College Nationals and Its Problems

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Stinkweed Imp »

vathreya wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 9:09 pm I think this further proves Justine's point because, despite their hard work, it took them so long to get to this upper echelon of play. Certainly it isn't impossible for undergraduates to get good, or even dominate, but it requires a considerable amount of effort on the part of such undergraduates to reach that level. The issue here, however, is that quiz bowl is often marketed to be something almost everyone can get good at, and we don't do a good enough job of showing just the kind of sacrifices that are necessary to reach an elite level of play. Either we admit to prospective quizbowlers the significant sacrifice that comes with trying to get good, or we do something to make quiz bowl feel more accessible beyond just writing more novice tournaments.
I don't see how claiming that "quizbowl is a game anyone can be good at" and it requiring "a considerable amount of effort" to become an elite player are in anyway contradictory. Quizbowl, like all other activities, requires effort to be good at. If anything, quizbowl is much more meritocratic than most other activities (such as almost any athletic competition) because success is determined entirely by time spent studying rather than any predetermined factors. I can't think of any other competition where someone can go from having essentially never played before to being perhaps the best player ever in only a few years. I do agree that quizbowl should try to be accessible to new players (indeed it must be to be able to survive), but there's no reason why that accessibility has to carry over to Nationals, a tournament specifically designed to be a rewarding experience for elite players.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by eygotem »

Goofy Evanescence Vine wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 9:47 pm I don't see how claiming that "quizbowl is a game anyone can be good at" and it requiring "a considerable amount of effort" to become an elite player are in anyway contradictory. Quizbowl, like all other activities, requires effort to be good at. If anything, quizbowl is much more meritocratic than most other activities (such as almost any athletic competition) because success is determined entirely by time spent studying rather than any predetermined factors. I can't think of any other competition where someone can go from having essentially never played before to being perhaps the best player ever in only a few years. I do agree that quizbowl should try to be accessible to new players (indeed it must be to be able to survive), but there's no reason why that accessibility has to carry over to Nationals, a tournament specifically designed to be a rewarding experience for elite players.
Maybe because most players probably start going to nationals before becoming elite? I mean PACE NSC is still rewarding to elite players while being more accessible to the weaker teams...
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by vathreya »

vinteuil wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 9:30 pm I would like to endorse John's whole post, and this paragraph in particular. I love the culture of high-level college quizbowl because it's all about the recognition that there is a gigantic universe of things out there to learn, and a whole community of people striving to do so together. The most fun thing about a good buzz or 30 in college is very often not "I was right!" or "we're win!" but rather "this question writer and I got to the same cool fact"; Tamara Vardomskaya wrote a beautiful post about this feeling.

In that vein, I had a lot of fun moments reading RULFO, and I would love to see many of its currently "extra-canonical" clues (Du Mu! the Pericopes of Henry II!) become staples of the college canon.
This is the feeling I was talking about; it's not necessarily about winning, it's about knowing that your effort and/or interest in that particular area paid off. Obviously when it happens, you're elated, but in many cases the opposite in fact happens - where you go in thinking you know something about a particular subject (maybe you're really interested in it, or maybe you study it in school), and then you just get completely obliterated by the question - you either 10 the bonus or lose the tossup. I, personally, have been on both sides of this spectrum - there are tossups where I've firstlined or powered and felt very proud of myself for my interest in that subject, and I've 0'd and 10'd many bonuses in categories I was supposedly "good" at. For many high school players starting out in college, however, the trend feels like it's toward the latter, and I think the frustration from studying something for hours and not seeing significant improvement weighs greater than any feeling of joy from getting good buzzes/30's from stuff you've been interested in. In some cases, it can feel like you are "confined" to what you knew well before, and to players who consistently strive to see improvement, this is frustrating and sometimes even demoralizing.

Additionally, if and when you do improve, it can feel like the effort wasn't worth it, because you just spent hours trying to learn about this one thing, and all you got for it was one 30 or one power over the course of a tournament. The point of my post wasn't to berate those who do find joy in quizbowl from getting a few things right (I'm one of them), but rather, to show that there are many more people whose joy derives from being able to see themselves improve and get more things, who are frustrated by the nature of the college game.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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I thought I might start with a reflection upon the most recent ACF Nationals, which I head edited. I agree that bonuses could have been toned down across the board, particularly in the middle parts, and that a few more tough early clues in tossups could have been substituted with more "standard" middle clues. Having been in every playoff bracket at ACF Nationals, I am open to the idea of making slight changes such as that, that would greatly improve the playing experience of the large portions of the audience without adversely impacting the contending teams. But I disagree quite strongly with the call to make ACF Nationals the college equivalent of PACE NSC, both for practical reasons and for an intangible one, which I'll try to define.

The practical reason is that it's very difficult to guarantee that every question in every category at ACF Nationals will conform to an idealized buzz distribution, because the depths to which questions explore the categories does not always keep pace with the levels of knowledge in that category that a particular playing audience might possess. Suppose, for instance, that there aren't any chemistry or philosophy majors playing a given iteration of ACF Nationals. I still strongly believe that questions in those categories, just like those in other categories that the audience does have more knowledge of, should reflect the upper level undergraduate and graduate coursework material and what serious hobbyists might know. It would be a disservice to quizbowl's honest attempt to challenge players, whet intellectual curiosity, and probe the bounds of knowledge if a consistent standard wasn't applied across the whole distribution, and I think that such an undertaking necessarily results in a tournament that's harder than the "NSC equivalent" of college quizbowl.

Now the intangible reason is that I think molding college quizbowl nationals to set of idealized power numbers, buzz distributions, and bonus conversions threatens a quality that I have found to be one of the most appealing aspects of college quizbowl: its intellectual rigor. I think the posts made by many of my peers and a heartening number of younger players get at what I mean here: it's the joy and excitement of the opportunity to learn about so much cool stuff out there that you don't know, that maybe nobody knows, which I associate so strongly with ACF Nationals and typically never fail to take away from it. That you know that the battlefield will be tough and that the questions will be hard, and that anything you've ever learned in your career might serve as a handy tool to navigate it, which gives every live question you answer and middle and hard part you pull so much more weight. I agree that ACF Nationals is not for everyone! It might not even be for every elite high school player, and that's fine. I think getting accustomed to college quizbowl at all, and then getting accustomed to hard questions, requires a double act of learning to be comfortable with (or to at least come to terms with) one's ignorance and to take satisfaction in watching yourself improve. That requires a very different mindset than what high school quizbowl requires.

And for what it's worth, Dylan, having observed you make excellent buzzes at practice and at the few (fairly hard!) tournaments I've seen you play, I believe that you're more than capable of transitioning to college quizbowl. I suspect that as college develops your intellectual curiosity, your perspective here may change.
Last edited by Auroni on Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by vinteuil »

vathreya wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 9:56 pm I've 0'd and 10'd many bonuses in categories I was supposedly "good" at. For many high school players starting out in college, however, the trend feels like it's toward the latter, and I think the frustration from studying something for hours and not seeing significant improvement weighs greater than any feeling of joy from getting good buzzes/30's from stuff you've been interested in.
Should high schoolers expect "having good knowledge of a subject for a high schooler" to immediately translate into "having good knowledge of a subject for a college student"? (That seems like, among other things, a very low opinion of how much people learn in four years of college courses.)
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by jameshadleyg »

I feel that it is important to recognize the bias in who may be participating in this conversation as well as recognize what our priorities are when choosing to make changes to difficulty/eligibility. I'm under the impression that a lot of this discussion has centered around the idea that the accessibility of nats and ICT (both due to difficulty and grad student eligibility) affects people's interest in quizbowl.

First of all, I'd like to suggest that the majority of people who play college quizbowl will probably not play nats, or at least, not more than once. I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that these players themselves recognize this. However, this conversation is likely biased in that most people here are people who have/expect to play a national championship tournament during their college careers. I don't think that the majority of actual players are really impacted by changes in nats difficulties or eligibilities.

I'd like to extend my previous point to argue against the suggestion that players need something like a national tournament to look forward to. Quizbowl is a competition, and people do compete in competitions to be the best/achieve certain goals, but it's also (1) a social activity, which people partake in to hang out and meet others, and (2) a hobby, which people may enjoy doing without being competitive about. I'd suggest that the majority of players which I'm suggesting do not see themselves as participating at nats anytime soon find their motivations in playing to be rooted in (1) or (2).

Whether we should consider these non-(hyper-)competitive players when trying to influence the overall direction of college quizbowl (for which I'd argue a definitive Yes) is probably not the topic of this thread. However, when it comes to changes to nats, I don't think that these people are really impacted.

Of course, it could be argued that the reason that so many players don't hope to play nats and play quizbowl for other reasons is because of the current difficulty and eligibility rules. I'd suggest that this is misguided--college activities (as brought up elsewhere) are different from high school. People aren't using their college qb championship titles to get jobs and admissions to grad school like they might for ug admissions. People are also not as competitive in college as they are in high school in general. This is in part because college is simply more time consuming, but also somewhat of a "big fish in a big pond" effect, where after going to college, most people who may have been very competitive in high school may find that they can't win at everything in college. Nevertheless, I think the most important point here defers to other arguments already made: reducing the difficulty of nats and making it UG would not level the playing field enough for these competitive players to feel like they're winning. There will always be a handful of undergrads at a handful of schools that are nationally competitive, many of them having enough high school experience that they'd also benefit equally (if not more) from the reduced difficulty. Though the opposition that these players face is easier without grad students, I doubt the change would be significant enough to be noticeable.

