Lames In Modern Tournaments

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MichaelKearney
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Lames In Modern Tournaments

Post by MichaelKearney » Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:14 pm

To prevent the Penn Bowl topic from getting crowded, I'll start this anew.

Are lames something that the majority of quizbowl players want? There's a lot of dispute over this topic, with the two camps being "Lames aren't necessary in good quizbowl, that's just something from the bad old days" and "Lames make things more fun." Neither of these positions have a really persuasive bent to them, so let's work out the facts.

1. Lames allow a team to hear up to the first part of a bonus, determine if they want to play the bonus, and if they choose not to, the other team gets a chance to take the bonus for themselves, replacing their next bonus with that one. This can be done once per team.
2. If lames are allowed, two extra bonuses must be available for each packet.

The case for lames is usually balanced between strategy and enjoyment of the game. The strategic element lies in not giving your opponents a bonus they'll know a lot on, and the enjoyment lies in not hearing a topic you don't care for.

I've seen a lot of older teams complain about the amount of video games in modern tournaments, and I've seen high school/freshman-aged teams argue about the necessity of 4/4 sports in every packet. The lame allows them the ability to avoid the topics that they don't care for, and hear a bonus they might enjoy more. The strategy exists in a situation where Team A hears a bonus about Harry Potter's class schedule, doesn't know the first part, but is CERTAIN that Team B will 30 it, they decide to play "defense", and get 0 on it. In their minds, they have prevented a 30 point-swing, at the expense of themselves.

There's certainly nothing wrong with increasing the amounts of enjoyment that teams get out of what is essentially a game played on irrelevant topics in a social environment, but the basic premise is that of a competition, in which you can't simply ignore topics you don't like. The strategy part falls apart a lot under scrutiny, in that teams are keeping bonuses that they won't get any points on, based on meta-game knowledge of the strengths of their opponents. The only thing that a team can really control in any game is their own point total, and their ability to answer the current bonus trumps considerations of the other team.


The case against lames comes from the idea that well-written tournaments are beyond the need to avoid the occasional bonus, and that they slow down gameplay.

The idea of a "well-written" tournament is one that distinguishes the best and most knowledgeable teams from the rest, has no biases toward topics or eras, and where the difficulty of every bonus is equal. I have never seen this tournament, but I would love to attend it. Most of the post-mortem discussion of ANY tournament consists of various people saying that the music seemed a little hip-hop skewed, or the movies were way too old, or the baseball bonuses had no easy parts. If you've got an editing team, your various members have differing ideas about difficulty, and if you're a single editor, you don't have perfectly balanced knowledge.

Easy-Medium-Hard is a concept that is mostly subjective, and while you might have actually written a perfect bonus on the Minnesota Vikings or The Legend of Zelda, someone out there would rather skip it.

There's no solid rule on how long teams should have to decide if they want to lame a question, but ideally the decision must be made in the time the moderator would usually expect an answer. In that case, the only extra time they add is when the opposing team is asked if they want to claim. Realistically, however, moderators usually give WAY too much time letting teams hem and haw, when they should just say "no answer" after 5 seconds and read the second part. Worst case scenario, the decision adds 10 seconds to a bonus, multiplied by 20 bonuses....which is only 3 minutes. A more average example might be a 5 second hiccup on 3 or 4 questions, slowing down a round slightly less than a scoring mistake.

From the editing side of things, you have to have nearly a extra round's worth of bonuses for an average tournament, and that's a consideration. Not all bonuses start with the easy part first, and some questions swerve in the middle to be about varied topics. So a lame isn't really useful for those questions. My opinion is that I like them as a player, because I get to avoid hockey and golf questions(which no amount of balance will make easy for me), but as a writer, they mean extra work.

What are your thoughts?
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Re: Lames In Modern Tournaments

Post by The Schopenhauer Power Hour » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:03 pm

I don't think lames are an issue in terms of increasing the length of a round or necessitating the writing of more bonuses, but there are a couple reasons why I don't think they should be around. They're not inherently bad, but I don't think they lend themselves to use in most trash (or academic) tournaments.

