The Friday Five: 5 Toxic Behaviours of Online Basketball Gamers

The Friday Five

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 discusses five toxic behaviours that are all too frequently encountered in online basketball gaming.

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t had a whole lot of fun playing NBA Live or NBA 2K online this year. I have taken part in some very enjoyable games, and that’s kept me from giving up on the online modes altogether, but it’s felt like the experience has taken another step backwards. The lack of deep matchmaking and proper balance, gatekeeping measures such as requiring five users per side in Pro-Am, and increased focus on meta-gaming, have made online play a lot less fun in NBA 2K. Meanwhile, input lag and other gameplay issues have afflicted NBA Live’s online experience.

It’s not just issues with modes and mechanics, however. We gamers also bear much of the responsibility here, as there is a lot of toxicity among those who like to play NBA 2K and NBA Live online. I’ve discussed toxic behaviour in the community before, and since writing that Monday Tip-Off article, the situation hasn’t improved. Various aspects of the games do cultivate a toxic atmosphere and attitudes, as evident by other online gaming communities that are friendlier or more sporting, but ultimately we’re responsible for our own actions. To that end, curbing these five toxic behaviours will require a combination of changes to the games, and improvements in our attitudes.

1. Cheap Strategies When Up Big/Running Up the Score

Full Court Press in Blowout (NBA 2K19 Jordan Rec Center)

Now, I’m not expecting the same kind of sportsmanship we see in the real NBA here. We can’t sub out in the online team play modes, and with the stacked teams in the card collecting modes, most users don’t have benchwarmers for garbage time, either. It’s fair enough to play to the final buzzer as well, since XP, MyPOINTS, VC, and so forth are all up for grabs. However, it crosses the line into being toxic behaviour when gamers continue to use cheap and cheesy strategies in a game that’s already decided, especially when people have quit or been graded out. At that point, it becomes about running up the score and embarrassing your opponent, rather than simply winning.

“So what”, some may say. “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. You just need to play better, or play something else!” While it’s true that honing your skills on the sticks is vital if you want to avoid being on the wrong side of a crushing defeat more often than not, as Marge Simpson pointed out all those years ago, there is such a thing as being a bad winner. I’m talking about continuing to spam steal when you’re up by thirty late in the fourth, triple-teaming a lone user when all their teammates have quit or fouled/graded out, or employing any other cheap strategies to run up the score when you’ve got the game in hand. The lack of sportsmanship is quite toxic.

2. Selfish Basketball

Toxic Teammates Spoil the Offense (NBA 2K19 Jordan Rec Center)

Last week, I made a Tweet suggesting that 83% of people who want to play point guard online…shouldn’t. That fabricated figure is a reference to How I Met Your Mother, being the go-to statistic of Barney Stinson, but it does feel like a lot of online gamers forget that they’re playing multiplayer. It’s understandable as it can be difficult to break that Player One mindset, particularly for gamers who split time with offline modes where you dictate the action. It is something that we need to overcome though, if we want to play well as a unit and ultimately win online games. Playing selfishly in online games further contributes to the toxicity of the basketball gaming community.

Being frozen out as the primary ballhandler and facilitator is a particular pet peeve of mine, as I’m a point guard that likes to set up my teammates. I enjoy scoring, and my Sharpshooting Playmaker build in NBA 2K was chosen so that I could pitch in with some buckets here and there, but I don’t mind sacrificing shots to get assists or keep the ball moving. That’s why it’s frustrating when randoms decide they’re going to be the point guard instead, usually leading to sloppy turnovers or the ball sticking. Then there are gamers who just dribble it up and shoot, jack up horrible shots, and refuse to pass to you after one mistake. If you can, freeze out those toxic teammates.

3. Giving Up & Sabotaging Your Team

Toxic Teammate in the Jordan Rec Center (NBA 2K19)

There seem to be a lot of online gamers who give up far too easily after a rough start. I can understand it to some extent, as issues such as the lack of balance are frustrating, and the early stages of a game can foreshadow how the rest of it is likely to go down. If you find yourself playing against cheesy opponents, or with undesirable teammates, it’s understandable that you may want out sooner rather than later. I’ve seen gamers display a ridiculous lack of patience though, giving up and flat out quitting in the first couple of minutes with a very manageable deficit, just because of a mistake or miss. It’s a great way of denying yourself of the satisfaction of a comeback victory.

An even more toxic variation of this attitude is displayed when online gamers go out of their way to sabotage their squad. Common tactics include hogging the ball and putting up bad shots, intentionally running out of bounds to commit turnovers, and refusing to play defense. Motivations vary from being on the losing team to feeling like you’re not getting enough touches, but in any event, if that’s your MO, just quit. Leaving behind the AI version of your player will be more enjoyable for everyone, and that’s saying something. Of course, this would be less of an issue if the new restrictions on team Pro-Am weren’t forcing many of us to the Jordan Rec Center…

4. Spamming Timeout in 2K Pro-Am

Timeout in the Jordan Rec Center (NBA 2K19)

Among the most annoying legacy issues in Pro-Am and Walk-On/Jordan Rec Center is the ability for the defense to call timeout on dead balls. It doesn’t follow NBA rules, though I suppose it does give gamers an opportunity to delay the game if someone on their squad isn’t ready, at the cost of burning a timeout. The problem is that it’s also a cheap tactic to ice free throw shooters, disrupt inbounds plays, and generally mess with an opponent. To that last point, because we do have some toxic gamers in the basketball gaming community, it’s a tactic that gets abused quite frequently. I’ve been in more than a couple of games that have turned into passive-aggressive timeout wars.

This wouldn’t be so bad if there were restrictions on calling multiple timeouts in a row, but there aren’t. As such, a team with a full complement of timeouts can call one after the other, delaying the game and annoying the other team. Strangely, it doesn’t just happen in crunch time. I’ve seen a lot of teams exhaust all of their timeouts in the first quarter, seemingly for no reason. I’m not sure if it’s an intimidation tactic (“We won’t need any timeouts to beat you!”) or a cheesy one that activates some kind of advantage, but if it’s the latter, that’s even more reason to put a stop to it. This may sound nitpicky, but it’s one of those things that can get in the way of a clean game.

5. Ratings & Online Rank/Experience Snobbery

Waiting in The Playground (NBA 2K19)

I’ve said it before, but it seems like a lot of online basketball gamers would rather not play than risk losing. You’ll encounter a lot of people who will back out of the locker room in the Jordan Rec Center or leave Got Next in The Playground because of their teammates’ Overall Rating, record, or rank. And look, I get it. If you’re an elite player, you probably don’t want to play with a newbie. You’ve probably given that a chance at some point, and it’s been frustrating. Everyone is new at first though, and we only get better through experience. A bad record can also be the sign of dealing with toxic teammates who engage in the aforementioned behaviours, rather than a lack of skill.

Compared to other online gaming communities, it feels like we’re far more toxic and elitist. I would suggest that the lack of proper matchmaking is a significant factor in that, as it means the experienced and elite are mixed in with gamers who are greener or play online “socially”. That’s an issue that EA Sports and Visual Concepts need to address in future games, but in the meantime, we can help the situation by adjusting our attitude. With that in mind, I’d like to finish on a positive note by sharing this story from Reddit, in which an elite player teamed up with a younger gamer who had no one to play with. Good on you, Mike! I hope others follow your stellar example.

For those who play online in NBA 2K or NBA Live, what have your experiences been like this year? Have you encountered much in the way of toxic behaviour or attitudes? Have your say 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.

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