I feel that it's important to distinguish between retaining good highschoolers and recruiting new players at the college level. If you're wanting nats tournaments to become like hsnct so to cater to good HSers, there is the unfortunate issue that the logistics of such tournaments (both on ACF/NAQT's side and the school's side) are likely going to make it impossible to have that many teams, and so the fields will inevitably be "too strong." If you're wanting nats to be a draw to new players, I'm going to suggest that, as I mentioned above, you will not be able to draw people in with the idea that they could win nats, since the reality for almost all players is that they cannot (which, given it's a title given to one team every year, is somewhat inevitable).

I'm not arguing that nats shouldn't be easier (I'm actually leaning towards those who argue that something like Fall Open level is a good target, solely from their arguments since I've never attended a national tournament myself). My (poorly stated) point here is that changing nats to improve retention or outreach may not be as effective as we could hope.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 1:58 pm
eygotem wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 1:56 pm Let's not forget that high school nationals (PACE NSC and HSNCT) are able to distinguish between top teams while still allowing the best teams to regularly score above 20 ppb. It's ludicrous to suggest that college nationals cannot have a difficulty that allows for just as many skilled college teams to score similarly, unless you seriously believe that high school nationals are easy to the point of being illegitimate.
For what it's worth, I actually do think the HSNCT playoffs are too easy - the questions do their job in the prelims, but the playoffs need to have a finer degree of discrimination among the teams.
I've never understood the idea that quizbowl, especially nationals, is supposed to objectively differentiate which team is the best and that it must be sufficiently difficult to accomplish that. At least for me, much of the appeal of quizbowl nationals is the there exists space for potential upsets and variability. Nationals doesn't need to be an event that objectively determines the top fraction of teams at the expense of everybody else's experience. For me, it's a bit like basketball and free throws: there's a reason why basketball isn't just free throwing and nothing else. With only free throws, we could easily determine who's the best and maybe it's the preferred format for the people making the free throws but it just doesn't have the same degree of thrill and fun for most people. This analogy is admittedly not very accurate (or perhaps even coherent).

I guess my point is similar to Justine's sentiments of 'hard parts and early clues wasted in distinguishing teams' and 'early clues that maybe 3 people are going to get any information out of.' Nationals shouldn't have to sacrifice accessibility and enjoyment of the majority of players by increasing difficulty just for the sake of more finely determine between the second best and third beset teams and the third best and fourth best teams.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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eygotem wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 9:29 pm Does all of this not apply to high school quizbowl as well? Yet the high school game seems to be doing just fine while being more accessible to less-skilled players...
eygotem wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 9:56 pm Maybe because most players probably start going to nationals before becoming elite? I mean PACE NSC is still rewarding to elite players while being more accessible to the weaker teams...
To add to what Jacob just said, these insinuations are just plain false. I don't know why you think that PACE is easier for the average intellectually engaged high school freshman than ACF Nats is for the average intellectually engaged college freshman. I have read to some bottom-bracket rooms at PACE NSC with like five or six tossups going dead each game and sub-10 PPB on both teams. I'd say these students were having a much worse time than the bottom-bracket teams at college nats. The fact that college nats seems incredibly hard to you as a high schooler should not be surprising - imagine what you would've thought of PACE packets when you were in sixth grade.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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I'm not arguing that nats shouldn't be easier (I'm actually leaning towards those who argue that something like Fall Open level is a good target, solely from their arguments since I've never attended a national tournament myself). My (poorly stated) point here is that changing nats to improve retention or outreach may not be as effective as we could hope.
I think there's two different phenomena going on here. The first is the handful of posts coming from once-good high schoolers who struggle with collegiate quizbowl. To me this is similar to high school athletes who struggle to be mediocre in D1 college -- at some point, you're just going to run up against really good teams unless you're extraordinarily talented. Even if Nats hits the difficulty levels that Cody suggests, you're still going to get clobbered by teams by huge margins at some point, and that's just part of the game.

The other phenomenon is all this talk about the "silent majority" and the "drowned" in the "drowned and the saved" analogy -- by which I mean, players who have quit quizbowl, but whose stories we cannot hear. I mean, yes, it's obvious that if those players went to play Nationals, they'd find it extraordinarily difficult, and get discouraged. But I don't think making Nationals easier is going to make it any easier to retain them. What I do think we lack is the option for them to play something other than D1 college activities, to continue the athletics analogy. Back in the day, there were some intramurals sets, and more undergraduate sets like MUT; I see far fewer of these nowadays. Perhaps the next step in collegiate outreach is improving the pipeline so that we have a healthier stack of those tournaments, perhaps even over the summer too.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by eygotem »

jmarvin_ wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:14 pm To add to what Jacob just said, these insinuations are just plain false. I don't know why you think that PACE is easier for the average intellectually engaged high school freshman than ACF Nats is for the average intellectually engaged college freshman. I have read to some bottom-bracket rooms at PACE NSC with like five or six tossups going dead each game and sub-10 PPB on both teams. I'd say these students were having a much worse time than the bottom-bracket teams at college nats. The fact that college nats seems incredibly hard to you as a high schooler should not be surprising - imagine what you would've thought of PACE packets when you were in sixth grade.
PACE NSC certainly has a significantly higher average PPB compared to ACF Nats. Not to mention, it's also easier to qualify for PACE (top 25% at a platinum qualifer!), so more weaker teams are playing it who aren't up for that difficulty level. Correct me if I'm wrong, but based on what I've seen stat-wise, it definitely seems like more questions go dead in the average college nats game compared to to average HS nats game.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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Goofy Evanescence Vine wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 9:47 pm I don't see how claiming that "quizbowl is a game anyone can be good at" and it requiring "a considerable amount of effort" to become an elite player are in anyway contradictory. Quizbowl, like all other activities, requires effort to be good at. If anything, quizbowl is much more meritocratic than most other activities (such as almost any athletic competition) because success is determined entirely by time spent studying rather than any predetermined factors. I can't think of any other competition where someone can go from having essentially never played before to being perhaps the best player ever in only a few years. I do agree that quizbowl should try to be accessible to new players (indeed it must be to be able to survive), but there's no reason why that accessibility has to carry over to Nationals, a tournament specifically designed to be a rewarding experience for elite players.
I don't think the claims are necessarily contradictory; rather, what I find contradictory is the way we apply this in outreach efforts. From what I've seen (my experience is obviously limited), a lot of college quiz bowl clubs portray themselves to be relatively laid-back in order to increase outreach efforts, and then let the stark reality of quiz bowl hit once players play their first tournament(s). This is compounded by the fact that we try to recruit people who are "vaguely interested in trivia."
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Carlos Be »

heterodyne wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:56 pm I've said this elsewhere, but I'd like to note that the chance to play the best people in school was quite attractive to me when I started college quizbowl. Playing better opponents is more fun, I think.
Why limit it to the best people in school? Surely open tournaments are more fun, by your logick. I don't mean this as a slippery slope— obviously ACF Nats will never be open to all players. Rather, if this is what you like about quiz bowl, then play opens. Don't force this belief on the regular season.
vinteuil wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 9:30 pm I would like to endorse John's whole post, and this paragraph in particular. I love the culture of high-level college quiz bowl because it's all about the recognition that there is a gigantic universe of things out there to learn, and a whole community of people striving to do so together.
There is a place for high-level quizbowl. There are multiple side events and opens every year. If there are not enough opens, surely there are people who will write more— people love writing hard stuff. Maybe we could even have an ACF Open, if more opens is truly what quiz bowl needs.

What is certain is that collegiate nationals should not be treated as if it were an open tournament. A team of four decent freshman who play semi-regularly and then study hard their junior and senior years should be nationally competitive.
jmarvin_ wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 8:40 pm I can't really understand why someone would think that there are no goals to set or realistic things to work toward in this game because it's hard. That's the entire point of the existence of the game: you are working toward learning the hard things. Maybe I shouldn't risk coming off as a bit incendiary, but I think I can say this as someone who has never been an elite player at any level: if you find that quiz bowl is not enjoyable or worthwhile when you do not already know the difficulty level well enough to be in title contention, perhaps what you really like, after all, is winning.
I argue that the point of quiz bowl is to learn important and interesting things, not hard things. It is very difficult to learn clues when they are so hard that you can barely recognize anything about them, even in categories you know. Part of this is due to a preponderance of vague and unevocative clues, but a lot of it is because they are too hard.

Also, I want to push back against belittling teams who just want to win. These teams will still fill out tournaments, pay for sets, and learn new things. There are regions that struggle to host tournaments due to lack of interest. Writers are still underpaid, despite price hikes. We should not be limiting our audience by tacitly excluding teams that do not share a particular vision for quiz bowl.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by vinteuil »

justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:30 pm
I argue that the point of quiz bowl is to learn important and interesting things, not hard things. It is very difficult to learn clues when they are so hard that you can barely recognize anything about them, even in categories you know.
Would you care to provide an example?

