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Monday Tip-Off: A Crossroads in the Modding Community

Monday Tip-Off: A Crossroads in the Modding Community

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. This week, I’m tipping things off by addressing some recent concerns and issues in our modding community.

I’ve often spoken of how proud I am of our modding community, how I truly believe we have a good thing going here. I stand by that statement, but it’s a remark that I’ve often made before offering up criticism of troubling practices within our community. I’ll admit that I’m doing the same thing today, as the last couple of weeks have been an unusually turbulent time. There are a number of issues that have reached a boiling point, and troubling attitudes have been on display. It’s culminated in at least one ban, and an unhealthy amount of tension for what is meant to be a fun hobby.

At the same time, it’s led to a productive discussion about the path that our modding community is on, and the kind of community we want to be. It’s allowed us to raise these issues and find out that many of us are on the same page. I’d like to continue that discussion here today. Yes, I have some criticisms that may seem blunt, but I would ultimately like something positive to come out of the messy situation that has arisen. As I’ve said in the Forum, it’s getting to the point where we may have to amend our rules and policies, to ensure that we’re maintaining the standard we’ve set and culture we’ve established. If nothing else, we want to make sure unwritten rules are written.

Many years ago in our modding community, the most persistent issue was theft of work, and refusal to give credit where it’s due. That still happens from time to time, but the bigger problem these days is money. We’re in a time where it’s much easier to monetise content, and a lot of online content creators have made their passion into an occupation. Of course, while the avenues are there for anyone to try their hand at creating online content for a living, not everyone is going to become rich or even just be able to make it a full-time job. Most people will at best be making some pocket change, which is admittedly still welcome compensation for their time and efforts.

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In our modding community, we have a strict policy about charging for mods: don’t. In a previous article, I went into detail as to why we don’t allow it, but I’ll quickly recap those reasons here. First and foremost, it’s not legal because we’d be profiting off of licenses, likenesses, and intellectual property we don’t own. Second, we believe in making content freely available as not everyone has the means to purchase mods (even if we could legally charge for them), and it’s never been the done thing here. Finally, it opens up a whole can of worms as far as rates, complaints, and settling disputes; something we’d be expected to mediate (and free of charge, of course).

Back in 2012, we decided that we’d allow ad links on downloads. Then-member of staff Leftos had used them, and it would’ve been hypocritical to use them ourselves while banning the community from doing so. At the time, ad link services tended to be safer, but unfortunately that’s no longer the case. Several of them demand that you install malware to proceed to the download, compromising your PC’s security and performance. Quite often, the advertising will contain adult content, which we don’t want to link to here. They were once feasible ways for modders to earn some spare change, but now they’re dangerous at worst and an annoyance at best.

Furthermore, the attitude has shifted from “making a few bucks” to “getting paid to mod”. This has led to all kinds of practices that are toxic and anti-community, such as running people through multiple links before they reach an actual download page, the even more nefarious practice of making people click through multiple ad links before getting to the mod itself, and making releases conditional, i.e. receiving a set amount in donations, or a certain number of video views, replies, or Likes on social media. All of these practices are attempts to extort our community and charge for mods without explicitly doing so, while still blatantly crossing that line regardless.

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Look, I know how much time and effort modding takes. It’s the reason that my 2020 roster update for NBA 2K11 PC is still in the works. More than that, I’ve been a part of our modding community since 1997, before I was running the NLSC. I’m well aware of what it takes to create projects big or small, and therefore I appreciate any work that’s shared with the community. To that end, I speak from experience when I talk about the modders who founded this community and built it up into what it has become today. I know what it’s like to feel hard work isn’t appreciated, and with so much monetised content nowadays, I understand the appeal and desire to cash in.

There are differences in the content that our modding community creates and a YouTube series critiquing works under fair use, however. On top of that, beyond any of the legal ramifications, we have the issue of the culture and philosophy that we’ve established in our modding community. We have certain rules and policies regarding modding, and that’s not going to change. If anything, in light of recent events, we’re probably going to have to amend those rules to be stricter about ad link services, and prohibit anti-community tactics. After all, we complain when NBA 2K attempts to gouge us with microtransactions, so we shouldn’t employ greedy practices ourselves.

I’d also like to address a couple of points. I realise that some people are struggling financially and want to seek out additional sources of revenue. I can empathise, but if you wish to be a part of our modding community, then these are the rules we have in place. I’d also like to debunk a slanderous claim I saw from someone who was banned after flaunting several rules. We have not made a lot of (or indeed, any) money off of modders. We don’t get a share of anyone’s donations or ad link revenue, nor do we charge any fees for our facilities or content. That scurrilous accusation, along with the childish personal attacks, is typical of troublemakers who are shown the door.

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Speaking of our facilities and content being free, there’s some hypocrisy here among modders who claim they should be compensated for their work. Those people are happily using a platform that allows them to reach an audience and take advantage of resources and tutorials created by other people, all free of charge. To turn around and say that it’s unfair to expect them to show the same goodwill and community spirit is unappreciative and disingenuous, to say nothing of hypocritical. Even if you’re going to establish your own modding community on Facebook, you’re using a free platform while demanding that you be compensated for your time and effort. Think about that.

While the issues with ad links and monetisation have been at the forefront of recent tensions, there’s also the traditional squabbling and ego. The desire to have exclusive content and arguments about stolen work and ideas have morphed into unhealthy competition, which has led to ongoing bad blood. Disputes are escalating into drama, with little interest in diffusing the tension and ill-feeling. When a team member steps in to try to calm the situation, we end up being the target of abusive and disrespectful posts and messages. It comes to a point where the quality of the work and the talent of the modder aren’t worth the headache, and we’re quite happy to let them walk away.

And you know what? We will survive that. For all the disgruntled former members of the community who have predicted doom and gloom, we’re still around. That group who pulled the “RIP NLSC” stunt because they wanted to start their own site? Their project collapsed due to infighting, and a few of them slunk back here. The banned members who post angry rants and slanderous claims on their blogs and social media? Let them yell into the wind. There are talented people who will come along and take their place, people who understand the reasons behind our policies and want to do right by the modding community. There’s a reason we’re been around for 23 years.

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So, what does this mean for our modding community? As I said, we’re going to have to evaluate our rules and make sure that unwritten policies are written. There are people who do like to show their appreciation for modders through donations, so we’ll be encouraging tip jars rather than ad links. We need to figure out how we’re going to approach Patreon, as Patreon-exclusive releases are paid mods, but premium support and early access aren’t quite the same as locking mods behind a paywall. As we do figure this all out, we want to hear from you: the creators and the audience in our modding community. We’re at a crossroads, and we want to take the right path.

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