First of all, in response to the argument about lames adding an additional strategic component to the match (if I'm understanding that correctly,) I think in a lot of cases that's less strategy than "do you know what the team you're playing is good at?" Certainly there's something to be said about the benefits of actually knowing the team you're playing, but it seems like lames reward teams who do know their opponents, which in my experience are usually the better teams at a tournament anyway. If you know another team, it's probably because you've been in quizbowl longer, which at least in general means you're better than a team that's brand new to the circuit. So lames in this respect seem to reward teams with more experience, which seems counterintuitive to the reason they'd be allowed.

Yes, lames can make the difference between "let's ride the Mr. Schuester train all the way through this Glee bonus" and "oh yay, now we get three parts on people who got silent clocks in 24," but like you said in the section of your post against them, Michael, "you can't simply ignore topics you don't like." I think the biggest things lames have going for them are that they're equalizers. Assuming you don't know anything about the other team, giving them the bonus you get is no different than them getting any other bonus, so the most important thing lames do is give the team who uses them an extra chance to get a bonus on something they know. Since the whole point of quizbowl is "do you know know a lot of things?" it doesn't make much sense to me to allow a team to get around that.

In general, I think almost all of the arguments either for or against lames in trash can be used for or against lames in academic tournaments. I understand that trash can attract a somewhat different group of players than academic, but I think as far as the philosophy of quizbowl in general goes, another big strike against lames are that if the academic QB community thought they suited the purpose of the game, we'd have them in ACF and NAQT.

All this said, however, I fully reserve the right to change my mind about lames when a team I'm playing gets that bonus about Harry Potter's class schedule.
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Re: Lames In Modern Tournaments

Post by Important Bird Area » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:50 pm

Lames also notably reduce the diversity of bonus structures. It's quite common in academic tournaments for bonuses to have the hard part come first (say, asking for a secondary character in a well-known novel). In tournaments with lames, you have to standardize to "the easy part is always the first part." Otherwise teams will use their lames on bonuses with initial hard parts for fear that the bonus will be hard-even harder-IMPOSSIBLE. This goes double for tournaments that may suffer from haphazard bonus difficulty, something that is a common criticism of NAQT's pop culture questions.
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Re: Lames In Modern Tournaments

Post by TheHumanPaperweight » Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:53 am

The Schopenhauer Power Hour wrote:
Yes, lames can make the difference between "let's ride the Mr. Schuester train all the way through this Glee bonus" and "oh yay, now we get three parts on people who got silent clocks in 24," but like you said in the section of your post against them, Michael, "you can't simply ignore topics you don't like." I think the biggest things lames have going for them are that they're equalizers. Assuming you don't know anything about the other team, giving them the bonus you get is no different than them getting any other bonus, so the most important thing lames do is give the team who uses them an extra chance to get a bonus on something they know. Since the whole point of quizbowl is "do you know know a lot of things?" it doesn't make much sense to me to allow a team to get around that.

I will say one thing to this in favor of lames: while being able to dodge one question, for instance the 1 comics bonus in a packet, does allow a team to dodge a glaring weakness in breadth of knowledge, it does the same for everyone in the field, and thus slightly tilts the balance toward the teams that have very deep knowledge of the fields in which they do hold some ability, so it's not as if it defeats the point of "knowing a lot of things"; it just changes it from "knowing a lot of very different things" to "knowing a lot of things about a smaller range of stuff".

That being said, I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing, and shall withhold judgment until such time as I actually play in a tournament with lames.
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Re: Lames In Modern Tournaments

Post by Gautam » Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:47 am

People routinely seem to complain about science bonuses in mACF tournaments, yet they don't mind the fact that they can't lame away a bonus. Lames are not fun, and just seem to be a poor excuse to write questions with questionable easy/medium/hard gradation.
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Re: Lames In Modern Tournaments

Post by ArloLyle » Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:54 am

To me lames are just a fun gimmick. The strategy aspect of lames isn't very strong. I'm sure everyone who has played a handful trash tournaments has a story about winning a match because they lamed a crappy bonus late in the game and 30'd their new bonus, but more often than not lames either backfire or have a neutral effect.

