Monday Tip-Off: All That’s Leaked is Hot Air

Kyrie Irving dribbles the basketball in NBA 2K18

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 with a few thoughts on the annual round of deceptive, clickbait content that claims to be leaked footage and information.

The preview seasons for NBA Live 19 and NBA 2K19 are still at least a few months away, but it seems that the fakers are getting an early start. Over the past couple of weeks, supposed “leaked” details and fake trailers for this year’s games from EA Sports and Visual Concepts have been making the rounds, and sadly, it seems a lot of people have been fooled. As we discussed in the most recent episode of the NLSC Podcast, these practices do nothing to help the basketball gaming community. We need to be aware that people are trying to fool us and call it out, not entertain the notion that clear fakes and clickbait lies are leaked media and reliable scoops.

This behaviour is nothing new, and I’ve discussed it before. As long as online gaming communities have been around, there have been trolls signing up to forums or getting in touch with fan websites, claiming to have insider information. With social media and YouTube providing platforms for virtually everyone to have their say and create content, it’s easier than ever to spread misinformation and hoaxes. The more tech savvy trolls can easily whip up screenshots and even videos that can be presented as leaked previews of an upcoming release. At a glance, the better fakes may be halfway convincing, but really, the only thing that’s leaking here is a bunch of hot air.

To be fair, if you look at the comments on the alleged “Official Trailer” for NBA 2K19 – feel free to give it a Dislike for its dishonesty, if you happen to check it out – you will see that there are people identifying it as a fake, or editing their comments once they realise what’s going on. However, there are a lot of people who clearly have been taken in, and even those who have caught on to the truth should’ve realised it a lot sooner. Forget recognising that the footage is from NBA 2K18; the release of an “official” trailer in March, without any pre-order links or other information that’s come straight from the source, should have been an immediate red flag.

Beware of supposed leaked info and media

As I noted in a discussion of the situation in our Forum, it’s strange how gamers will (quite understandably) be wary of marketing spin and take any developer blogs with a grain of salt, but then believe without question that some random person without any credentials or credibility has leaked footage or a reliable scoop. The notion that video and screenshots can’t be faked, doctored, or mislabelled, or that people don’t make up details and post them online while claiming they came from an “anonymous source”, is very naive to say the least. It’s ironic that so many of the same so-called experts who boast that they won’t be fooled by previews are taken in by such obvious hoaxes.

Of course, not everyone is wise to the more devious tactics of content creators who are more interested in clicks, views, and revenue, than being honest and informative. I place most of the blame on the people being dishonest. Reiterating what I said in my previous article, trolling a gaming community with fake previews and phony scoops is hardly a crime against humanity, but it is doing your fellow gamers a great disservice. There’s no honour in it, especially if it’s coming from a website or content creator that will generally appear to be a reliable source of accurate information and previews, as well as thoughtful and well-informed commentary.

In a slightly more benign practice, content creators are also prone to using the word “leaked” in the titles of videos and articles simply to grab attention. They may not actually make up any details and present them as facts, but they’ll latch on to a Tweet from a developer or some other piece of non-news that doesn’t really tell us anything about an upcoming game (except that it’s coming out), and proceed to just speculate. Now, there’s nothing wrong with speculative content and talking about what we want to see in future games, but when there’s a title (and often a deceptive thumbnail) that suggests actual concrete details will be discussed, it’s disingenuous clickbait at best.

You’ve also got the content creators who will refer to genuine information and media that’s readily available as being “leaked”, in order to make it sound more exciting (and in some cases, exclusive). On the plus side, they’re mostly presenting details that have been confirmed, or footage and screenshots that are actually from the game they say it is, but it’s certainly a cheap tactic, and one that we shouldn’t indulge. I realise that it’s tough to build and retain an audience, requiring effective usage of SEO that includes eye-catching titles and provocative copy, but those of us who are covering basketball video games do owe our audiences honesty, and trustworthy content.

LeBron James wearing The Land Jersey (NBA Live 18)

Look, it’s hard to resist a scoop. As I recounted on Twitter a few weeks ago, I was once emailed some information that I debated whether or not post. The details I was given turned out to be mostly accurate, but I had no way of confirming the credibility of the anonymous source who emailed me. I also didn’t want 2K thinking that anyone I know there had leaked it to me, as none of them have ever violated the trust of their employer on my behalf. In hindsight, it’s a shame that I couldn’t break the news, but not knowing how credible this person was, and not wanting to get my friends into any trouble for something they didn’t do, I believe I made the right call.

Had I gone ahead and run the story, it would’ve been imperative that I made it clear that it was something that I couldn’t confirm at the time, and to take it with a grain of salt until further details were made available one way or another. After all, if all you have is a rumour, you must be responsible in reporting it. If you just want to speculate on a vague Tweet or discuss things you want to see in NBA Live or NBA 2K, that’s fine, but don’t call it leaked information. By all means make fan trailers, but label them clearly, and don’t pretend they’re official previews, with footage from as yet unreleased games. Be honest about your content, and your audience will appreciate it.

It’s not just random trolls and YouTube personalities, either. Video game journalists who are covering basketball games for major publications don’t always do their due diligence, either. When one website erroneously listed a December release for NBA Live 18, a few people ran with the story, talking about how the series was in big trouble and a major shake-up of the dev team was in the works. This was purely conjecture, based on a misleading placeholder date when the real one had already been made known. The retractions – sadly, but not surprisingly – were a lot quieter than the bold declarations. Trolls are bad enough, without sloppy journalism as well.

Getting back to the community, it’s important that we can recognise fake videos and screenshots, and be vigilant in calling them out. Look for telltale signs that they’ve been taken from previous games, such as distinctive overlays, advertising boards, watermarks, and other noticeable details, big or small. Consider the timing of when it comes out, and who posted it. An unfamiliar source posting something well before the preview season is not to be trusted. Unscrupulous people claiming to have “leaked” info or media are always going to be a problem, but if we pay attention to the red flags, their hot air will blow over without causing us too much distress.

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