And do you not believe in the existence of extremely difficult clues that are nonetheless interesting and important? (RULFO, of course, answers this for me.) Some of this is due to "what quizbowl currently knows," but there will always super-important and interesting clues that can only be expressed in relation to other advanced knowledge. (This is assuming that you don't want quizbowl to just never clue quantum field theory ever again.)
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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vinteuil wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:08 pm Should high schoolers expect "having good knowledge of a subject for a high schooler" to immediately translate into "having good knowledge of a subject for a college student"? (That seems like, among other things, a very low opinion of how much people learn in four years of college courses.)
I actually agree with the idea that people improve in college over time by taking more and more advanced classes; however, the nature of college is such that you're only likely to take such classes in areas relevant to your field of study. For example, as a biology major, there is no way I will ever take the physics classes necessary to become a decent physics player (as much as I would like to). Additionally, the level of specialization required to do well on (say, get before the half or even FTP) many regs+ questions is beyond the scope of many undergraduates. At that point, you have to either resort to grinding specifically for quiz bowl, or you just accept the fact that you won't get those questions beyond that point. For subjects which you are not studying, this is compounded, and you also have to either resort to massive study binges or just accept that if you do choose to study it without a massive time investment, your improvement won't be much, if at all. Certainly college quiz bowl, especially at the national level, needs to be difficult, but I don't think telling teams that they basically have to sell their souls to the quiz bowl devil in order to improve by any significant margin is the right thing to do either.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by db0wman »

Alright, so this post has gotten a lot of discussion going, which is good. I will try to address a few points in this post. The posts I've quoted below aren't necessarily the ones that I'm responding to, but they represent the discourse to which I am generally responding.
I love the idea of rebranding Regionals as a regional championship, and taking the C in SCT seriously. I wonder what it would take to help the culture shift toward valuing them, especially when so many other competitive activities (e.g. the NBA) are gradually devaluing their regular seasons.
First, I would love to see a college quiz bowl circuit where winning or placing at regionals is considered an apex for the majority of teams, much like a state championship in HS. The issue is, unlike HS quizbowl, college quiz bowl doesn't have a huge middle class of teams that could support a large (say 50-60 team) regional tournament that could be seen as a great year-ender.
I think that this is a fantastic idea. I discussed with Doug Graebner on Discord earlier today about some simple changes that could create such a change (thanks for reaching out, Doug!). One idea was that instead of being labeled "2020 ACF Regionals at Rice" or "2020 ACF Regionals at UCSD", these tournaments could be called "2020 Texas Regional Championship" or "2020 SoCal Regional Championship". A minor change like this would bring more prestige to these tournaments, since as it stands, these are named just like mirrors of regular season tournaments ("Penn Bowl at UNC" or what have you). These tournaments are important! They deserve a important title! Of course there are probably other changes that can/should be made, but this one popped to mind.
More generally, this post makes the assumption that college national championships should be as easy for the top of the field as high school national championships are. This is a common assumption for high school players to make, but it's an extremely odd assumption to people in college quizbowl.
300 teams know who's gonna dominate HSNCT and that it's not them; a solid 200+ of them still have "fight for 6-4" as a legitimate aspiration, and I think a lot of the kids in the neighborhood that Dylan's quoting are among those 200 teams. There's nothing for those kids in college nats; the Regional/SCT part of the calendar probably needs to step to help serve that community (a la Jacob's post), but there's something to be said for a "big tent" national tournament doing the same.
This post is aimed so that more accomodation can be made to create a better experience for the middle and lower tiers of teams. As explained in my post, the top brackets at Nats and ICT can and should be run on more challenging packets in order to properly differentiate their skill levels.
Speaking as someone who began playing in college, I would personally have found a significantly easier Regionals-Nationals that let good high school players dominate (with little work required to scale up) massively demoralizing, and would likely have stopped playing after freshman year. Starting quizbowl in college, there is already a feeling that everyone else is much better than you, which is much worse if those people are your same age (or younger!); at least if they're upperclassmen or graduate students there is less the feeling that you are starting miles and miles behind. I think Regionals/Nationals/ICT could probably become a bit easier (let's say around 2-3 ppb on bonuses), but I do not think the goal should ever be for them to have the same playing experience as HSNCT or NSC, or for good high school players to be able to transition seamlessly from the upper levels of the high school game to the upper levels of the college game.
I think that JinAh and Naveed have offered good perspectives as people who didn't play in high school, a POV that I didn't consider while I was writing this post. My main goal was to bring attention to the low retention rate that quizbowl has in the transitions from HS to college and from DII to DI. Accomodating an audience that wants to engage in quizbowl without it being their primary EC is an important step in growing the game. But I agree that question difficulty acting as an equalizer is an important part of the game as well. I think there's a middle ground of difficulty that national tournaments can achieve that will retain the challenge but still be more playable for the middle and lower consolation brackets. Making bonuses easier, whether that's just toning down middle parts or setting them down a slight notch in general, is a step that probably could achieve this goal.

Finally, I'd like to address a sentiment that has been floating around this forum post as well as Discord servers and other online spaces (I know you're there, modchat). I don't want college quizbowl to be made easier just so I can keep my status as an "elite player" without having to put in the work. I'm not sure how I can provide evidence for this, other than the fact that I'm already pretty involved with the program of the school that I'm most likely to attend and have planned on playing quizbowl in college for some time. There's also this weird notion that by making the questions easier, I plan to increase my chances of winning. I don't really see how this would make any significant difference in my performance against other teams. The issue is that there are a LOT of high school players who drop the activity going into college. The vast majority of cases will be because they just did it for fun and never planned on taking it that seriously. In other cases, they plan on devoting themselves entirely to college coursework and other ECs and don't have time to play quizbowl. But like or not, the HS game is the biggest source of players for college teams, and by making some changes (not even necessarily the ones I've suggested), we can grow the game and make it more accessible to a wider playerbase.

I'm glad that I was able to foster discussion about this topic. Even if you think that I'm completely wrong and my suggestions are unhelpful, I'm representing the perspective of the group that provides the most players for college quizbowl. So I think that means that my input is at least a little valid.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Carlos Be »

vinteuil wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:37 pm
justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:30 pm
I argue that the point of quiz bowl is to learn important and interesting things, not hard things. It is very difficult to learn clues when they are so hard that you can barely recognize anything about them, even in categories you know.
Would you care to provide an example?
...
What I'm trying to say is— it takes knowledge to retain clues. It's hard to remember a theorem from representation theory if you don't know what representation theory is, no matter how interesting the clue is. From ACF Nationals 2019, I now know that Bertran de Born is an Occitan poet that Ezra Pound wrote about. I don't remember any of the other clues in the question, however interesting they may have been, because it's hard to remember lots of things about someone you had never heard of before.
...

And do you not believe in the existence of extremely difficult (from a current-quizbowl perspective) clues that are nonetheless interesting and important? (RULFO, of course, answers this for me.)
Here's a bonus that is extremely difficult but is nonetheless interesting and important:
ACF Nationals 2019 wrote: 13.This object was designed to generalize the positive Grassmanian. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this theoretical geometric object from particle physics introduced by Nima Arkani-Hamed in 2013. Scattering
amplitudes can be calculated by finding the ‘volume’ of this object.
ANSWER: amplituhedron
[10] The amplituhedron was introduced as a simplified alternative to these other graphical tools, which represent
scattering events using straight and squiggly lines. They are named for an American physicist.
ANSWER: Feynman diagrams
[10] Calculating the volume of the amplituhedron gives scattering amplitudes with this property. Real particles possess
this property because they satisfy the classical equations of motion, while virtual ones do not.
ANSWER: they are on the mass shell
<Physics>
Without regards to difficulty this is a good bonus. With regards to difficulty, you have to have the knowledge of a grad student in the field to 30, and the knowledge of a physics student who has taken the right upper division classes to 20.

As I said earlier, I think there is a place for this sort of very hard quiz bowl. I don't think that place is collegiate nationals.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Stinkweed Imp »

justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:30 pm A team of four decent freshman who play semi-regularly and then study hard their junior and senior years should be nationally competitive.
Is this not already true? A UG team has finished in the top bracket of Nationals every year since 2009 (at which point the stats don't list if a team is UG or not and I didn't feel like cross-referencing the results), not to mention the many other teams (including several overall champions) that have been led by undergraduate players. As someone who has played on (what I would consider at least to be) a nationally competitive UG team, I have never considered playing against grad students to be in any way unfair, or even particularly discouraging.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by vinteuil »

justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:56 pmFrom ACF Nationals 2019, I now know that Bertran de Born is an Occitan poet that Ezra Pound wrote about. I don't remember any of the other clues in the question, however interesting they may have been, because it's hard to remember lots of things about someone you had never heard of before.
And how much time have you had in the meantime to learn more about him? Like, have you never learned a concept in class and then gone home and reviewed it before learning more?
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Ike »

justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:56 pm
ACF Nationals 2019 wrote: 13.This object was designed to generalize the positive Grassmanian. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this theoretical geometric object from particle physics introduced by Nima Arkani-Hamed in 2013. Scattering
amplitudes can be calculated by finding the ‘volume’ of this object.
ANSWER: amplituhedron
[10] The amplituhedron was introduced as a simplified alternative to these other graphical tools, which represent
scattering events using straight and squiggly lines. They are named for an American physicist.
ANSWER: Feynman diagrams
[10] Calculating the volume of the amplituhedron gives scattering amplitudes with this property. Real particles possess
this property because they satisfy the classical equations of motion, while virtual ones do not.
ANSWER: they are on the mass shell
<Physics>
Without regards to difficulty this is a good bonus. With regards to difficulty, you have to have the knowledge of a grad student in the field to 30, and the knowledge of a physics student who has taken the right upper division classes to 20.

