We’re at midcourt, and the ball is about to go up…it’s Monday Tip-Off! Start your week here at the NLSC with a feature that’s dedicated to opinions, commentary, and other fun stuff related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games. This week, I’m tipping things off by reflecting on a rather pertinent question: do we take basketball gaming too seriously?
The Dark Knight may be twelve years old at this point, but Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker still resonates with many avid fans of Batman movies and comics. A number of lines from that film have penetrated pop culture, from Alfred’s speech about some men just wanting to watch the world burn – a favourite of so many edgelord trolls who fancy themselves Machiavellian puppet masters – to the Joker’s wry and sinister quips. One that comes up a lot, especially out of context when someone happens to utter the words, is “Why so serious?”
As such, even all these years later, it’s difficult to pose a question about taking something too seriously without that scene coming to mind, or someone quoting it in response. It’s also admittedly an odd question to pose on a fansite that’s dedicated to a hobby. After all, we’re all about basketball gaming, so we obviously approach the matter with a certain amount of dedication and emphasis on its significance. “It’s only basketball gaming” feels like an out of place rationale and reprimand in a community of virtual hoops enthusiasts. Of course, it always pays to keep matters in perspective. To that point though, have we lost that perspective over the years?
It really depends on what you consider taking something too seriously. For example, equating any of our complaints about basketball games to hardships and injustices in society would definitely be losing perspective. There are much worse things than a basketball video game that doesn’t live up to expectations. However, context is crucial here. If a major news outlet was to run a story about body steals in NBA 2K alongside reports of famine, violence, and other serious issues, it would stand out as ridiculous. On the other hand, if a content creator in the basketball gaming community presents an issue as being a big deal within the context of the hobby, it’s hardly unreasonable.
In fact, there is a common fallacy that is often trotted out here: the fallacy of relative privation, or as it’s often called, “appeal to worse problems”. In short, it’s the dismissal of a complaint or argument due to what is perceived to be a more important issue. An example might be “I can’t believe you’re complaining about microtransactions when there are people who are starving and homeless!” Obviously the latter is a far bigger problem in society than Take-Two’s greed, and as far as relating the two issues, there haven’t been any reports of gamers becoming destitute due to buying VC. However, the fact that there are worse problems in the world doesn’t invalidate criticism of 2K.
We do see attempts to downplay criticism of NBA Live, NBA 2K, and basketball gaming in general using this fallacy, though. It goes hand-in-hand with categorising basketball gamers as “spoiled” or “childish”, with accusations of adults “whining” about “games made for kids”. While we absolutely should keep things in proper perspective, and it’s possible to go overboard in expressing our complaints, these sentiments carry the familiar undertones of gaming not being an acceptable hobby for adults. The concept of “it’s entertainment, don’t take it so seriously” is also common, and another argument intended to shame older gamers for caring about their pastime.
I personally think that’s a load of judgemental garbage…for the most part. As a way of downplaying criticism, it’s as pretentious as it is fallacious. At the same time, it’s vital that we don’t engage in ridiculous hyperbole when talking about the problems with basketball gaming, equating it with far worse issues with more dire ramifications. It’s worth taking a step back, and considering whether it’s worth going on an angry rant on social media. Sometimes that can be cathartic, but do it too viciously or too often, and you’ll end up looking more obsessive than enthusiastic. If nothing else, others will probably wonder why you still play basketball games if you hate them so much!
It’s not just about complaints, either. Tribalism within the hobby is often a sign that we’re starting to take basketball gaming too seriously. If you’re sneering and snarking at your fellow virtual hoopsters about their choice of mode – or for that matter, their choice of game when we have more than one to choose from – your enthusiasm has become misplaced. When you’re engaging in gatekeeping because you believe that online play should only be for the best of the best, your investment has progressed beyond a keen interest in the multiplayer experience. If you’re breaking controllers and constantly enraged by losing an online game, it’s time to play something else.
With that being said, there’s no shame or moral failing in being passionate about basketball gaming, or video gaming in general. As long as you’re not neglecting your responsibilities or blowing things out of proportion, I’d suggest that your mind is in the right place. Your enthusiasm comes from the games being a fun escape and an enjoyable activity. Any complaints and criticisms come from a desire to get value for money as a consumer, and the best experience possible. It’s not taking basketball gaming too seriously to simply have positive and negative opinions about a game which you then express in a public forum, or to make it one of your pastimes.
On the other hand, as I alluded to before, we can get far too wrapped up in our own preferences and opinions on basketball gaming. There are – for lack of a better word – factions within the demographic, all of whom prefer different modes and styles of play. If you’re a sim head, it is possible to be too militant about how much realism there should be, and dismissive of anyone who prefers a more casual or less realistic approach. At the same time, it’s a relevant issue to care about. Likewise, it’s easy for Park and other online players to be snobby towards those who prefer offline play and a more realistic style, but they’re just as entitled to be passionate about their modes.
As far as determining what’s taking basketball gaming too seriously, it’s difficult to draw a definitive line. Fans are fanatical, after all, and fanaticism doesn’t exactly concern itself with being reasonable. However, if you can’t handle a conversation that involves a dissenting opinion, or you can’t avoid going on a scathing rant every time you talk about a subject related to basketball gaming, you’re probably taking it way too seriously. If you’re engaging in toxicity or your involvement in the hobby has become unhealthy due to your habits or attitude, you’ve likewise crossed the line. If you can’t disengage or chill out, the situation has gone from “interest” to “obsession”.
So, what’s the verdict on basketball gamers as a whole? At the individual level, there are definitely people who take it too seriously in one way or another. As a community however, I don’t think it’s a universal problem. I think it can definitely appear that way, in part because basketball gaming combines two groups – sports fans and video game enthusiasts – who are prone to having rather strong opinions, and expressing themselves very passionately. That’s not to say some people haven’t lost perspective, but in some cases at least, appearances can be deceiving. It’s patronising to suggest that someone’s enthusiasm for a recreational activity shows immaturity and myopia.
Again, this comes back to the idea that video games are a childish activity and not for mature adults. This of course raises another question: what is an acceptable “adult” activity? Fishing? Antiquing? Watching the news and discussing world events and finance? There’s no reason someone can’t have a social life and other interests, take care of their responsibilities, and also unwind by hitting the virtual hardwood. That some gamers live up to the “no life beyond gaming” stereotype doesn’t make it the norm, any more than anyone else who is passionate about their chosen hobby. That there’s some gatekeeping doesn’t mean the community is full of purist jerks.
Moreover, as I mentioned, we are consumers. You wouldn’t say that someone who had complaints about the quality of their Internet service was a person taking it too seriously; we’re within our rights to expect a certain level of quality for a product or service, especially as the expense increases. Obviously entertainment products are somewhat subjective when it comes to their quality, but then again, the “games as a service” model is gaining traction with developers. While we do have to vote with our wallet at the end of the day, that doesn’t mean we can’t be disappointed, or advocate for a better product. Likewise, we’re free to talk about how much we love a game, too.
Do we take basketball gaming too seriously? Perhaps some of us do, some of the time. However, I believe that for the most part, we keep our hobby in perspective. As is usually the case, it’s a vocal minority that makes the whole group look bad, and it’s unfair to lump everyone in together based on the loudest opinions, which are often the most extreme and least nuanced. We know there are worse problems out there, but that’s not the focus of the community. Key demographics aside, these games are for everyone, and it’s wrong to shame people for well-reasoned opinions. As long as we’re keeping it all in perspective, it’s not a matter of obsession, nor a sign of immaturity.