Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five excuses that we must stop making in order to downplay valid criticisms of basketball video games.
There are times when it’s only fair to make excuses for basketball video games. There are limitations to what can be achieved with the technology that’s currently available. Issues with likeness rights meant that certain historical players can’t be included. NBA games have a brutal development cycle compared to titles that don’t come out every year. In fact, you might be inclined to call these “reasons”, as the term “excuses” often has negative connotations. It’s splitting hairs on the definition in some respects, but it’s understandable that some people balk at the idea of “making excuses”.
The problem with excuses is that they can easily work against our best interests. If we don’t hold developers accountable for certain decisions and design choices, then we’ll have no choice but to endure whatever undesirable situation we find ourselves in with basketball video games. Look, I’d like to think that I’m as passionate about the hobby as anyone else in the community, and I also believe in being fair and constructive in our criticism. It’s just astonishing how far some people will go to make excuses for the games though, even when an issue is clearly detrimental to them. These are the excuses that we need to cut out, or else we’ll continue to suffer the consequences.
1. “The other game has problems, too.”
In other words, excuses that boil down to whataboutism. If someone is making an excuse for NBA Live, they might point out the lengthy grind and pushy approach to microtransactions in NBA 2K. Conversely, if someone is making excuses for NBA 2K, they’ll sneeringly refer to NBA Live’s struggles over the past decade or so. This isn’t to say that you can’t compare and contrast the two games. If you’re talking about how a certain feature, mechanic, or mode could be better, and the other game provides a good example of what you’d prefer, then it’s relevant to bring it up. Furthermore, as long as the games are in competition with each other, then comparisons are inevitable.
However, if you’re looking to justify a problem in one game by referring to an issue in the other, then it’s irrelevant. The shortcomings of NBA Live don’t justify problems in NBA 2K, and vice versa. It’s kind of like complaining about getting pulled over for speeding when other motorists are also doing so: it doesn’t change the fact that you were doing something wrong, got caught, and are now paying the price for it. We should want to see both games be as good as they can be, and demonstrate goodwill to us as consumers. We’re not doing ourselves any favours if we let EA Sports or Visual Concepts off the hook for their missteps, just because the other game messed up too.
2. “Not my problem, therefore not a real problem.”
Not many people say this word for word, but it’s the prevailing attitude behind a lot of excuses that are made for games. These excuses usually come in one of two variants. The first is dismissing a complaint because it has no bearing on the experience that you prefer. A good example is writing off complaints about VC because you prefer to play MyLEAGUE, which doesn’t utilise it and therefore it’s never a problem for you. The second is categorising valid complaints about a mode you do play as whining, simply because you find the current situation satisfactory. An example of this would be the removal of the three user minimum in NBA 2K’s Pro-Am modes.
Needless to say, this is a myopic and self-centred attitude. It’s assuming that the only real problems are the ones you deem important, which is to say, the ones that affect you. If you’re not affected by something that is clearly a problem for other gamers who have sound reasoning for their complaint, then lucky you. It doesn’t mean that they’re whining about nothing, or that the current state of the game is preferable for everyone. Obviously it’s hard for everyone to get their way, but quite often there are ways to compromise and cater to as many gamers as possible. Of course, this attitude is very prevalent these days, and goes way beyond basketball gaming. More’s the pity.
3. “It’s just the way games are now.”
Appealing to novelty is a standard fallacy in an age where it’s common to sneer at “old heads” and write them off as only appealing to tradition (which admittedly is something that happens as well). Technology and video games have come a long way, but it’s just as fallacious to assume something is automatically better because it’s new and different as it is to immediately assume that it’s worse. A lot of companies have made mistakes with their products over the years. Good ideas haven’t panned out, or consumers have been taken for granted and pushed back against the lack of goodwill. Updates have bricked hardware, or introduced new bugs. You get the idea.
That’s why it puzzles me when I see gamers making excuses for changes that have been for the worse, or at the very least, are problematic. I’ve seen season passes and microtransactions defended with the argument “It’s not 2003 anymore”. As I said a few weeks back, when you make that argument, you’re not putting some bitter old head in their place. You’re admitting that you’re fine with video game developers taking advantage of you and paying twice as much for the same amount of content because that’s the way it is now. It’s a mindset that developers are going to keep taking advantage of, until we stop making excuses and take a stand. Speaking of which…
4. “No one’s forcing you to buy it.”
I mean, of course they aren’t. Of all the things someone may be forced to do, buying a basketball video game usually isn’t on the list. And yes, it is wise to let your wallet do the talking, and refrain from buying products that you’re not happy with. If you are interested in basketball and basketball video games, however, you’re probably going to have some inclination to pick up the latest title. And, if you’re not entirely satisfied with it, you’re no doubt going to have some complaints and ideas about how it could be better. For that matter, it’s quite feasible to forego buying a game, and instead feel disappointed that there wasn’t a suitable title that met your needs and expectations.
The same excuse is also made for microtransactions. Again, it is true that you don’t have to buy in-game currency, but the mechanics are in place to encourage you to do so, and tip the balance if you choose not to. The gamers who level up quicker or get a stronger team because they’ve spent money end up setting the competitive balance. That leaves you with the choice of spending money yourself, grinding hard to catch up, or suffering the disadvantage. You’re not forced in that you can refuse to pay, but you’re going to feel the pressure and possibly endure a less enjoyable experience. It’s become an issue with basketball games, and we shouldn’t make excuses for it.
5. “You’re just hating!”/”You just suck!”
If you want to make excuses for a game and shut down criticism, a cheap but very effective tactic is to call the critic a hater. You’ve no doubt seen the same tactic used in debates about real basketball. When it comes to video games, a similar trick is to accuse the other person of being terrible on the sticks. Sadly, these adolescent debate tactics work because they distract from the point being made, the actual issue at hand. Now the person is defending themselves against the accusation that they’re biased or no good at the game, since you’ve suggested it’s the only reason for their complaint. Of course, it doesn’t work on anyone too mature and savvy at debate to take the bait.
We need to stop making excuses that employ these tactics because this shouldn’t be a matter of winning some debate on the Internet, for all that’s worth. It should be about providing constructive feedback about the games, and that does mean pointing out the problems with them. Despite what some gamers may believe, not all complaints come from a position of being a hater, or ineptitude on the virtual hardwood. Sure, some do, but they stand out because they fail to stand up to scrutiny, and they can be dismissed accordingly. There’s a lot of overlap with the other types of excuses I’ve mentioned, and we really need to knock it off. It’s defending games to the point of fanboyism.
What are some other excuses we need to stop making for games? How could we stand to be more savvy consumers, and more unified as a community? Have your say in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.