As I said earlier, I think there is a place for this sort of very hard quiz bowl. I don't think that place is collegiate nationals.
I 30'd this bonus in playtesting, and I took nothing more than classical mechanics. I don't think it's too hard. While I agree that you need a grad student to understand the technical details about the amplituhedron, you can certainly just have a passing interest in physics and have come across it. (There's a really good sketch of why you might care about the amplituhedron in the book ~The Universe Speaks In Numbers~ by Graham Farmelo, without any of the grad level jargon). Perhaps the bonus could do a bit better in terms of mentioning more content like this. I don't have the conversion data for this bonus, but assuming it is difficulty appropriate (which I think it is) at the end of the day it comes down to a difference in question writing philosophy; even assuming you find a bonus that really is "too grad for Nats" you're just going to have to deal with other people having different philosophies than yours, and "imposing" them on the non-open circuit.

EDIT: grammar
Last edited by Ike on Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by gimmedatguudsuccrose »

Ike wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:10 pm
justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:56 pm
ACF Nationals 2019 wrote: 13.This object was designed to generalize the positive Grassmanian. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this theoretical geometric object from particle physics introduced by Nima Arkani-Hamed in 2013. Scattering
amplitudes can be calculated by finding the ‘volume’ of this object.
ANSWER: amplituhedron
[10] The amplituhedron was introduced as a simplified alternative to these other graphical tools, which represent
scattering events using straight and squiggly lines. They are named for an American physicist.
ANSWER: Feynman diagrams
[10] Calculating the volume of the amplituhedron gives scattering amplitudes with this property. Real particles possess
this property because they satisfy the classical equations of motion, while virtual ones do not.
ANSWER: they are on the mass shell
<Physics>
Without regards to difficulty this is a good bonus. With regards to difficulty, you have to have the knowledge of a grad student in the field to 30, and the knowledge of a physics student who has taken the right upper division classes to 20.

As I said earlier, I think there is a place for this sort of very hard quiz bowl. I don't think that place is collegiate nationals.
I 30'd this bonus in playtesting, and I took nothing more than classical mechanics. I don't think it's too hard. While I agree that you need a grad student to understand the technical details about the amplituhedron, you can certainly just be have a passing interest in physics and have come across it. (There's a really good sketch of why you might care about the amplituhedron in the book ~The Universe Speaks In Numbers~ by Graham Farmelo, without any of the grad level jargon). Perhaps the bonus could do a bit better in terms of mentioning more content like this. I don't have the conversion data for this bonus, but assuming it is difficulty appropriate (which I think it is) at the end of the day it comes down to a difference in question writing philosophy; even assuming find a bonus that really is "too grad for Nats" you're just going to have to deal with other people having different philosophies than yours, and "imposing" them on the non-open circuit.
I agree with this. From what I remember, this was one of the easier physics bonuses I played, especially compared to questions such as "quantum discord" from round 1.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Carlos Be »

Goofy Evanescence Vine wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:02 pm Is this not already true? A UG team has finished in the top bracket of Nationals every year since 2009 (at which point the stats don't list if a team is UG or not and I didn't feel like cross-referencing the results), not to mention the many other teams (including several overall champions) that have been led by undergraduate players. As someone who has played on (what I would consider at least to be) a nationally competitive UG team, I have never considered playing against grad students to be in any way unfair, or even particularly discouraging.
You and Rahul were a good deal better than "decent" in your freshman year.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Carlos Be »

Ike wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:10 pm
justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:56 pm
ACF Nationals 2019 wrote: 13.This object was designed to generalize the positive Grassmanian. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this theoretical geometric object from particle physics introduced by Nima Arkani-Hamed in 2013. Scattering
amplitudes can be calculated by finding the ‘volume’ of this object.
ANSWER: amplituhedron
[10] The amplituhedron was introduced as a simplified alternative to these other graphical tools, which represent
scattering events using straight and squiggly lines. They are named for an American physicist.
ANSWER: Feynman diagrams
[10] Calculating the volume of the amplituhedron gives scattering amplitudes with this property. Real particles possess
this property because they satisfy the classical equations of motion, while virtual ones do not.
ANSWER: they are on the mass shell
<Physics>
Without regards to difficulty this is a good bonus. With regards to difficulty, you have to have the knowledge of a grad student in the field to 30, and the knowledge of a physics student who has taken the right upper division classes to 20.

As I said earlier, I think there is a place for this sort of very hard quiz bowl. I don't think that place is collegiate nationals.
I 30'd this bonus in playtesting, and I took nothing more than classical mechanics. I don't think it's too hard. While I agree that you need a grad student to understand the technical details about the amplituhedron, you can certainly just have a passing interest in physics and have come across it. (There's a really good sketch of why you might care about the amplituhedron in the book ~The Universe Speaks In Numbers~ by Graham Farmelo, without any of the grad level jargon). Perhaps the bonus could do a bit better in terms of mentioning more content like this. I don't have the conversion data for this bonus, but assuming it is difficulty appropriate (which I think it is) at the end of the day it comes down to a difference in question writing philosophy; even assuming you find a bonus that really is "too grad for Nats" you're just going to have to deal with other people having different philosophies than yours, and "imposing" them on the non-open circuit.

EDIT: grammar
I was focused more on the medium part. I don't think you should have to have the knowledge equivalent to a UG physics major senior to 20 a bonus.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Vinjance »

justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:03 pm Many people who have stopped playing nationals, or even quiz bowl, are still involved in quiz bowl. They lead clubs, grow circuits, and write questions. They are creating a new generation of quiz bowl that is not restricted to elite academics. Young players are not going to accept the dogma that quiz bowl has to be intellectually and financially inaccessible. Quiz bowl will grow, and it will change, and existing organizations can either be at the vanguard or be left in the dust.
Are you trying to say that new editors in charge of nats tournaments will make them more accessible to teams playing? How do you know that this new generation isn't going to overshoot the target difficulty like the old generation? Speaking as someone who recently started writing college nationals questions, it's very easy to expect that the field will convert a bonus part well, then find out that barely anyone gets it right. From what I've seen myself, many younger players actually write more difficult hard parts than more experienced writers because they base questions off of niche topics that interest them, and have less of an idea of what the field will actually encounter. Especially considering that a new nats editor will most likely be using past iterations of the tournament as a reference, I don't think there's any reason to assume the tournament would get easier with a different editing cast.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by jinah »

justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:20 pm
Goofy Evanescence Vine wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:02 pm Is this not already true? A UG team has finished in the top bracket of Nationals every year since 2009 (at which point the stats don't list if a team is UG or not and I didn't feel like cross-referencing the results), not to mention the many other teams (including several overall champions) that have been led by undergraduate players. As someone who has played on (what I would consider at least to be) a nationally competitive UG team, I have never considered playing against grad students to be in any way unfair, or even particularly discouraging.
You and Rahul were a good deal better than "decent" in your freshman year.
I don't totally get your argument here. There are examples every year of very good undergraduate teams (or teams led by undergraduates) winning Nats, defeating eventual Nats winners or giving them a run for their money, or doing very well in the top bracket. Some of these players, like Rahul and James, were very good in their freshmen years, and some took longer to scale up! Either way, they demonstrate, as previous people have said, that it's possible to "get good" in college, and it increasingly seems that it's very possible to build up your quizbowl skill while still maintaining your grades / mental health / career goals, especially as the middle point in particular becomes more of a point of public discussion.

The fact that Rahul and James were impressively strong players as freshmen seems like an argument for college quizbowl being an activity with a relatively level starting field for players. Saying that James and Rahul don't count in this conversation because they somehow managed to be good as freshmen does not make sense to me; the claim that "it is possible for people to get very good at college quizbowl in undergrad" is a core argument for the arguments that college nationals is not substantially* too hard or that graduate students are not substantially* hurting the game. You can't fairly say "persons x and y are too good at quizbowl to serve as examples for the claim that it's possible to get good at quizbowl." Moreover, taking "good deal better than 'decent'" players out of the equation limits one to simply "decent" and mediocre players, which... are you trying to argue that all "decent" teams should have a shot at winning Nationals? What, then, is the point of a national title?

*edit because I put in footnote markers but forgot to actually say what I meant -- Nationals could probably be slightly easier but it's a difference in degree, not in kind -- "more in line with 2017-2018 Nationals or maybe even CMST," not "Nationals should be like HSNCT is for high school."
Last edited by jinah on Sat Mar 14, 2020 1:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Hot Soup »

vathreya wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:41 pm
vinteuil wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:08 pm Should high schoolers expect "having good knowledge of a subject for a high schooler" to immediately translate into "having good knowledge of a subject for a college student"? (That seems like, among other things, a very low opinion of how much people learn in four years of college courses.)
I actually agree with the idea that people improve in college over time by taking more and more advanced classes; however, the nature of college is such that you're only likely to take such classes in areas relevant to your field of study. For example, as a biology major, there is no way I will ever take the physics classes necessary to become a decent physics player (as much as I would like to). Additionally, the level of specialization required to do well on (say, get before the half or even FTP) many regs+ questions is beyond the scope of many undergraduates. At that point, you have to either resort to grinding specifically for quiz bowl, or you just accept the fact that you won't get those questions beyond that point. For subjects which you are not studying, this is compounded, and you also have to either resort to massive study binges or just accept that if you do choose to study it without a massive time investment, your improvement won't be much, if at all. Certainly college quiz bowl, especially at the national level, needs to be difficult, but I don't think telling teams that they basically have to sell their souls to the quiz bowl devil in order to improve by any significant margin is the right thing to do either.
As someone who was never an elite player during high school or college, I would like to chime in.