In Michael's post he mentions an argument against lames that states they aren't needed in a well written tournament. I would actually argue that they are more useful in a well written tournament, because there is some degree of predictability in a well written tournament (well defined distribution, consistent difficulty, etc). In other forms of competition, strategies work because you are able to make assumptions based on past experience with some degree of certainty. Ideally the ultimate success of your strategy depends solely on the abilities of you and your opponent. The less you are "playing the packet" and the more you are playing your opponent, the more useful a lame is. It is still a dice roll, but the odds are slightly more in your favor.

Personally, when it comes down strictly to fun I prefer the punt. When you punt a bonus the other team answers the bonus and you get the points for every question they miss. I've only seen this at one or two tournaments, but it is quite fun.
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Re: Lames In Modern Tournaments

Post by Cheynem » Thu Dec 16, 2010 11:59 am

I think the punt was used at Rob Pilatus and it was mild fun.
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Re: Lames In Modern Tournaments

Post by Broad-tailed Grassbird » Thu Dec 16, 2010 10:53 pm

I'm still going with the argument that academic quiz bowl has no lames, why would well-written trash have it as well?

Lames are lame, they are cop outs. They promote not having a well-rounded knowledge base. If you don't know 80s baseball, or contestants on Britain's Got Talent, it's your own fault. That's how quiz bowl works.
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Re: Lames In Modern Tournaments

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas » Fri Dec 17, 2010 12:55 am

nalin wrote:They promote not having a well-rounded knowledge base. If you don't know contestants on Britain's Got Talent, it's your own fault.
"Fault" is not the word I would use here
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Re: Lames In Modern Tournaments

Post by Jamnman23 » Fri Dec 17, 2010 3:22 am

I do not plan on having lames at Penn Bowl Trash, and I will not pretend that me potentially not wanting to write extra bonuses was not at least a part of that decision.
nalin wrote:They promote not having a well-rounded knowledge base.
However, I think this line by Nalin really sums up my opinion on lames from a quizbowl integrity standpoint. Quizbowl is an activity in which beyond knowing the distribution before going to a tournament or knowing who that tournament's writers are, one has no way of knowing what questions will come up. Quizbowlers have no control over what questions they will be forced to answer or what bonuses they will miss out on because another team beat them to a tossup. Thus, quizbowlers know they must be prepared to answer any question that could potentially fall in any of the tournament's subject distributions. By having lames, tournament writers and directors unnecessarily cede some control to players. If players have small areas of weakness going into a tournament that has lames, they can essentially not worry about those weaknesses and can pass on unfavorable bonuses for hopefully more favorable ones. If we as players have not mastered every part of a tournament's distribution (Which I am pretty sure nobody has) we should be forced to deal with the full reality and potential frustration of not knowing stuff. That said, I have played at tournaments with lames, and lames have certainly not totally ruined my experience, but I do think they somewhat compromise the integrity of quizbowl as a game and activity.
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Re: Lames In Modern Tournaments

Post by DumbJaques » Fri Dec 17, 2010 5:11 pm

However, I think this line by Nalin really sums up my opinion on lames from a quizbowl integrity standpoint. Quizbowl is an activity in which beyond knowing the distribution before going to a tournament or knowing who that tournament's writers are, one has no way of knowing what questions will come up. Quizbowlers have no control over what questions they will be forced to answer or what bonuses they will miss out on because another team beat them to a tossup. Thus, quizbowlers know they must be prepared to answer any question that could potentially fall in any of the tournament's subject distributions. By having lames, tournament writers and directors unnecessarily cede some control to players. If players have small areas of weakness going into a tournament that has lames, they can essentially not worry about those weaknesses and can pass on unfavorable bonuses for hopefully more favorable ones. If we as players have not mastered every part of a tournament's distribution (Which I am pretty sure nobody has) we should be forced to deal with the full reality and potential frustration of not knowing stuff. That said, I have played at tournaments with lames, and lames have certainly not totally ruined my experience, but I do think they somewhat compromise the integrity of quizbowl as a game and activity.
Like Lo Pan, Ben has materialized from the Chinese aether to summarize another tenet of the modern trash tournament. This pretty much sums it up, and I'll echo his emphasis that writing an extra 30 bonuses is nothing to sneeze it. I mean, if you choose to do that for your tournament, that's cool, nobody will get pissed off or anything. Just consider the implications before posting your displeasure that the 1-3 decent trash tournaments all year usually don't feature lames.
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Re: Lames In Modern Tournaments

