From playing the game to creating it

Scott O’Gallagher in action with the Nuggets during a game against the Bay Hawks in 2011. Photo:...
Scott O’Gallagher in action with the Nuggets during a game against the Bay Hawks in 2011. Photo: Jane Dawber
Once an Otago Nuggets point guard, Scott O’Gallagher is now the brains behind one of the world’s largest video game franchises and rubs shoulders with basketball’s biggest names. Sports reporter Jeff Cheshire caught up with him.

THEN: Scott O’Gallagher arrived in Dunedin after signing with the Otago Nuggets for the 2011 season.

The import point guard brought experience from overseas and was hoping to help the Nuggets continue their comeback after returning to the league in 2010.

It was a place he and his family immediately loved, enjoying the slower paced life and "beautiful" surroundings.

On the court it was a tough season for the Nuggets, although their 74-67 win over the Manawatu Jets to break a 33-game losing streak was memorable.

He said the Edgar Centre was "rocking" and the fans were excited.

A loss earlier in the season against the Southland Sharks — a game the Nuggets should have won — also lingered.

The then-26-year-old finished the season averaging 17.1 points, 3.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.

He continues to stay in touch with with many of his friends from Dunedin and said he would love to have remained.

Gaming figured big in his life then, too, and he told stories of the Nuggets staff trying to find adaptors to plug in his American Play Station 3 and XBox 360.He also began a website and podcast while in Dunedin.

His focus was on authenticity of sports video games, and that paved the way for his future career.

Playing NBA 2K next to six-time NBA Most Valuable Player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Photo: Supplied
Playing NBA 2K next to six-time NBA Most Valuable Player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Photo: Supplied
NOW: After a stint with EA Sports in Orlando, O’Gallagher moved to Marin, California in 2014.

He is now a gameplay designer and producer for the NBA 2K video game series.

The game is big business — last year’s version sold more than 10million copies — and it is a dream job for O’Gallagher.

He is responsible for ensuring every team and player is represented as close to their real-life counterparts as possible.

"That’s everything from their walk on the court, to what defensive look they give players, to adjustments that they’ll make defensively in the playoffs," he said.

"Our fanbase is 11 million people.

"Every player is someone’s favourite player, every team is someone’s favourite team.

"So with the days of YouTube and all this other media, if you don’t get it right they’re going to hound you."

He watches at least 25 games of each of the 30 teams per season and is regularly in contact with players and coaches.

Memorable conversations for him were with Kobe Bryant, Kevin McHale, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kyrie Irving and Kurt Rambis.

The players were into it, too, many now at an age where they grew up playing the game.

They would drop into the studio and put an animation suit on to get their movements recorded — and often wanted multiple attempts to get things right.

The level of detail is phenomenal.

For individuals, that meant mastering things such as free-throw routines, shooting form and mannerisms on the court.

For teams, it meant knowing every play and action, right down to things such as the weakside pick-and-roll defence each team uses and how they react to certain situations.

That left the game reaching the point where it could be used as a scouting tool for the teams in the real-life NBA.

"We have over 1500 plays in our playbook.

"I have to make sure, at least on the defensive side, that I know all of those.

"I’ve had many conversations with coaches that go like ‘you guys are doing this’ and we’ve really hit it off.

"We try to nail all the intricacies inside and out at the NBA level.

"Now I’m surprising [teams] with how much we’re putting in the game, rather than them surprising me with new things they’ve done."

It was a constant process, the game being updated every day to keep up with what each team and player was doing.

That became particularly important in the playoffs, while the lead-in to the new season’s release made for a hectic time.

Hours could be long and the pressure was high, but O’Gallagher loved it.

Around that he had begun coaching a high school team, alongside having five children with his wife Kristen.

Brooklyn (10) and Scott jun (7) had both been in Dunedin with him, while Jalen (4), Jacoby (2) and Kyus (4 months) had arrived since.

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