College regs+/nats difficulty is indeed brutal. I was absolutely crushed when I played my first regs+ difficulty tournament in freshman year, and that experience certainly dulled my motivation to get better at the game; I must confess that, besides writing for Penn Bowl and occasional bursts of studying, I have not studied extensively for quiz bowl. During my four years in college, however, I did attend classes, engage in research, attend talks, and read articles as a STEM major. Obviously, that was not sufficient for me to become the best (nor even a good) science player, and I still 10 bonuses on things I've taken classes in and feel defeated by the packet when I can't convert a Nats level chemistry tossup at the end. However, by senior year, I felt that I could get a handful of good buzzes on topics I was interested in for any tournament, and I started noticing that a good majority of the questions dealt with topics that I had directly or indirectly learned about in classes. Ironically, four years later, this realization has somewhat revitalized my drive to improve at this game.

I will leave it to the players in the upper echelons of the game to discuss the sacrifices it takes to reach that level. Similarly, I believe the question of what the Nats difficulty should be is a nuanced one that I will leave for more experienced writers and editors to discuss. However, in my opinion, the belief that it requires one to "sell their soul" in order to improve at collegiate quiz bowl is patently false. Based on my experiences, if you are a curious collegiate student taking a full course-load, you will get somewhat decent at the category most directly related to your major by junior/senior year. If you take the extra couple of hours to research and write questions on things you learn about in class, you may even become "good" or "great" in that category by that time.

So why is collegiate quiz bowl "so hard?" I believe it is a combination of the following:

1. Collegiate quiz bowl is currently written with upperclassmen/graduate students in mind, meaning that freshmen/sophomores who have not taken intermediate/advanced coursework are inherently disadvantaged in the game.
2. Similarly, the high school quiz bowl canon shares very little with the collegiate quiz bowl canon, and it is easy for high school players to feel that their efforts studying in HS have been "wasted" as a result.
3. It is impossible to "win" in collegiate quiz bowl, especially at a higher level, without dedicated teammates. Specialization is the name of the game, and you might not win a single game even if you nail your 2/2 every game if you do not have dedicated/more experienced players on your team.

With these points in mind, I would humbly suggest the following points addressing each of the above to make your collegiate quiz bowl experience more enjoyable that have been echoed numerous times in these forums (please note that my experience is biased towards science, and many not apply to other categories):

1. Take and attend courses related to the topic of your interest as early as you can. The earlier the better, without ruining your grades. As stated above, intermediate and above classwork serves as the foundation to collegiate quiz bowl, and you may find questions inaccessible without that base knowledge. As you suggest, learning organic chemistry in freshman year solely to get better at quiz bowl, while possible, will likely be a a painful exercise equivalent to selling your soul. Other ways to engage upper-level material in meaningful manner such as joining a research lab are also encouraged.
2. Attend practices and familiarize yourself with the collegiate canon. As Justine suggests, there is a huge benefit to knowing what kinds of things can be asked about, which is much wider than the limited HS canon. Simply attending biweekly practices on collegiate questions will help you get a sense of this by osmosis, at least.
2a. If you are frustrated that your hours spent studying are not returning equal dividends as it did in high school, it is okay to take a step back. Read for a local tournament. Take classes. Work on your problem set instead. Again, I promise that if you remain curious throughout your college career, you will become marginally better at some aspect of the game.
3. Identify a more experienced teammate or a mentor from the local circuit who can help you get better/expose you to the joys of the game. For me, this was Eric M., who was not only a singular demonstration of what was possible at the highest levels of the game but also reminded me constantly that getting better at this game was possible without sacrificing your professional/academic life (and may even enhance it!). The need for such mentors causes me to oppose an outright ban on graduate students from the game, who have usually experienced successes and pitfalls of the game, although I can see how a stricter eligibility restriction and UG only tournaments may be beneficial.
3a. If you cannot do so and winning means a lot to you, try to find motivated teammates or encourage your fellow teammates. Easier said than done, but this remains largely the same as high school.

Finally, I will wrap up by saying that now seems like a better time than ever for a high school student to make the leap to college regs/regs+ difficulty. It seems like playing a college tournament is a near prerequisite for elite HSers (or maybe just Illinois HSers? :) ), and it is not uncommon to see freshmen who have played multiple tournaments on collegiate sets and are accustomed to the artificial changes like clue density, question length, etc. Similarly, it appears that there is an interest in creating more sets geared towards novice/UG only, making the game more accessible to freshmen and sophomores who have primarily taken intro courses only. I am not sure how much more motivation will actually be gained by labeling one of those tournaments with the prestige of a national title, beyond what is already done with D2 ICT.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Justice William Brennan »

During my admitted students day as a high school senior, one of the professors on this discussion panel about the difference between high school and college described high school as "an institution where information is just handed to you" and the university as "a place where knowledge is actively being discovered, and you participate in that process of discovery." This is not something that I really understood until after a few years of college. Whatever courses you take, the goal is to convey how these fields process knowledge and come to the conclusions that they do, and by the time you are a senior you are encouraged to do your own original work in at least the senior thesis/capstone/project in whatever your field of study is.

I think this professor's distinction between high school and college seeps into the way that high school and collegiate quiz bowl is played. All high schoolers basically take the same slate of classes, and if questions are drawn from what players learn in school then they represent an extremely small cross-section of science, history, literature, etc. It's no surprise that it's perfectly possible for a single superstar to basically play alongside empty chairs and take their team to the top brackets of high schools Nats. And at the local level, you don't even have to be a superstar to make a strong showing single-handedly at many tournaments.

Universities deal with the breadth of human knowledge, and so should collegiate quiz bowl. At the collegiate level, players come from all sorts of academic backgrounds and the content gets deeper to reflect the much deeper engagement with knowledge that these players/college students are specializing in--specialism that basically doesn't occur in a high school. The best feeling in the collegiate game as far as I'm concerned is nailing a tossup or a bonus that you engaged with through a specific class, or your general major, or your research, or some pet topic of yours. Specialism should be the norm at regionals-difficulty and above in collegiate quiz bowl because the canon should reflect the sort of deep intellectual engagement with each slice of the distribution that players engage with as college students. When you attend Nats and you miss middle parts or mid-tossup clues in your categories, hopefully it opens your eyes to all the cool stuff that you don't know about quantum field theory or the Tang Dynasty or whatever and inspires you to go home and look into that topic more.

It can be intimidating as a college freshman with a familiarity of high school quizbowl--understanding that broad generalism is an expectation for anyone who's "good" at that level--to arrive at a regionals-difficulty collegiate quizbowl tournament because you'll feel like you'll never be "good" in the sense of a broad generalist at that difficulty. But if you redefine "good" as "I want to get questions in the category that I major in/do research in/have an extracurricular passion for," collegiate quizbowl becomes much less daunting. The top-flight generalists in collegiate quizbowl are the ones who essentially have a specialist's interest in a lot of different categories, or otherwise have forced themselves to have a specialist's engagement with those categories--but there's no reason you can't build a team of people who purely specialize in the topics that they like, and if you can find people with sufficiently broad interests then there's no reason you can't win. I think any discussion of diluting the difficulty of Nats should be balanced against the concern that it loses the magic of inspiring students to go out and seek new things to learn about in their topics of interest. I don't think Nats-minus difficulty feels significantly different than regular Nats to the middle-bracket and low-bracket teams that are being discussed, but Nats-minus also probably wouldn't lose the magic of inspiration that Nats has.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by John Ketzkorn »

For the two points in this thread:

Masters / PhD Students:
Unfortunately, it's a troublesome undertaking to figure out what's to be done, but graduate students do prevent the growth of the college scene (nothing personal, I appreciate you all as individuals and your feedback / knowledge). If you read this, I hope you can understand that a significant amount of undergraduate students have quit (who's input will be underrepresented in this thread) or come close to quitting in part because it's a larger than 0-3 year gap between you and your opponents.

Difficulty:
As is, Nationals are appropriate difficulty for determining the team with the best grad student(s).
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Illinois Admin »

Speaking as someone who ran a club with zero dominant grad students for 3 years, we had a huge attrition due to the time it would have taken to adjust to sets like MUT and EFT that we were playing in practice. The vast majority of our attrition (if not all of it some years) came well before we started practicing on nats level questions. I had discussions with every person who quit that was open to having a discussion and it was always a matter of "this would take too much time" or "I did not take quiz bowl this seriously before." If the novice level stuff is too hard for the literal dozens of players that quit at Illinois (and thus will not be represented here) then perhaps nationals should be run on IS sets so that everyone feels included?
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Oh No You Didn't »

Illinois Admin wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 12:20 pm Speaking as someone who ran a club with zero dominant grad students for 3 years, we had a huge attrition due to the time it would have taken to adjust to sets like MUT and EFT that we were playing in practice. The vast majority of our attrition (if not all of it some years) came well before we started practicing on nats level questions. I had discussions with every person who quit that was open to having a discussion and it was always a matter of "this would take too much time" or "I did not take quiz bowl this seriously before." If the novice level stuff is too hard for the literal dozens of players that quit at Illinois (and thus will not be represented here) then perhaps nationals should be run on IS sets so that everyone feels included?
Yeah to be frank there's a lot of people who'll show up for a bit who just aren't interested enough, and frnakly qb isn't for them. No amount of preventing older players who accumulate mountains of clues or easing the difficulty of events that are already above what they would even want to play is going to retain them
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by heterodyne »

justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:56 pm
Without regards to difficulty this is a good bonus. With regards to difficulty, you have to have the knowledge of a grad student in the field to 30, and the knowledge of a physics student who has taken the right upper division classes to 20.
This bonus doesn't strike me as a very good example. For instance, I haven't taken a physics class since AP Physics in my senior year of high school, and can twenty it because I have read the wikipedia pages for "virtual particle" and "on shell and off shell." I read these wikipedia pages because I thought they were interesting. I imagine that others have done this as well. I'd caution against having an overly narrow view of how people arrive at knowledge.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

I'm going to take on the futile task of trying to make a Grand Unified Theory of this thread.

