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Monday Tip-Off: A PSA About NBA 2K Custom Images

Monday Tip-Off: A PSA About NBA 2K Custom Images

We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Join me as I begin the week here at the NLSC with my opinions and commentary on basketball gaming topics, as well as tales of the fun I’ve been having on the virtual hardwood. This week, I’m tipping things off with a PSA about the responsible use of custom images in the various modes of NBA 2K.

It’s easy to take features such as face scanning and custom images for granted, as they’ve been in NBA 2K for years now. In particular, the level of customisation that image uploading facilitates is a clear advantage that NBA 2K’s modes have had over their NBA Live equivalents during the past decade. Sure, it’s fun to get your favourite team’s logos and jerseys for your squad in the card collecting modes, but it’s even better when you can design your own uniforms and use a custom logo! The default expansion team assets are nice, but custom images take things to the next level.

And of course, since those customisation features are already in the game, they’re naturally a part of creating your own Pro-Am squad as well. In fact, it’s one of the features that have separated it from NBA Live’s online team play modes. Just as in MyTEAM, being able to use your own logo and decorate your arena with unique assets adds a personal touch that current and historical NBA branding just can’t offer. Sometimes custom images have been more difficult to unlock than they should be, but at the same time, I can’t blame 2K for making us jump through hoops. To that end, I’d like to put out this PSA to be more responsible and mature about custom images.

I’ve been dabbling with 2K Pro-Am since NBA 2K16, including playing 500 games with our squad in NBA 2K17. That’s given me plenty of opportunities to witness the creativity of the Pro-Am community, and suffice to say, some gamers are putting the customisation tools to better use than others. At one end of the scale, you’ve got the clever jokes and creative names, as well as the great-looking designs from squads who are clearly taking things a bit more seriously. At the other end, you’ve got the messy designs, home and road jersey colours that clash with opponents, tired jokes and attempts to be edgy, and inappropriate custom images including very adult content.

Clashes With Team Colours in 3v3 Pro-Am (NBA 2K23)

Now, the game is supposed to stop some of that in its tracks. Pro-Am teams have an alternate jersey that’s meant to avoid clashes, but in my experience, the game doesn’t switch to them. There’s also a content filter with image uploads that’s supposed to prevent anything that isn’t family friendly, but it’s either been switched off or is totally ineffective. I’m not talking about something that’s slightly creepy or simply pushing the limits of PG, either. The custom images feature in NBA 2K is letting through fully explicit material! I’m not going to go into any details so as not to violate any terms of service, but let’s just say there are images that don’t exactly fall under an E10+ rating.

It’s impossible to broach this subject without sounding like a tremendous prude who’s pushing for censorship, or Helen Lovejoy wailing that someone needs to think of the children. I’m not personally offended by these custom images in NBA 2K, but it is meant to be a family-friendly game, and as with TV and films, it’s fair to expect video games to adhere to their rating. I mean, we could argue that NBA 2K should already be rated for adults given its microtransactions and gambling mechanics, but that’s a (very valid) topic for another time. Again, I don’t mean to clutch pearls here, but it would be better if the filter worked, or if people simply refrained from such uploads.

Of course, this is where the “think of the children” argument falls somewhat flat, as I suspect it’s mostly younger NBA 2K gamers that are uploading custom images of an adult nature. It’s the kind of humour we engage in when simply being taboo works as a punchline. It’s a way of rebelling against any kind of authority with their stuffy rules. It’s doing something provocative over and over again, because we know it’ll get a reaction, like some Grumpy Elder Millennial grumbling about it on a basketball gaming fansite. It’s the kind of thing that we tend to grow out of when we start to value the wry comedy of the class wit over the loud buffoonery of the class clown.

NLSC THRILLHO Branding in NBA 2K23

To that end, this is probably a PSA about custom images in NBA 2K that won’t be seen or heeded by the ones it’s intended for. Let’s face it: this isn’t a video, and the introductory paragraph alone is more than 280 characters. I’m just another old man yelling at clouds, a boomer take to be ignored. Nevertheless, it’s worth putting it out there for anyone on the edge of growing out of it, or is otherwise mature enough to consider the point. It’s not about always following the rules, or even thinking about younger kids who shouldn’t see this stuff, although the latter is worth considering. Abusing the custom images feature runs the risk of ruining a great thing for all of us.

