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 my reflections on how a frustrating gaming session isn’t worth an angry rant.
I had a rough session in The Rec last Friday. In fact, that’s been a trend whenever I’ve felt like jumping online as of late, but this was a particularly bad outing. It was the kind of unpleasant experience we talked about a lot on the NLSC Podcast, until it occurred to us how often we were repeating ourselves, and that it was getting as dull to talk about as I’m sure it was to listen to. Nevertheless, after I was done, I was all ready to have an angry rant about it. I figured a vicious spray on Twitter might be a fitting prelude to an article in which I’d elaborate upon my displeasure.
Except, I didn’t go on that angry rant on Twitter, and I didn’t write a similarly furious article. I cleansed my palate with a game in The Cages – one I didn’t care about and only played to farm the Daily Bonus VC – and then I put the game aside. Funnily enough, I found myself recalling a line from Dinotopia, a book I haven’t read in many years: “Breathe Deep, Seek Peace”. And so, that’s what I did. My thoughts on my recent experiences in The Rec and the criticisms I have of NBA 2K’s online scene haven’t changed. It’s just that expressing them via the angry rant that I was composing in my head simply wasn’t worth the time and effort to post.
Don’t get me wrong. It would’ve been cathartic to spew that venom out into the world after the game I endured. There would’ve been satisfaction in Likes, Re-Tweets, and comments from like-minded people who could relate and grumble along with me. I could’ve composed a scathing article that would feel good to write, and hopefully be just as fun for equally frustrated gamers to read. On the other hand, it would also be preaching to the choir, and possibly boring to virtual ballers who have heard it all before. I could quite easily look childish, unreasonable, and unhinged. As I’ve said, there’s value in balancing positivity and negativity, and not adding to the toxicity.
Am I talking about fostering a positive relationship with the developers, so that if nothing else, they’re receptive to our feedback? Sure, that’s part of it. A person who’s best known for an angry rant at the slightest disappointment is not someone whose opinion will carry much weight. However, it’s not just about being respectful towards the developers, and it’s certainly not about gaining perks and favour with 2K Sports. I’d suggest the ship has long sailed on the latter. It’s also not just about avoiding a blanket condemnation of the NBA 2K community, tarring all online ballers with the same brush and angrily scolding everyone for a handful of frustrating Rec games.
It’s about taking stock of the situation, and ownership of my choices as a gamer. The Rec has been fun to jump into every now and again in NBA 2K20. With five minute quarters and the average amount of stoppages, a game lasts about half an hour. As I’ve mentioned, that makes it an enjoyable distraction if I haven’t been able to get out for a walk, and want to get on my exercise bike for my daily cardio. When it’s a good day in The Rec, I’m often inclined to stick around for a second game. At the same time, I know what it can be like. I’ve noted the problems with The Rec, and discovered that playing it regularly yields negative experiences at least as often as positive ones.
I’m aware of this, and yet I’ve still chosen to try my luck. I know the problems with NBA 2K’s online experience, and while I’ve cut back on it, I haven’t completely given it up, either. So yeah, I could go on an angry rant about last Friday’s frustrating game in The Rec, and you could all rightfully ask me “So Andrew, why do you still play it? Why are you still giving it a chance, when you’ve been burned by 2K online on so many occasions?” And you know what? I’ll have no better answer for you than it’s a habit I’m falling back on, and a convenient way of keeping my mind occupied while I exercise. That answer shouldn’t satisfy you, and it definitely shouldn’t satisfy me.
With that in mind, the solution is clear. It’s time to put aside online play. It’s had its moments, but if a game is compelling me to consider going on an angry rant and write scathing critiques, then I’m not enjoying the way I’ve chosen to play it. Considering that there are so many other viable modes of play in NBA 2K20, I don’t have to be stuck with The Rec, just because online team play is an experience I’ve enjoyed in the past. The fact that my other modes of choice don’t conveniently line up with a thirty minute cardio session is a poor reason to eschew them in favour of one that’s causing me to mentally draft tirades that in all honesty, don’t need to be put out into the world.
