Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

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Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by SnookerUSF » Thu Aug 13, 2009 11:53 am

The title of this post comes from, most recently, a post made by Eric Mukherjee in the "name bias in science" thread. I was a bit taken aback by it, not because I haven't heard it before, but because it was asserted so unconditionally and self-evidently.

What I think it is intended to imply, and correct me if I am wrong, is that because qb is intended to be "a fair test of real knowledge" that such things as: buzzers, scores, tossups/bonuses are ancillary to the task at hand.

I think there are some important implications that fall out depending where you stand on this issue. I am unconvinced that quizbowl is a game that hates to be a game, in fact, I am pretty sure that it wouldn't work fundamentally. What drives the excitement and passion that so many people have on this board and in the community in general is that we are set in competition versus one another, and that the questions are written in such a way, i.e. pyramidally, to enforce that structure.

If instead we had a scenario where people would write short essays on topics, and that groups of people would sit in rooms discussing the implications of what was written, using examples from their own research to corroborate or highlight some issue, and the person or group who contributed the most to the discussion would be declared the winner (with cheers from the assembled individuals) - that would be fun, and test "real knowledge", right?

Something seems horribly wrong with the titular formulation that quizbowl is such a game that hates to be a game, but indeed, I might be the only one who feels this way. I mean perhaps I am reading far too much into it, and really what Eric and others mean when they assert this is that quizbowl is a game that hates to be trivial, which is certainly something I could be on board with.
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by BuzzerZen » Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:16 pm

Word.
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:22 pm

I think the phrase, which is not actually of Eric M.'s creation, has more to do with how quizbowl is a game that does everything possible to remain as non-gimmicky and consistent as possible within the constraints of technically being a game - the whole part about having rules and using a buzzer.
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by Cheynem » Thu Aug 13, 2009 12:27 pm

I interpreted the phrase (and I don't know about its creation) to be what Charlie was saying--that quizbowl strives to be a rewarding of true and deep knowledge in a competitive "game" like format, but minus the obvious "game" trappings seen in Bad Quizbowl (like cute hoses, puns, lightning rounds, "trivia" questions).

One obvious example would be the debate over the clock. The clock helps make quizbowl into more of a game (it adds suspense! strategy!), but quizbowl doesn't care about either of those two things so most practitioners of quizbowl want to see the clock removed (and even NAQT's removal of the clock killing neg practice was an acknowledgment of this).

There are different levels of this thinking. I've met some people who think powers are great for quizbowl, while others regard it as a lame gimmick. But on the whole, most Good Quizbowl people want to see quizbowl reward knowledge first, way before "good gameplay."
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by at your pleasure » Thu Aug 13, 2009 1:21 pm

But on the whole, most Good Quizbowl people want to see quizbowl reward knowledge first, way before "good gameplay."
However, there's always going to be a certain amount of gameplay at work here, even on good questions, at least in the form of "This sounds like X, but at this level they're not going to make it sound so much like X so early. Better wait for the next few clues" type things. That said, we can still restrict such gameplay to aspects that do not harm the rewarding of knowledge, such as powers.
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Thu Aug 13, 2009 1:37 pm

I forget, am I responsible for first saying qb is a game that hates being a game? Maybe. Anyway, I don't want to see that phrase get perverted into providing justification for turning quizbowl into a reading circle where we all regale each other with what book we bought yesterday or what chemical experiment we performed. Like I said in the other post - if, after a match, you want to talk to me about how you knew all about the answer because you did it in a lab or whatever but you just didn't know the right name for it, that's fine - I'm interested in what you have to say and glad that you understand X Effect, but I don't think that alone should get you points at quizbowl.

My opposition was aimed only at the "gimmicky" aspects of qb. I have no problem with qb being a "game", because most games that I like to play are fair and properly reward skill - and that's what qb should aspire to.
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by at your pleasure » Thu Aug 13, 2009 1:56 pm

I have no problem with qb being a "game", because most games that I like to play are fair and properly reward skill - and that's what qb should aspire to.
I'm just wondering if people are somehow conflating "game" and "game show".
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by SnookerUSF » Thu Aug 13, 2009 2:12 pm

Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:...within the constraints of technically being a game - the whole part about having rules and using a buzzer.
Yeah, this is the crucial thing for me. This notion of "technicality" is what perplexes me. Quizbowl isn't technically a game, it is a game...a game with rules, and buzzers and points. If you find those aspects "gimmicky," then I guess we differ as to the point of this enterprise. As Westbrook suggests, "most that I like to play are fair and properly reward skill - and that's what qb should aspire to." There is more to quizbowl than the reality-of-knowledge component, there has been and always will be (as long as the game maintains its current framework) a skill component to the game.