The last thing we want is for custom images to be removed from NBA 2K, or made harder to attain either through the level/rewards system, or worse yet, a VC paywall. We also don’t want 2K to have to crack down so hard on custom images that the filter ends up producing too many false positives, blocking images that aren’t problematic. Also, while I’m not offended by those images, it’s annoying knowing that I won’t be able to use any footage from a game because it’s going to get flagged. Sure, that’s my problem, but you might have a really awesome highlight that you want to get onto NBA 2KTV. That’s when that hilarious image is going to come back to bite you!

Incidentally, this doesn’t just go for custom images in the online modes of NBA 2K. It also applies to finding a way around the profanity filter to say something edgy in the baseline and sideline text, or your team name. Again, I’m not asking or expecting you to care about my content, but if you want to get your great clips featured, that stuff is undoubtedly going to disqualify them from consideration. It might fly under the radar, but adult content in your custom images definitely won’t. Even if it’s just that photo of a clothed adult entertainer “entertaining” a microphone – yes, I am still erring on the side of caution here – your submission will be binned before anyone sees the bucket.

Community Uploads in NBA 2K23

I also want to point out that jokes have diminishing returns the more often they’re told, especially when shock value is involved. Even something relatively clean, such as Mickey Mouse with LeBron James’ face, is a stale gag after you’ve seen a handful of teams using it as their logo. Again, I’m not personally offended by it; as a Michael Jordan fan weary of his era being slandered by fans and talking heads alike, I’m not about to fume at jokes poking fun at LeBron. You can run a joke into the ground though, and no one likes a copycat comedian. By all means have fun with Pro-Am squad branding, but at least be clever and creative if you’re going to make jokes.

After all, it’s not like calling our squad NLSC THRILLHO with images of Milhouse in our branding is taking things super seriously! I’ll also admit that it’s not an original gag, to say nothing of a reference that’s over twenty-five years old. However, it’s not a childish attempt to be edgy, or a joke that every Pro-Am squad is jumping on because they saw the image in the Community Uploads tab. It’s a running gag for us, but we also take care with our uniform and court design, so that it’s a juxtaposition of a clean look with something ridiculous. I’m just saying: if you’re going to be funny, use it as an opportunity to hone your sense of humour, and aim for wit rather than shock value.

Speaking of the 90s though, if there’s anyone who understands shock humour for the sake of shock humour, it’s Millennials like me. We’re the ones that had to convince our folks to let us watch The Simpsons and later South Park, and catch them in secret if we weren’t allowed. We lived through the Attitude Era in WWF, with content that shocked people then, and definitely wouldn’t fly today. You can’t imagine how old it makes me feel to get on my high horse and decry edgy shock humour and being controversial (or indeed, offensive) simply for the sake of it. At best it’s hypocritical, especially when a lot of younger people are sensitive about matters that we weren’t.

Custom Images in NBA 2K23

With that in mind, before I get too carried away grumbling about kids these days, I fully acknowledge that some of these edgy jokes and custom images could indeed be uploaded or at least utilised by older gamers, too. As the saying goes, growing older is mandatory, growing up is optional. Of course, ideally we should opt to grow up as we grow older! It’s one thing to be young at heart, another to still act like a rebellious teen when our teenage years are long behind us. If I’m going to get on my high horse and tell the kids they need to be mature, then that definitely goes double for any older gamers engaging in that nonsense. We’re supposed to set a better example than that!

Again, I can’t stress how old it makes me feel to cast myself in the role of fun-hating adult, wagging a scolding finger over custom images people are uploading to NBA 2K. I don’t relish being the person wringing their hands and begging everyone to think of the children. Being some pro-censorship, self-appointed Guardian of Morality is not a path I want to tread. With that being said, I do think it’s appropriate to keep any adult content out of an E10+ game. As a community, I also think we can come up with better jokes than edgy shock humour. And yes, more selfishly, I don’t want my best highlights rendered unusable because of content from anyone’s custom images.

At the end of the day, we shouldn’t ruin a good thing because we can’t be trusted not to upload filth, or try for controversial shock humour. NBA 2K23 has actually been quite generous in giving us access to custom images without making us jump through hoops, which hasn’t always been the case. Even in MyTEAM, customisation can be unlocked quite early. We shouldn’t give 2K any reason to reconsider that stance, or take other measures that end up spoiling a good thing. If you’ll forgive a gamer in his 30s for making a reference to an old episode of a long-running TV show, don’t be like Homer Simpson, proud that you’re the one responsible for there being a warning.

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