We’ve arrived at another Friday here at the NLSC, so it’s time for another edition of The Friday Five! If this is your first time checking out The Friday Five and you’re wondering what it’s all about, this is a feature that I post every Friday in which I pick a topic that’s related to basketball video games, the real NBA or another area of interest to our community, then either give my thoughts on the topic in five points or compile a Top 5 countdown.
There’s no one “correct” way to play and enjoy basketball video games, though many basketball gamers have strong opinions on the subject. As with any video game community, there are different groups who all have their own expectations of each release and their own gaming philosophy. In this week’s Friday Five, I’m sorting the basketball video gaming community into five groups or categories; the five types of basketball video gamers, if you will.
1. The Reasonable Sim Gamer
Reasonable Sim Gamers make up a significant portion (arguably a majority) of the fanbase for sim oriented games. In short, these gamers are interested in seeing the games be as realistic as possible in their portrayal of basketball. That means the correct players scoring the most points while playing and performing like their real life counterparts, realistic stats, real strategy, lifelike player movement…all that good stuff.
While these gamers may be annoyed by inaccuracies and do their best to overcome them with slider tweaks, ratings adjustments and so on, they’ll generally be satisfied enough to enjoy a game if the results are, by and large, satisfactory across the board. Additionally, while they play the game realistically and expect the AI to do the same, they are reasonably willing to accept the odd break from reality, especially if it means beating the AI when it isn’t playing fair or in a more casual setting, such as online play or local multiplayer. They may also get some enjoyment out of arcade basketball, when restricted to a specific game mode or a separate arcade oriented title.
I consider myself a part of this group, as I find this attitude and approach towards basketball games the most enjoyable. However, there’s more than one way to enjoy basketball gaming and a Reasonable Sim Gamer understands and appreciates that. Our next type of basketball gamer, on the other hand? Not so much.
2. The Terrifyingly Pedantic Sim Gamer
The second type of basketball gamer is an offshoot of the first: the Terrifyingly Pedantic Sim Gamer. These gamers want the same things as Reasonable Sim Gamers but as the name I’ve given them suggests, they are far more militant about the situation. There’s no acceptable break from reality for these gamers, no margin for error. It’s a case of perfection or bust as far as appeasing them, though many will still grudgingly accept what they charitably consider a tolerable level of failure.
In the minds of these gamers, their way of playing basketball video games is the only acceptable method. In the most extreme cases, this involves going a long way out of the way to achieve a desirable level of realism, to the point where playing the games surely must be more of a chore than an enjoyable pastime. Of course, if they’re truly getting some enjoyment out of doing that then more power to them, but don’t expect them to show other gamers the same kind of tolerance. Everyone else is simply doing it wrong.
Finally, a word of advice to the Terrifyingly Pedantic Sim Gamers out there: avoid online play, unless you’re fortunate enough to play against someone with the exact same philosophy as you. Otherwise, you’re not going to enjoy yourself very much.
3. The Arcade/Casual Gamer
This group is comprised of two main subgroups with a similar attitude towards basketball gaming. The first subgroup flat out prefers arcade oriented titles like NBA Jam and NBA Street, while the second subgroup favours sim oriented titles but adopts a fairly casual attitude towards them.
Basically, what both subgroups have in common is a very relaxed attitude towards realism in basketball games. They may or may not have in-depth knowledge of the sport and what it would take for a basketball video game to be realistic, but that’s not important for their personal enjoyment. Realistic stats, tendencies, performances and pace are of no consequence for these gamers. Indeed, taking a break from reality is all part of the fun for them, or they may simply see a basketball title as just another video game that needs to be beaten, by any means necessary.
Needless to say, this group and the Terrifyingly Pedantic Sim Gamers aren’t exactly the best of friends. After all, these gamers tend to like their virtual basketball like Kevin McCallister likes his pizza in Home Alone: nothing but cheese. And yes, this week’s Friday Five just might have been an excuse to awkwardly use that ham-fisted and very dated reference.
4. The Gamer Who Knows Very Little About Basketball
Alternatively, The Gamer Who Has Some Interest In Basketball But Doesn’t Know Much About The NBA. These gamers have an interest in the sport but are perhaps fairly new to it, or at the very least don’t know all that much about the NBA. As a result, they aren’t particularly concerned about realism or very much aware of what that entails, thus their style of play will likely be skewed more towards the casual/arcade end of the scale.
Of course, becoming a fan of basketball video games is a good way of building more of an interest in the real sport and the NBA in particular. As these gamers learn more about the league, their approach to and requirements of basketball video games will likely change accordingly, moving them into one of the other groups. Some will develop an interest in seeing more realism, while others will be content to retain a more casual approach.
When this group tries their hand at online play, one of three things is going to happen: they’ll be the easiest win that a more experienced and dedicated player has had in a long time, they’ll provide a fourth quarter ragequit while getting blown out or they’ll hand an online veteran their most embarrassing loss to date. Ever lost an online match in a tournament fighter to a button masher or special move spammer? Then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
5. The Hybrid Gamer
This type of basketball gamer enjoys a healthy mix of arcade and simulation in their gameplay experience. They’re not too concerned if some of the stats aren’t quite right, the scores are a little high, the pace a tad too quick and the dunks a little too numerous. At the same time however, they still want player movement to be lifelike, player abilities and performance to be grounded in reality and they’ll employ some basketball strategy, even if it’s as basic as driving when the lane is open, taking the open three, running pick and rolls and triggering the occasional quick play to make something happen.
Hybrid Gamers account for a good chunk of the basketball gaming audience and I’d in fact suggest that many gamers who might identify themselves as being “arcade” more accurately fall under this category. While they’re far from being staunchly sim, they’re not completely arcade in their approach either. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that and indeed, hybrid basketball gamers are perhaps the group that enjoy the games the most, being able to overlook inaccuracies here and there while making the most of what a game has to offer.
There’ll never be one true way of playing and enjoying basketball video games but as long as we have sliders, settings and a choice between sim and arcade oriented titles, we should all be able to find an enjoyable experience…as long as developers are putting out a quality product, of course.
That’s going to do it for this week. What kind of basketball gamer do you consider yourself to be? Do you sometimes change up your approach? What other types or subcategories of basketball gamers do you think exist in the community? Have your say in the comments below and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum. Thanks for reading, have a great weekend and please join me again next Friday for another Five.