I would argue that this kind of cult-like adherence to the knowledge imperative has generated much of the kind of behavior at tournaments and nonconstructive criticism that Matt enumerated in another post. People are somehow shaken to the point of inappropriate behavior at the notion that they could be beaten to tossup X or fail to convert bonus part Y, and thus immediately blame the clue or construction, rather blaming the person on the other team who got that tossup.

I am not advocating that we do not strive for excellence in tournament writing, and I am also not suggesting that there aren't objectively good ways and bad ways to write a tossup, but as quizbowl is a game, you will get beat to things you should know or do know. But also remember this, you will also get a few things you shouldn't know over anyone else. I mean there is a whole lot of complaining on this board along the lines of how they got beat on or failed to convert tossup X in a subject matter that they are incontrovertible experts on, but given the PPGs of some of the top players in this game, you are getting a whole lot of questions in subject areas you really have no business knowing - and you ABSOLUTELY FREAKIN' LOVE IT.
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by millionwaves » Thu Aug 13, 2009 3:42 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I forget, am I responsible for first saying qb is a game that hates being a game? Maybe.
I believe it was Kwartler.
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Aug 13, 2009 4:03 pm

SnookerUSF wrote:I would argue that this kind of cult-like adherence to the knowledge imperative has generated much of the kind of behavior at tournaments and nonconstructive criticism that Matt enumerated in another post. People are somehow shaken to the point of inappropriate behavior at the notion that they could be beaten to tossup X or fail to convert bonus part Y, and thus immediately blame the clue or construction, rather blaming the person on the other team who got that tossup.
I disagree with this. I think that rather what drives a lot of this behavior is up-and-coming players trying to puff themselves up to gain approval from the older, more established players. That, coupled with the Fundamental Difficulty Error, drives a lot of this griping; I don't think that believing that you should be rewarded for knowing stuff is responsible for it.
I am not advocating that we do not strive for excellence in tournament writing, and I am also not suggesting that there aren't objectively good ways and bad ways to write a tossup, but as quizbowl is a game, you will get beat to things you should know or do know. But also remember this, you will also get a few things you shouldn't know over anyone else. I mean there is a whole lot of complaining on this board along the lines of how they got beat on or failed to convert tossup X in a subject matter that they are incontrovertible experts on, but given the PPGs of some of the top players in this game, you are getting a whole lot of questions in subject areas you really have no business knowing - and you ABSOLUTELY FREAKIN' LOVE IT.
Stuff happens all the time. I frauded a tossup on the Te Deum at VCUO this weekend because I recalled a clue from a tossup read in the car on the way up. Generally, I have no business getting those kinds of questions, but sometimes I'll get lucky; that's how it goes. That doesn't make the Te Deum an illegitimate tossup choice or even indicate that the tossup is somehow flawed. It just means that I got lucky and someone else was unlucky. I think the point that I'm trying to drive home in the other thread is distinct from this. It's about people choosing more and more obscure and generally unknown answer choices (for science, but this holds in other contexts too) that actually disadvantage players with science knowledge and instead reward Wikipedia browsing of eponymous effects. It's not about me deserving to get questions, it's about making sure that something resembling knowledge is rewarded.
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by cvdwightw » Thu Aug 13, 2009 4:50 pm

Quizbowl is a game. There is a clear goal (to score more points than your opponent), a clear set of rules about how one can go about achieving that goal, and an objective determination of who wins (the number of points awarded for each correct answer or deducted for each incorrect answer is clearly delineated in the rules and not subject to officials' interpretations).

Some people would like the game to be more like Scrabble, and some would like the game to be more like Chutes and Ladders.