The original problem diagnosed in the OP was that many high school players do not continue in college. There are many reasons for this that can be broken down into a few categories.

1. Reasons that are independent of the structure of quizbowl, or what I'll call Structure-Independent Factors (SIFs).

SIF1. New Opportunities in College/Shifting Priorities. Many great and dedicated players in high school decide that continuing to play quizbowl in college isn't for them, and nothing we do will change that - they find other activities to dive into, other ways to spend their time, lose interest for other reasons, etc. The only thing I'd ask at this point for those people, is how can we keep them involved on some level, to do things like read and staff? Because I think that's a pretty vast untapped resource that needs to continue. This is not the focus of the thread, however.

SIF2. The Time Commitment Needed. Even without studying, giving up an entire Saturday and travelling more than 3 hours (minimum) to a tournament is a huge commitment and timesink. This is not something most people have to do in high school. There is no way to fix this, unless there were simply way more tournaments or some hitherto-uncreated form of fast transportation.

SIF3. Quizbowl Just Isn't for Them. Some people walk into that first practice expecting Jeopardy, or more trash, or something fun and light. Quizbowl is not those things (well its certainly not light, anyway), and I don't know how much we can or should change to accommodate those people when things like Bar Trivia exist.

I would wager that the vast majority of lost potential quizbowl players do not play for these reasons, rather than for this next set of causes.


2. Reasons that can be ameliorated by restructuring quizbowl in some way, or Structure-Dependent Factors (SDFs). There are undoubtedly many of these (some of which came out in this thread), which I will get into.

SDF1. Lack of A High-School Style National "Apex". The initial post stated that for high school quizbowlers, HSNCT represented an apex of the season, something to work towards that had manageable goals for all teams and feasible goals for young, aspiring players to meet. The OP posited that the college nationals season did not offer such an apex, for two reasons.

One is that nationals as they stand are too hard. It is undoubtedly true that nationals could be at the level of where a nats- tournament currently sits without losing the power to discriminate between teams and remain interesting. I think this is an easy solution that most people are amenable to, but I don't think it'll do anything.

The other reason suggested is that graduate students stifle the growth of the game by playing for years and beating up on younger teams. I will get this out of the way first - this is a cognitive distortion, and is ultimately not true. Some of greatest players of our age got to where they are within the four-year span of an undergraduate degree. Not to mention that grad students regularly lose to high school juniors who play up (which similar levels of anecdotal evidence tells me is bad for college retention and has been posted about repeatedly - who wants to start quizbowl as a college freshman and lose to high schoolers?). If grad students didn't play, people would instead complain about high school superstars dominating the game. However, the fact that this perception exists is a problem, even if these people would get thrashed by Matt Bollinger instead of me anyway if I weren't allowed to play.

The solution offered is to create an undergraduate championship. I think this isn't really a solution, because it will just end up being dominated by high school stars, just like D2 ICT is now. And Jinah made the point that she would have been turned off by having to play against high school superstars for championships if that were her only option. I think there are better solutions:

- Creating things like championships for athletic conferences, to increase the amount of hardware given out (I'd have enjoyed playing an Ivy League championship ngl, and teams I was on may have even won it once or twice)
- Rebranding regionals (or winter) as a big apex tournament and make qualifying for nationals more of an achievement in itself, making this the new end-goal of quizbowl instead of nationals. This could even be coupled by sequestering the best teams at regionals in their own masters division or something, but that part of it is more of a half-formed idea right now.
- Create an HSNCT-like national, with a giant field, a clear attainable playoff cutoff, and relatively easy questions for the prelims (+/- a slog at the top). I think the OP misdiagnosed a little in his original post - I think the reason HSNCT is an apex for so many teams is that they get to hit the buzzer for a day and then spend the day hanging out in Chicago. Then, those that make the playoffs get a plaque at every level, and the double elim format makes it more exciting.

SDF2. The Cultural Differences Between College and High School QB. As Nitin expertly pointed out in this thread, in high school you are expected to become a generalist, just like how in high school you are expected to take the most difficult available classes in every subject. This is not how college works, and expectations should be realigned to meet that. Your goal should not be to be a generalist in college, it should be to take deep dives into subjects you like (which is something that I always emphasized to my team when I was active).

That being said, this is how quizbowl works at the highest levels. There may be a space for a middle class of teams to perpetually play EFT and Fall-level tournaments, at which level generalism is easier to come by. This can be accomplished by having more of those tournaments. I would also not be entirely opposed to the existence of skill-restricted or "amateur" divisions at tournaments (or entirely separate amateur tournaments) to meet this need. The logistics of such a thing is beyond me, and the long-term effects of such a thing are also beyond me (would it leech off the current circuit? Who knows).

SDF3. The Lack of Institutional Support and Community in College. I'm convinced that many more people would join quizbowl if the clubs had institutional continuity, solid leadership, funding, and organization. I was fortunate to be part of a club where the logistics and organization were excellent, thanks to my teammates. There were also a ton of social events. Had that not existed, I may not have played at all, and I know for a fact many of my teammates wouldn't have stuck with it.

One thing that cuts across most of the solutions and problems I've outlined is the need for more outreach and circuit-building, which is hard to do and which there are only a few dedicated people doing.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows »

With regard to graduate students, I think it's important to keep in mind that graduate students rarely have as much time to devote to the game as undergraduates. Most players, accordingly, peak in either their senior year, or first year in grad school. I think there are some problems with the current system (e.g., grad students can gain a whole year of eligibility when they're already finished with their degree just because they schedule their dissertation defense in the fall), but, those cases excepted, I'm not sure grad students have a massive advantage. Sure, they start with more knowledge than UG players, but UG players are better positioned to make massive improvements.

I also find it odd that this thread was made by someone who isn't even in college! With only a year of studying, I went from an okay (but nowhere near the best!) HS generalist to having a pretty solid ACF Nats my freshman year. It's definitely doable, but it requires hard work, and learning new studying techniques beyond those needed to master the HS game.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Mike Bentley »

Sima Guang Hater wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 1:41 pmThe other reason suggested is that graduate students stifle the growth of the game by playing for years and beating up on younger teams. I will get this out of the way first - this is a cognitive distortion, and is ultimately not true. Some of greatest players of our age got to where they are within the four-year span of an undergraduate degree. Not to mention that grad students regularly lose to high school juniors who play up (which similar levels of anecdotal evidence tells me is bad for college retention and has been posted about repeatedly - who wants to start quizbowl as a college freshman and lose to high schoolers?). If grad students didn't play, people would instead complain about high school superstars dominating the game. However, the fact that this perception exists is a problem, even if these people would get thrashed by Matt Bollinger instead of me anyway if I weren't allowed to play.
I think there are good structural arguments to having grad students continue to be allowed to play college quizbowl (they keep the programs running), but I don't agree with the argument that because there are some good undergrads, people who have been playing college quizbowl for more than 4 years aren't dominating the upper echelons of the game. Of the top 7 teams in the preseason poll this year, all of of them have at least one top scorer who is a grad student (although I could be wrong about Maryland, I forget who is a grad student on that team). Removing grad students from these teams would unquestionably make them worse teams.

Yes, Jordan and Matt Bollinger dominated the circuit and only played as undergrads. But I think if you went through the top 10 teams at ICT/ACF Nationals for the last 10 years you'd see that a huge portion of them had grad students (or people with unusually long undergrad careers) as the leading scorers on the teams.

That being said, I agree that people are always going to complain about things. Removing grad students likely would lead to complaints about the unfair advantages of high school superstars.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by csheep »

Sima Guang Hater wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 1:41 pm

The other reason suggested is that graduate students stifle the growth of the game by playing for years and beating up on younger teams. I will get this out of the way first - this is a cognitive distortion, and is ultimately not true. Some of greatest players of our age got to where they are within the four-year span of an undergraduate degree. Not to mention that grad students regularly lose to high school juniors who play up (which similar levels of anecdotal evidence tells me is bad for college retention and has been posted about repeatedly - who wants to start quizbowl as a college freshman and lose to high schoolers?). If grad students didn't play, people would instead complain about high school superstars dominating the game. However, the fact that this perception exists is a problem, even if these people would get thrashed by Matt Bollinger instead of me anyway if I weren't allowed to play.
I'm not sure if there's enough evidence to categorically make this statement. The existence of a some exceptional undergrads doesn't conclusively prove anything. In fact, for the purposes of this conversation, the "outliers" are even less relevant, considering we're explicitly looking for ways to get broader engagement and retention.

From a perception perspective, people generally feel better about getting thrashed by their "equals" than by people with a perceived advantage - whether real or not (and it could very well be real).
Last edited by csheep on Sat Mar 14, 2020 3:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by heterodyne »

csheep wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 3:53 pm From a perception perspective, people generally feel better about getting thrashed by their "equals" than by people with a perceived advantage - whether real or not (and it could very well be real).
Is this true? I have always felt better about losing to people with more experience than me, because there is then no good reason I can't catch up to them with more experience.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by csheep »

heterodyne wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 4:50 pm
csheep wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 3:53 pm From a perception perspective, people generally feel better about getting thrashed by their "equals" than by people with a perceived advantage - whether real or not (and it could very well be real).
Is this true? I have always felt better about losing to people with more experience than me, because there is then no good reason I can't catch up to them with more experience.
Obviously personal perspectives will vary, I'm sure plenty of people feel similarly as you.