Post by fizzball » Mon Dec 27, 2010 6:25 pm

With the narrowing of the trash "canon", and distributions pretty well settled, lames are less important than they were in the early aughts. I don't think their presence helps or harms a tournament, really, although lames without saves (the opponent picking up the lamed bonus to be read at their next opportunity) take away whatever strategy one thinks is there, and should be avoided.

I had long maintained that lames and saves would be useful as stats if recorded consistently, especially in multi-site events. Some actual data on what types of questions were being rejected in actual match situations would be a better barometer of what shouldn't be asked than anecdotal "Tournament x has too much y" comments. This never went anywhere.

Bad argument against the lame: "Academic doesn't need them, so why should trash". Even after all efforts to improve trash's "accessibility," trash by its very nature is non-essential knowledge.

Very good argument against the lame: the extra work involved in writing extra questions and (re)arranging difficulty to accommodate them.

What I do think hurts trash tournaments, especially open tournaments, is the power tossup, but that's another story.

(ed: lames as stats; spelling)
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Re: Lames In Modern Tournaments

Post by DumbJaques » Thu Dec 30, 2010 1:46 am

I had long maintained that lames and saves would be useful as stats if recorded consistently, especially in multi-site events. Some actual data on what types of questions were being rejected in actual match situations would be a better barometer of what shouldn't be asked than anecdotal "Tournament x has too much y" comments. This never went anywhere.
I mean, this is a proposal that involves numerous sites (and the horde of dubiously capable staffers that assuredly populate them) keeping track of non-standard stats that require qualitative record-keeping that doesn't have a button in SQBS. It's probably not going anywhere anytime soon. Actually, it's not even a proposal, because it doesn't specify how the stat-keeping would be done. It's also very debatable how relevant these stats would even be to distribution-tweaking, because all lames tell you is what questions people are avoiding, not how well the field actually knows the material. And even if it weren't completely invalid from most statistical perspectives, all it would really tell us is that people do not like getting the NASCAR bonuses and that's not exactly a cosmic mystery.
Bad argument against the lame: "Academic doesn't need them, so why should trash". Even after all efforts to improve trash's "accessibility," trash by its very nature is non-essential knowledge.
Ironically, this itself is a bad argument. I'm not sure what you mean exactly by "non-essential" knowledge, but my continued survival depends no more on Tyrone Slothrop than it does on Tyrone Biggums. This seems like an appeal to an ambiguous term that is neither explained nor justified, and if that's not a bad argument I don't know what is. Incidentally, I think you're also misinterpreting the original argument in question - it's not that "academic doesn't need lames, so trash shouldn't either." Rather, the argument is that a tournament that adheres to proper difficulty guidelines shouldn't need lames. It's true that at one point only academic tournaments did this, but since that's obviously not true anymore the point is moot.
What I do think hurts trash tournaments, especially open tournaments, is the power tossup, but that's another story.
I can't imagine why you think powers have a tangibly negative impact on tournaments of any kind, let alone why having them at open and trash tournaments are particularly problematic. I actually think powers have a far higher utility in trash tournaments, because there's not nearly as much a barrier to entry for experiencing them (it's hard for a first-year player to power more than a question or two at an academic tournament, which is obviously far less true with trash) and because getting those five-word powers on that show/song/movie you love is by far the most entertaining part of playing trash. I'm definitely curious - what's your issue with them?
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