In Scrabble, there is a specific set of knowledge and tactics involved in winning the game; those who have larger vocabularies and better spatial/anagramming skills typically win games. There are ways to get around some of these issues, for instance, memorizing word lists and thus being able to play a word with no idea what it means. For the majority of the game, there is also some amount of luck involved. A slightly worse player can almost always beat a slightly better player if the tiles are favorable. Therefore, you can beat a slightly superior opponent with a little bit of good luck, but beating a far superior opponent will require a whole lot more good luck.

In Chutes and Ladders, there is no set of knowledge or tactics involved in winning the game. If you roll the dice well enough, you win...unless your 6-year-old cousin throws a tantrum and wrecks the board. Essentially, whoever wins the game is random, with impetuous children getting a slight advantage over people who try to play the game right. There is no such thing as a superior Chutes and Ladders player.

To me, good quizbowl is like Scrabble - there are ways to get around some of the knowledge required for the game (e.g. by studying old packets rather than acquiring outside knowledge), and some degree of luck involved (for instance, in what that third art question or miscellaneous lit question ends up being), but overall, the team with more knowledge will win the game most of the time. Bad quizbowl is like Chutes and Ladders - any knowledge advantage you have is essentially moot, and hissy-fit-throwing coaches are a staple of the game.

I think what we're seeing in some hard tournaments that people are changing the distribution of Scrabble tiles so that there's a total of 10 vowels and no blanks. Now, who wins the game is much more dependent on who gets the vowels than on who actually knows what to do with them. We're back to Chutes and Ladders. Eventually people are going to get around this problem by looking up "words with lots of consonants and only one vowel," which is a ridiculous subset of the English language that no one in their right mind would ever regularly use. So we get a cycle in which we're back at Chutes and Ladders, people adapt, and the set of words whose knowledge is prized is even more out of whack than when we began the cycle. By continually asking about magically obscure things, we negate every "real knowledge" advantage and the winner ends up being the team that wins more buzzer races and gets more lenient hard bonus parts; then, people start adapting to these issues by "learning" things that no one in that field of study would ever actually learn about.
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Thu Aug 13, 2009 5:04 pm

cvdwightw wrote:Some people would like the game to be more like Scrabble, and some would like the game to be more like Chutes and Ladders.
I highly endorse this post, except to say that even the worst of bad quizbowl involves infinitely more skill and knowledge than Chutes and Ladders. Monopoly would be a better choice for that analogy, as yes, a certain amount of very basic knowledge helps, but luck still plays an unacceptably high role, especially among anyone who's bothered to learn those few basics.
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by Cheynem » Thu Aug 13, 2009 5:17 pm

Yeah, I like the Monopoly analogy. Generally speaking, you can be a pretty good Monopoly player--you need to strategically decide which properties to build on, how aggressive you'll be, how many hotels to buy, etcetera. It's real knowledge. But you can be the best damn Monopoly player ever and you can land on Go to Jail or get hosed by rolling three doubles in a row or keep landing on that Income Tax space.
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by SnookerUSF » Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:35 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I disagree with this. I think that rather what drives a lot of this behavior is up-and-coming players trying to puff themselves up to gain approval from the older, more established players. That, coupled with the Fundamental Difficulty Error, drives a lot of this griping; I don't think that believing that you should be rewarded for knowing stuff is responsible for it.
But...But...J-J-Jerry, you can't disagree with me! That's gotta be in rules somewhere (Trygve help a brother out). But I am happy to leave this point be, for now.
grapesmoker wrote: It's not about me deserving to get questions, it's about making sure that something resembling knowledge is rewarded.
See I like this, "resembling knowledge," thing its a much more reasonable and arguably possible goal than an exact bijective relation between the sum totality of facts on a subjects and an 8 line tossup - I really do feel that people forget the kind of condensing and exclusion that is necessary.
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Re: Quizbowl is a game that hates being a game?

Post by theMoMA » Fri Aug 14, 2009 12:28 am

millionwaves wrote:
No Rules Westbrook wrote:I forget, am I responsible for first saying qb is a game that hates being a game? Maybe.
I believe it was Kwartler.
It was actually Eric quoting me from a private conversation. Not that there's any reason someone would know this.
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