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 examples of times where basketball video games were rude to the gamers playing them.
One of the great things about video games is that when they defeat or otherwise annoy you, you can tell them off without fear of repercussions. You can be as profane as you like – at least until your housemates or neighbours complain – and you won’t hear a single retort from the game or system. Of course, there are times when a game might sling a rude remark your way, sometimes in response to the way you’re playing, and other times almost completely unprovoked. That in turn might lead you to throw out a few more obscenities, though the game will take it all in stride.
As basketball video games have sought to incorporate more personality, and a bit of humour on some occasions, developers have slipped in a few rude messages. Now, these messages aren’t profane or obscene, but their blunt or taunting nature can leave you muttering a few choice words in response. Other times, the game isn’t trying to be rude, but whichever developer was responsible for writing the messages has ended up adopting a tone that they possibly didn’t intend. Whatever the case may be, I’m listing five times that basketball video games ended up being rude to gamers. Your opinion may vary as to whether or not they actually enhance the experience!
1. Messages from the Owner in Dynasty Mode’s PDA
Much has been written about the attitudes and personalities of successful people, in particular executives. While being a nice person isn’t necessarily a drawback, it would seem that it’s certainly not a prerequisite. That principle is on display with the owner for whatever team you pick in Dynasty Mode, beginning in NBA Live 2005. I’m not a big fan of the PDA to begin with as it eliminated real-time negotiations for trades and free agent signings, but it also came with the added “bonus” of rude messages from your team owner whenever they were unhappy with something. If you messed up, or fell short of expectations, they did not mince words.
This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; indeed, it was quite realistic. NBA 2K did it a little better in Association by presenting fictional owners with differing personalities, but the idea of the owner being demanding and harsh to the point of being rude wasn’t exactly far-fetched. It did get a little ridiculous when you lost in the NBA Finals and were treated as if you went 5-77 with the highest payroll in the league, though. In hindsight, it would’ve been fun if they’d changed up the dialogue a bit to have a few different moods between ecstatic and furious, but I do have to say that the negative messages from the owner in Dynasty Mode were successful in pushing your buttons.
2. Coach Feedback in NBA 2K13’s MyCAREER
NBA 2K13 was the first year I really got into MyCAREER, and I ended up having a great experience with the mode. I was taken in, not only by the gameplay but also the overall depth and immersive nature. This was before the story-driven modes that we now have, so a lot of the extra details were very welcome added flavour. One feature that made the game feel more alive was the feedback you’d receive from your coach during the game. A small dialogue box with their face would pop-up following a string of particularly good or bad plays, either complimenting your performance or chewing you out for your mistakes.
Suffice to say, the negative feedback wasn’t exactly constructive or nurturing. If you made enough errors to get immediately yanked at the next opportunity, the dialogue you’d see was always angry and berating. It always felt a little rude and unfair to me, especially when I’d otherwise been playing great outside of that stretch, and even more so when I ended up losing minutes in the rotation over it. I was so immersed in the experience that there were times I genuinely felt a little bitter towards the virtual George Karl! Mind you, given what we know about George Karl from his somewhat controversial book, it turned out to be some unintentional realism in my game.
3. NBA 2K’s Passive-Aggressive Dialogue Boxes
For all the great things about the NBA 2K series over the years, communication has not been one of them. Whether it’s Ronnie 2K mocking questions about hairstyles by telling a gamer “we are more than a Barbie dress up game” the day before 2K dropped a blog about shoes that can be purchased (no, I’m not letting the “cult hero” live that garbage down), not being forthcoming with information about an upcoming game or key feature, or unhelpful stock answers from 2K Support, their communication skills leave much to be desired. It’s therefore not really a surprise that some of the in-game dialogue boxes are worded poorly, and downright passive-aggressively.
Ever redeem a locker code and receive a truly pitiful amount of Virtual Currency or MyTEAM Points? You’ll probably recall the “Happy Spending!” message that might as well be accompanied by a big cartoon middle finger. The scolding message that you receive upon being graded out of a game of 2K Pro-Am comes across as being fairly rich, especially with how broken the grading logic has been for years now. I’m sure it isn’t their intention, but whoever is writing the text for these dialogue boxes is making a lot of them incredibly condescending. Some slight tweaking of the wording would definitely help them to come across as a little less rude.
4. Taunts from the Commentators during the Dunk Contest
The dunk contest that used to be in NBA Live’s All-Star Weekend mode was a lot of fun, but the array of dunks that guaranteed higher scores could be difficult to pull off. The commentary team of Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith (and later Greg Anthony) had little concern for the degree of difficulty on certain attempts, though. While a lot of their comments in the wake of an unsuccessful attempt simply expressed dismay that an ambitious idea had failed, sometimes they would make fun of what the player had tried to do. In some cases, they’d go so far as to break the fourth wall and mock the user for their sloppy stick skills, even suggesting that they hadn’t read the manual.
I’ve always been in two minds about commentary in NBA Live and NBA 2K breaking the fourth wall and acknowledging that it’s a video game. On one hand, it’s just a bit of fun, and there have been some amusing lines. On the other hand, it does break that sense of immersion and the realistic atmosphere that the games are otherwise aiming for in all of their facets. More to the point, it’s just rude. I mean, the player that I’m controlling has just come inches away from pulling off the first 720-degree dunk in the history of the event, and you’re acting like you’re bored? Come on, Jet! That’s why they don’t let you judge dunk contests anymore!
5. Rude Tweets in MyCAREER’s Fake Twitter
I saved this one for last because honestly, I believe it’s brilliant. A lot of the Tweets you’ll see on the fake in-game Twitter in MyCAREER are rather rude. Fans scolding you with ridiculous criticisms, overreacting to losses, taking the time to @ you in order to let you know they aren’t fans of yours…you’ll see all that garbage pop up on your social media timeline. And you know what? They’re absolutely realistic and worded perfectly! Every single fake Tweet that’s rude, stupid, stupidly rude, or rudely stupid, is just the kind of thing you’ll see when you log on to Twitter in real life. Whoever is writing the fake Tweets in MyCAREER is spot on with them.
Look, I’ve criticised MyCAREER stories and a lack of focus on the on-court product many times, but this is an aspect of flavour content that I do enjoy, simply for how accurate it is. This was taken to its logical extreme in NBA 2K18 with the addition of LaVar Ball, who is very quick to proclaim that you’re not a Big Baller. Personally I take that as a compliment, but the point is that it’s just the kind of rude thing that he’d say about someone else while also demanding everyone stay in their lane. It’s a shame you can’t reply, perhaps with a petulant quote-re-Tweet, rubbing it in the face of the virtual haters whenever you turn in a performance for the ages.
What was your reaction upon encountering these examples? Can you think of any other moments where basketball video games were rude (or at least a little cheeky) towards the people playing them? Sound off in the comments 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.