I think there is also a large amount of people who don't necessarily plan on going to grad school, however, so they might feel like they'll never be on a "level" playing field as they'll never get to be that person with 10 years of experience. Not sure if there's any way to address this but I think it could explain some of the frustration.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Carlos Be »

heterodyne wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 4:50 pm
csheep wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 3:53 pm From a perception perspective, people generally feel better about getting thrashed by their "equals" than by people with a perceived advantage - whether real or not (and it could very well be real).
Is this true? I have always felt better about losing to people with more experience than me, because there is then no good reason I can't catch up to them with more experience.
If you're not going to go to grad school or you're not able to play in grad school, then you won't have time to accrue anywhere near the experience with collegiate quiz bowl that hyper-experienced players have.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Illinois Admin »

justinfrench1728 wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 6:37 pm
heterodyne wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 4:50 pm
csheep wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 3:53 pm From a perception perspective, people generally feel better about getting thrashed by their "equals" than by people with a perceived advantage - whether real or not (and it could very well be real).
Is this true? I have always felt better about losing to people with more experience than me, because there is then no good reason I can't catch up to them with more experience.
If you're not going to go to grad school or you're not able to play in grad school, then you won't have time to accrue anywhere near the experience with collegiate quiz bowl that hyper-experienced players have.
Ok, and? If I am an undergrad playing in a chess tournament, I wouldn't be humored if I complained that my opponent was an older grad student, who had more time to learn and practice and accumulate skill in the game. And if I said that it wasn't fair because I did not plan to go to grad school so I would never be able to catch up to my opponent, I would be laughed out of the room.

For reference, college chess championships allow undergrads to play until they are 26 and grad students to play until they are 30. This is a bit more limited than quiz bowl but how many people are actually older than 26 and an undergrad or older than 30 and a grad student and still playing? Very few, and removing that small handful of players would not fundamentally change the nature or dynamics of the game.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by ValenciaQBowl »

This has been an interesting discussion. I wonder if a possible palliative to the concerns about graduate students beating on UG players (regardless of whether one thinks this is really an issue or not) would be for NAQT to cap the number of years one can play ICT. For instance, a cap of five or six ICTs might remove some of the top-tier grad players and lessen the idea that grizzled old-timers dominate the competition. In such a scenario, ACF Nats could stay ass-hard and still be played by those in their 6th or later competition years who want to keep playing, allowing the ICT to be a somewhat-more UG-focused alternative, with the difficulty in D1 ratched down a little.

Just spitballin' here: I can see many issues with such a proposal, but it could be interesting to have the two college nationals be differentiated a bit more than they currently are.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by matthewspatrick »

ValenciaQBowl wrote: Sun Mar 15, 2020 10:20 am This has been an interesting discussion. I wonder if a possible palliative to the concerns about graduate students beating on UG players (regardless of whether one thinks this is really an issue or not) would be for NAQT to cap the number of years one can play ICT. For instance, a cap of five or six ICTs might remove some of the top-tier grad players and lessen the idea that grizzled old-timers dominate the competition. In such a scenario, ACF Nats could stay ass-hard and still be played by those in their 6th or later competition years who want to keep playing, allowing the ICT to be a somewhat-more UG-focused alternative, with the difficulty in D1 ratched down a little.

Just spitballin' here: I can see many issues with such a proposal, but it could be interesting to have the two college nationals be differentiated a bit more than they currently are.
Just as a point of reference, when I started playing in college, the CBI team composition rule was:
  • Roster for regionals and nationals could have a max of five players (four in any given match)
  • Of those five, no more than two could be grad students (defined as "already have a bachelors"); this was reduced to one during my career
  • Any given person had a max of five years eligibility; you consumed a year by appearing on a regionals or nationals roster
I'm not advocating any of these, just pointing out what used to be the rule in the early 90s for a major quizzing organization.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by The_Impaler_ »

vathreya wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:23 pm I don't think the claims are necessarily contradictory; rather, what I find contradictory is the way we apply this in outreach efforts. From what I've seen (my experience is obviously limited), a lot of college quiz bowl clubs portray themselves to be relatively laid-back in order to increase outreach efforts, and then let the stark reality of quiz bowl hit once players play their first tournament(s). This is compounded by the fact that we try to recruit people who are "vaguely interested in trivia."
I don't mean to detract from the discussion about college nationals, but Vikshar raises a good point here, and I think it deserves more discussion.

I am in agreement that the first tournament a new quizbowl player plays is more intense than they are led to believe. This is far from ideal. However, many freshmen are not familiar with quizbowl. When our quizbowl club sets up a booth at our school's extracurricular fair, saying something along the lines of “Do you like trivia? Quizbowl is like Jeopardy!” is a good way to get newcomers interested in quizbowl and to get them to show up a practice, where they can see if they like quizbowl. Yes, this does set novices up for a surprise, but it also gets more people in the door who may not have otherwise been aware of college quizbowl.

This laid-back pitch is more targeted to people who are vaguely interested in trivia. Generally, people who played quizbowl in high school have an idea of what to expect and tend to seek out quizbowl more than the "trivia demographic". I don't think that quizbowl clubs should avoid recruiting people who are vaguely interested in trivia, even though there is a lower probability that this group will stick around. Even if only one or two people from this demographic continue with quizbowl, they still add value to a quizbowl program, and the individuals get something out of quizbowl, mainly a new social group and knowledge of interesting occurrences.

If anyone has an alternative to the "laid-back" pitch, I would like to hear it. I am of agreement that it is not an optimal pitch, but, in my opinion, it is also the best pitch for freshmen who have not played quizbowl.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Cheynem »

My general approach would be basically try and get people to see if they like the game as soon as possible, which means that no matter how you present the game, the proof is in the pudding--do they like playing? They may hate it, they may like it, or they may be unsure. Obviously getting people to a first tournament (especially if the tournament is far away) as a test doesn't always work, which is why I'd suggest making sure practices give a good impression of what the game is like as soon as possible. In my opinion, you can tell if you REALLY hate the game by just playing anything as simple as like a high school packet. If the question is more like difficulty or subject matter, we can tell if we read more college or harder level packets. But the key is you want people to have a good sense of what the packets/questions are like before playing a tournament.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Sam »

Re: grad students playing -- Some of the concerns about unfairness seem to be that people who are more experienced tend to be better and that experience is something that can be acquired passively, just by showing up. I think the first point is undeniable: all else equal, someone who has played twenty games will be better than someone who has played five. The second point I think is question begging: conditional on going to a lot of tournaments, and writing many questions, and also actually listening to the clues*, maybe it's passive. That's conditioning on quite a lot, though. (I think Caleb's also correct that each additional year in grad school is worth much, much less than each additional year of undergrad--beyond the natural diminishing returns, there's less time and classes are less likely to be helpful in learning a greater breadth of material.)

All that being said, novice tournaments are a thing, so it's not as if it's unprecedented for games to be segregated by experience. My understanding was that was always partly due to there being a steep initial learning curve just in how to play the game, that leveled off pretty quickly. But maybe that's incorrect.

Re: Nationals being too difficult -- Nationals should probably be easier. I think this is something editors of recent Nationals, like Auroni, have been cognizant of and are always trying to improve. I do not think the primary reason for making Nationals easier is retention, nor do I think the primary way to improve retention is by making the national tournaments easier. Discussions around retention in general always seem to get stuck on the problem of people who are not retained not being here to explain why. I wonder if sending end-of-year surveys on clubs' listservs would help get around this problem. It's still not perfect, but I would guess there are a lot of people who have no plans to continue playing but haven't bothered taking their names off the list.



* About a week ago I started reading a book on early 19th century Chinese history and was sort of embarrassed to learn that that was when the White Lotus Rebellion occurred (late 18th/early 19th, more precisely). This is something I've heard in questions for probably over ten years now, and that seems to be an important part of Chinese history, and which before last week I would not have been able to accurately date within 400 years. The point--well, the main point may be I'm an idiot, I don't want to rule that out--but the at very least secondary point is there's a limit to just being in the room while questions are read and that kicks in pretty fast.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Carlos Be »

Sima Guang Hater wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 1:41 pm Some of greatest players of our age got to where they are within the four-year span of an undergraduate degree.
I counted the number of players marked UG, DII, or equivalent in the top 10 prelim scorers of several ACF Nationals.

2012 ACF Nats: 6 UG
2013 ACF Nats: 7 UG
2014 ACF Nats: 5 UG
2015 ACF Nats: 5 UG
2016 ACF Nats: 8 UG
2017 ACF Nats: 4 UG
2018 ACF Nats: 3 UG
2019 ACF Nats: 3 UG

If 2020 Nats were to happen, none of the 3 UGs in the top 10 last year would be playing, while every graduate student except Derek So would have returned. Combined with the return of several grad students, it is entirely possible that there would have been no undergraduates among the top 10 scorers of ACF Nats. On the other hand, it is certainly possible that, say, Matt Lehmann or Rahul Keyal would have made the top 10. I think less than three UG top scorers in 2020 is a fair estimate, maybe three, but certainly not more than three.

Based on these numbers, it is apparent that Dr. Dr. is at least partially correct. Undergraduates were represented, even dominant, from 2012 to 2016. However, during 2016 and 2017, the elite UGs graduated. Many continued on to grad school. So, the dominant undergraduates Dr. Dr. cited continue to dominate today, as graduates.