Frankly, I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be that kind of content creator; one who thrives on acerbic critique and hate clicks. For the integrity of the site, for my own credibility when I’m sending Wishlists and feedback along to the developers, I don’t want that reputation. Not only that, but I’m passionate about basketball video games. That passion is obviously why I feel compelled to go on an angry rant when I’m frustrated, but I also want to celebrate basketball gaming. If I have criticism, I want it to be constructive. I also don’t want it to be the only kind of opinions that I express. I don’t want the content that I produce to be fuelled by anger and disdain.
I’ve seen what that does to content creators, in and out of the basketball gaming community. I’ve seen posts by people who have been shown the door because of how they acted in our Forum, read the vitriol they’ve directed at me and the site. A couple of them in particular inspired an article I wrote last year. If I’m being honest, that article was a cleaned up version of an angry rant I’d have loved to have gone on, because some of those posts have been extremely nasty and personal. That isn’t surprising when you look at some of the content those individuals create, of course. There’s always an underlying tone of spite, arrogance, and pomposity.
That isn’t me – contrary to what some of those people may believe – and I don’t want to fall down that rabbit hole of being a guy who delivers a toxic, angry rant whenever I’m frustrated with basketball gaming or something in the community. It doesn’t mean I’ll be dishonest or refrain from critique, but it does mean knowing that something isn’t worth getting hot over; especially when the situation is self-inflicted, like the one that I was going to have a spray over. There’s enough anger in the world today, and over far more important things than basketball games. I don’t want to be one of those miserable people that raves and rants, or vomits out smug, self-important diatribes.
So here’s what I will say. When all four of my teammates quit early in the first quarter because of a shaky start, it underlines one of the problems I discussed in last week’s Monday Tip-Off. It’s a recurring problem with The Rec, a toxicity that is partly our fault as a community, but also indicative of flaws in the online scene that NBA 2K fosters. The lack of sportsmanship – triple-teaming a lone user in the backcourt in the midst of a blowout – demonstrates immaturity in the userbase, and suggests that a lot of NBA 2K gamers haven’t played or watched much real basketball. Or perhaps I’m an old head from another time, in which case hit me with an “OK Boomer”.
It frustrates me that it feels like there isn’t the same commitment to quality with recent NBA 2K games – especially the online scene – now that it’s become about milking us for recurrent revenue. It’s a shame it’s executives that benefit from the profits; that the money doesn’t go back into the game to make it even better, or to the hardworking developers who are honestly doing their best. I’m puzzled that the company doesn’t see the value in enhancing the online experience when there’s a professional eSports league based on the game. Truth be told, fellow gamers, I’m disheartened to see a mode that I know is capable of being so much fun instead be in such a sorry state.
You see? I was able to put all of that out there without it devolving into an angry rant. Maybe that rant would’ve been fun to read, or maybe it would’ve just sounded whiny. I could’ve sneered at “the suits caring about nothing more than getting their greedy paws on our money”, but what would that accomplish? I could’ve snarled about the people I played with, but I’d look like a sore loser, as well as a fool who continues to hate-play a mode I’m not enjoying, just so that I can complain about it. I’d be like all of those angry, self-righteous, miserable, bitter content creators who can’t get over an issue with a game or someone in the community, and constantly harp on it.
To that end, I’m going to do the healthy thing. I refrained from posting an angry rant in a Twitter thread I’d likely later second guess. I’m not going to write that follow-up article. I’ve said it all before, anyway: the online scene has a lot of problems, from balance to matchmaking to the atmosphere it cultivates, and ideally something should be done about that. In the meantime, I’ll leave it alone as I’d been doing until recently, and play something else. That’s much healthier than subjecting myself to frustration when I don’t have to. Why go on an angry rant in the heat of the moment, one that a cooler head will likely regret? I’m choosing to breathe deep, and seek peace.