone to play honourably online and be good sports isn’t exactly realistic, so it’s also vital that basketball games account for sore losers. It’s admittedly easier said than done, but I would like to see gamers who quit or disconnect punished in some way, ideally by assigning them a loss and their opponent a win, should the game be in the second half (or at least the fourth quarter). To prevent would-be cheaters from picking up wins through quitting when they’re ahead, I would also suggest that there be no result if the gamer in the lead is the one who quits or causes the disconnection. That way, there’s no cheap way to win, or avoid a loss.

I’d also be in favour of some kind of reputation and report system in both NBA Live and NBA 2K. While there’s a possibility that it could be abused, if well-implemented it could be effective in matching up like-minded basketball gamers with similar attitudes to sportsmanship, while also weeding out the troublesome players. Reputation scores could also take into account other aspects of sportsmanship, such as running out the clock rather than running up the score, not excessively pausing the game, and so on. I believe a couple of the NCAA Football titles have done that before, and I think it could really enhance the online experience in basketball games.

As for me, I’m probably not going to be in any rush to play random opponents online, whether it’s in NBA Live 16 or NBA 2K16. Apart from the fact I favour single player modes to begin with, there’s definitely an element of “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” at play here. I’ll probably just stick to my favourite modes and games with people I know, though having said that, I’m sure I’ll give random match-ups another shot at some point. I just hope that future releases can better guard against this kind of behaviour, and that certain members of the basketball gaming community can grow up a little…and learn some sportsmanship.

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February 8, 2016 9:58 pm

Andrew, good long read!

To be informed, PES game series uses its own ‘courtesy’ rating in matchmaking as well as skill. It’s good on the paper, but when I’ve playing in PES 2015 on my X1 I have found only 3 (!) opponents to be match with me! I have permanently trying the whole game circle (almost a calendar year: November 2014 – early September 2015), but I have played only 3 games online in different modes: two in its ‘head-to-head’ analog, one in MyClub (aka ‘Ultimate Team’).

For another example. When I go to Live Pro-AM/Summer Curcut I see ~20-22 online players, there is a problem for me too to find an opponent in H-2-H or in LUT online. And there is some sort of ‘stupid’ players which cheating all time, like using dunks only. ;(

February 8, 2016 10:49 pm
Reply to  Andrew

They had (maybe have yet, I have heard about some changes to play between regions) a few game regions like Japan, Asia, Europe, maybe, NA too. I have trying different game versions: Asian, Japanese, EU. There was only few opponents have found by accident. Although, it was my problems to buy a not too much popular game on this platform. 😉

As we can see, it’s sadly to consider, but Live 16 has a small online amount of people. Additional differentiation is a controversial thing. ;(

February 8, 2016 10:14 pm

The only “online” games I stick now are shoot em ups like CoD just a quick team death match here and there.

I played a lot of 2k online until 2k15 came out but there were 3 types of player I would come across.

The rage quite.

The Heat or Thunder team selector

The cheese strategy guy.

But usually all 3 listed above were played by the same guy each game where he/she selects usually the Heat, plays full court press and only really uses LeBron on D and let’s the cpu play defence while he just goes for on ball steals.

And if your getting the better on him and his “strategy” they quit the game.

February 10, 2016 1:39 am

I feel your huge disappointment Andrew….. I never played Basketball games online in a 1 vs 1 Versus mode, I just stick to Single Player modes for NBA 2K and NBA Live, but I play NHL and Madden almost every day online in Versus mode and I had to face bad opponent, but I admit that these series should then be much better online … If you disconnect from these games you just get the loss, it happened to me as well I once lost my connection unintentionally the game was still even and I got a loss…. there were unfortunately a bug where you got disconnected in NHL 16 HUT just before the game start with a loss charge…. a pity that they are still trying to address I think.
I also don’t like when you play game online and there are people calling names, insulting opponent etc…. maybe if the game is “Niche” then the better the players online (though fewer).
I think that Rocket League has a good community of players overall, and there a quit doesn’t influence the outcome of a game…… the quitting player it’s just replaced by a bot…