You could argue that this dominance doesn't have any negative effects, or that any effort to curb this dominance would cause more harm than benefit. But Dr. Dr.'s argument that there is no graduate dominance of quizbowl is, in his own words, a "cognitive distortion."
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Zealots of Stockholm »

Carlos Be wrote: Sat Mar 21, 2020 7:57 pm
Sima Guang Hater wrote: Sat Mar 14, 2020 1:41 pm Some of greatest players of our age got to where they are within the four-year span of an undergraduate degree.
I counted the number of players marked UG, DII, or equivalent in the top 10 prelim scorers of several ACF Nationals.
Ah yes, the best method for determining who the best players are: PPG.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

I don't think it's worth arguing that graduate students are not some of the best players in the game, for expectable reasons - experience and studying accumulated over the years makes them consistently valuable contributors, and as long as they keep up their game, they can continue to rely on knowledge they've accumulated over the years even if they don't study more.

For me, this makes college quizbowl a lot more like the NBA, with high school quizbowl being something akin to college basketball. The NBA is much, much more challenging, and you have players with a wider range of experience. I find this to be a feature of the college game, not a bug. It's enjoyable to interact with people from a wide range of backgrounds and who bring academic and personal experience to the game that are, no offense, much deeper and wider than a lot of what you'd get in high school. Maybe it's "weird" in the modern age to interact with people who are of a different age group than you, but come on, college students are legal adults! College is exactly the time where younger people should be interacting with people with a deeper and wider range of experiences, and the nature of quizbowl means it can be a very good environment for this when done right.

There's an overwhelming community consensus that tournaments should probably be easier - with an unfortunate deficit in successful implementations of this goal, though the circuit's median tournament difficulty is lower than when I started due to the proliferation of EFT-like events, something which I think most people would like to see continue. This will certainly, however, not solve the "grad student problem" that people continue to talk about. Which brings me to ask, if we make tournaments a more appropriate difficulty, why exactly are grad students the problem other than that they are good at the game?

It doesn't seem like a strawman to me to suggest that one vision being articulated here by a lot of the anti-grad student crowd is making every single tournament above EFT a bunch easier, kicking all the grad students out, and hoping that a bunch of stronger high school players sign on and can replicate their dominance at lower levels, without having to put in as much time for improvement. In otherwords, "shut up, take your opens, and be happy." Obviously, I resent this vision and think it will make for a less diverse community, with fewer streams of knowledge pouring into the question pool and the people best able to provide these sorts of knowledge relegated to the sidelines. It's also impossible to implement for obvious institutional reasons - the people who do the most work to support this game outside of the roles of club logistics are largely older players and their friends, and they'll obviously fight to continue their own inclusion, and when the argument boils down to "these players are too good" then frankly it does look like you don't want to lose.

I'd thus strongly suggest taking this discussion down a different path other than the quizbowl analogy of class warfare. What useful heuristics can be deployed to make tournaments easier?

One thing I might suggest is adjusting attitudes with regards to what's "been done" - a lot of older players had their attitudes formed in the 2010-14 era when quizbowl was weaning itself off of some bad trends in many topic areas. That shouldn't mean that everything which is "old-style" or came up a lot in some of those tournaments should be out of bounds, or that some topic that was "done" in 2013-14 can't be done again. If these are all avoided as some sort of reflex, I think it can definitely drive a continuous pursuit of novel material into the realm of excessively difficult.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Wartortullian »

naan/steak-holding toll wrote: Sun Mar 22, 2020 8:39 am For me, this makes college quizbowl a lot more like the NBA, with high school quizbowl being something akin to college basketball. The NBA is much, much more challenging, and you have players with a wider range of experience. I find this to be a feature of the college game, not a bug. It's enjoyable to interact with people from a wide range of backgrounds and who bring academic and personal experience to the game that are, no offense, much deeper and wider than a lot of what you'd get in high school. Maybe it's "weird" in the modern age to interact with people who are of a different age group than you, but come on, college students are legal adults! College is exactly the time where younger people should be interacting with people with a deeper and wider range of experiences, and the nature of quizbowl means it can be a very good environment for this when done right.
I've been trying to find a way to articulate this exact sentiment, and Will said it much better than I could. Even though I loved quizbowl in high school, I feel like I've gotten orders of magnitude more out of college quizbowl, in terms of both social and intellectual development. In my opinion, the presence of grad students in the game has contributed to that in a significant way. Being in a community with people who are experts in dozens of different fields is pretty exhilarating, and I'd hate to throw that away in the name of accessibility. I say this as someone who's pretty bad at higher difficulties outside of like 2/2.

Now admittedly, I've never been on a top-tier team at either level (though this will change in grad school), so I recognize that I have trouble empathizing with high school superstars who feel daunted by the prospect of climbing the ladder again. That said, I view both the wider scope and longer eligibility period of the college game as positive aspects. College quizbowl feels less like a sprint to cover a limited canon with as few gaps as possible, and more like a long journey into the furthest realms of human knowledge, guided only by textbooks, lecture notes, and the question output of players who've come before you. In fact, if college quizbowl peaked at regionals difficulty and only lasted for 4 years, I'd be much less motivated to play. Being able to participate in this thing, this celebration of knowledge, is a gift. Winning is certainly fun, but I'm mostly here for the new book recommendations, for the leadins from papers I've stumbled across, and for the wild question ideas that ever-so-slightly change the way I see a field.

Every so often, after putting up a crappy statline at a hard tournament, I start to ask myself "how...how I could ever devote so much of my life to this game?" But then I look over the packets. I think of all the people I saw get insane buzzes on something related to their thesis. I shove a cool-sounding leadin into Wikipedia, and I'm compelled to ask myself, "how could I not?"
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Shahar S. »

I think the discussion here wouldn't be as one sided if we had a few more current high school players contributing to the conversation. The transition between high school and college QB right now is absolutely brutal. I don't think there's an issue with that. High level college players deserve a competition that will provide a challenge for them. Where my issue comes from is that the chance to play sets between the hardest sets a high school player could compete on and the vast majority of college sets is functionally non-existent. Some might use ACF Fall as an example, but good HS players are often discouraged from playing that anyway. Even then it leans too far towards HS difficulty to really be considered a "transitional" set. Others in this thread have used EFT as an example of a set that has a good balance between accessible and challenging content, and I would agree with that. The problem is that EFT is the only set that consistently hits that balance. Even this year's ACF Regionals, which in the eyes of most high school players represents the middle point of difficulty in the college canon, would be considered ludicrously hard by any current high school player. Imagine being a high school player, even a really good high school player, and trying to play ACF Regionals, and then realizing that doing well on that monstrosity is only half the journey. Forget ACF Nats or D1 ICT, even getting to middle ground is a near impossible task nowadays. I’m sure I could eventually get to the level I was at in high school if I had, say, 6 years to study up, but right now I don’t see a clear path, and a big part of that is because there don’t seem to be any intermediate steps.
In response to many people saying it should still be possible to get into the game in college, from an outsider's perspective, it really doesn’t seem like there are a whole lot of successful players who started playing in college over the past few years. Nearly every strong undergraduate in the game right now that I can think of got that way because they had a head start in high school. What’s being done about that? If you all are concerned so much with regards to recruiting new players from college, the argument of having easier competitions available should extend to them too, not just existing high school players.
Finally, and this is the most personal point I can make, you’re going to have a lot of players from this graduating year specifically that didn’t get a proper HSNCT OR PACE experience before moving onto college. Both times I’ve gone to nationals have been transformative experiences for me. I got to see incredible players at the top of their game at PACE 2018 and I started feeling like I could actually reach their level at HSNCT 2019. Both for me, and for my entire graduating class, the feeling of reaching the peak of the mountain is probably going to be demolished. The only thing to do for us now is to look forward, but all were met with is a climb with no end in sight. All the while, we’re playing against impossibly strong players who we’re going to have to keep getting destroyed by for longer than we’ve played that game now. And even then, we have to carry this fear that even if we work our asses off for the entire time we’re in college, that work might all get destroyed again for some other reason we can’t see now. The only way to mitigate that is to give us something tangible we can aim for right out of high school. Ideally that’s a separate championship that doesn’t feel like it’ll take 5 years to be competitive at.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by vinteuil »

Shahar S. wrote: Sun Mar 22, 2020 5:58 pmOthers in this thread have used EFT as an example of a set that has a good balance between accessible and challenging content, and I would agree with that. The problem is that EFT is the only set that consistently hits that balance.
This year alone, LIT and MWT were both also at this difficulty, not to mention DII NAQT sets. It's now the norm that at least two and usually three sets will be at this difficulty (and I think that's a good thing).

As for all good players getting a "head start" in high school—look at the undergraduate performances of Eric Mukherjee, John Lawrence, and Jordan Brownstein, not to mention people we've already heard from in this thread, e.g. JinAh.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

vinteuil wrote: Sun Mar 22, 2020 6:04 pm
Shahar S. wrote: Sun Mar 22, 2020 5:58 pmOthers in this thread have used EFT as an example of a set that has a good balance between accessible and challenging content, and I would agree with that. The problem is that EFT is the only set that consistently hits that balance.
This year alone, LIT and MWT were both also at this difficulty, not to mention DII NAQT sets. It's now the norm that at least two and usually three sets will be at this difficulty (and I think that's a good thing).

As for all good players getting a "head start" in high school—look at the undergraduate performances of Eric Mukherjee, John Lawrence, and Jordan Brownstein, not to mention people we've already heard from in this thread, e.g. JinAh.
Haven't played LIT but I'd certainly say that MWT was harder than EFT.
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