Welcome to another edition of The Friday Five! Every Friday I cover a topic related to basketball gaming, either as a list of five items, or a Top 5 countdown. The topics for these lists and countdowns include everything from fun facts and recollections to commentary and critique. This week’s Five is a list of five ways that basketball gamers unnecessarily shame one another, and why it’s absurd.
No community is ever going to get along 100% of the time. There will always be disagreements, and things can get heated in the thick of competitive play. With that being said, general etiquette and decorum goes a long way, and avoids embodying the most unflattering gamer stereotypes. It’s not particularly complicated. Don’t be the jerk that sends threatening messages, or jumps on the mic to be abusive and throw out bigoted slurs. Don’t ruin the online scene on PC with your hacked, super-powered player. And of course, don’t foster a toxic atmosphere through elitist gatekeeping.
It’s bewildering that gamers shame each other over a hobby that’s meant to be fun. Obviously the competitive scene carries certain bragging rights, and if you claim to be an elite player, you’ll be fairly challenged to prove your mettle. Beyond that though, there are people in the basketball gaming community that indulge in gatekeeping over the pettiest of things. In games that offer a variety of modes and options to tailor the experience to maximise your enjoyment, there’s no wrong way to play basketball video games; at least outside of cheating and poor sportsmanship in a competitive environment. As such, it’s ridiculous to shame each other over these five matters.
1. Preferring Modes Played Against the CPU
This particular brand of shaming other basketball gamers has increased in proportion to the growth in popularity of the online scene. I’m sure it’s always been there, but single player modes used to be more popular and the online modes more primitive, so such gatekeeping tended to be called out more readily. In short, there’s a weird stigma against playing single player modes, rather than competing in the online arena. The charge is that you’re an inferior player, too chicken to take on real competition. This of course assumes that the only reason to play basketball games is to prove your superior stick skills against your fellow gamers. That is but one way to play them.
Single player modes indulge fantasies such as seeing your favourite team make trades you wish they could, and win championships they probably won’t. The career modes combine basketball with RPG elements, simulating the experience of being an NBA player. Card collecting modes resemble a hobby many of us have partaken in at some point, with the added bonus of putting them to use in a game. There are many reasons that we enjoy playing video games – basketball or otherwise – and competitive play isn’t the be-all, end-all. There’s potential for hours upon hours of fun in every mode basketball games offer, and thus no reason to shame each other for our preferences.
2. Playing On An Easier Difficulty Level
Look, asking someone which difficulty setting they’re using in a basketball video game shouldn’t be a controversial and bad faith question. If someone is searching for settings that will help improve their experience on the virtual hardwood, asking about sliders and difficulty can be helpful. However, when the question is asked in response to sharing a highlight or account of a fun game you played, chances are it’s no longer in good faith. It’s about judging the worthiness of the highlight or performance, and putting it down if it didn’t occur on the most challenging difficulty level. That may be jumping to conclusions, but I’ve seen things play out that way far too many times.
In defense of the question, if someone is brashly boasting about their achievements against the CPU and they’re playing on an easier difficulty level, it’s fair to point out that it would be more impressive if accomplished on a more challenging setting. If someone is just sharing a fun moment, trying to downplay and dump on it is toxic, elitist gatekeeping. Everyone has different skill levels and experience, so difficulty settings and sliders are essential for a game to provide a fun time and stimulating challenge for all players. If your first inclination upon seeing a cool highlight is to ask about the difficulty setting, you’re not interested in having a friendly conversation.
3. Our Choice in Camera Angle
I still don’t get shaming other basketball gamers over their choice in camera angles; especially broadcast camera, which has somehow become the punching bag of elitists. At least with difficulty level, you can understand shutting down bragging, or engaging in a bit of good-natured trash talk (“That’s pretty cool, but try doing that on Hall of Fame!”). Your choice in camera angle has absolutely no bearing on, or correlation with, your skill on the virtual hardwood. It is literally an aesthetic preference; the option that you feel gives you the best view of the court, and optimal presentation. If you’re like me, you may even use different camera angles depending on the mode.
The fact that commenting “broadcast cam” is supposed to be some sort of gotcha is truly, monumentally stupid. It’s fine to discuss and disagree regarding our preferences of camera angle, asking why someone prefers a setting that we find to be difficult and cumbersome to play on, while championing the merits of our chosen setting. If we’re actually judging each other’s abilities and status as a True Basketball Gamer™ based on that preference, and shaming someone for “not playing the right way”, it’s morphed into a weird and unnecessary argument. Considering the valid reasons for choosing a particular setting – “it works for me” being chief among them – it’s truly nonsensical.
4. Sticking With An Older Game
We’re starting to see less of this as NBA 2K fatigue grows, and retro basketball gaming gains popularity as an alternative in lieu of a competing game. There’s some more recognition that newer doesn’t always mean better, and that some people just like to stick with or return to a favourite regardless. You’ll still receive those snarky comments, though. “Why are you still playing that?” “Time to move on, don’t you think?” Depending on where you ask, questions about releases that are a few years old, such as getting them to work or tracking them down for collecting/retro gaming purposes, will be met with snide, unhelpful suggestions to just play the latest title.
There’s a reason that a contingent of basketball gamers continue to express interest in the servers for NBA 2K16 and NBA 2K17 to be reactivated. Now, we can split hairs about how old a game has to be before it’s considered “retro”, but I’d suggest that the standards are different when it comes to annual releases. More to the point, there’s no reason to shame someone if they’re still playing last year’s game, a game from a few years back, or a really old title. There are still football gamers who update and play Tecmo Super Bowl, and that’s awesome! Granted, playing NBA Live 07 for Xbox 360 may raise a few eyebrows, but even messing around with bad games can be fun.
5. Wearing The Default MyPLAYER Outfit
I’ve never been a big Park/Playground gamer. When I have ventured to the online blacktop, I’ve usually gone there with a squad, or at least one other friend. I’ve also levelled up, and generally outfitted my MyPLAYER with something I won on the Daily Bonus, or purchased when I was swimming in VC. As such, I’ve never been snubbed for having a low-rated avatar, still wearing the default brown shirt and grey pants. In fact, I’ve jumped into games with players who were still levelling up and sporting the default outfit. I was there to play, and I’d rather team up with newbies that are trying than snobs who freeze you out and throw tantrums if they’re losing.
Yes, I’m a broken record when it comes to proper matchmaking in NBA 2K’s online modes. That’s because we haven’t got it yet, and the online scene desperately needs it. When your choice of cosmetic items is acting as a makeshift matchmaking system, the online arena is toxic. Much has been written about kids being bullied for not having premium skins in other genres, and it’s absolutely a problem in NBA 2K as well. I’m undoubtedly yelling into the wind here, but as a community, we’ve bought into 2K’s pushy attempts to get us to fall victim to FOMO. We should be supporting each other, not shaming each other into spending our VC on useless cosmetic items.
What’s your take on elitism and gatekeeping among basketball gamers? Have you been turned off the online scene – or giving it a look in the first place – because of those attitudes? Has the discourse become more toxic? Have your say 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.