Monday, 6 September 2010

Thoughts on Sportsmanship.

Well, Stelek has put up some very interesting ideas on the subject, and in turn Mkerr has put up some very interesting suggestions for an alternate system. StJohn70 is working on his own set of ideas, and no doubt it is in the minds of all TOs quite frequently - How can we make Sportsmanship relevant?

Wow! Hold on there TKE.  Bit extreme?  I mean, surely, most TOs see it as already relevant, what they are after is some way to make it a real ball-breaker if you're a BAD sportsman, and yet make it rewarding to be a GOOD one?

Well, a lot of people would say that.  But I disagree.

Now, 79% of the respondents at Adepticon said that they agreed "Sportsmanship Scoring" should be included at most 40k events (thanks to Matthias for the figures!) - This is a HUGE section of the Community.  Yes, the majority of players polled may lean more towards the 'casual' end of the spectrum, but does that matter? Realistically, it's these players that we have always catered to more than others, but isn't this at least partly because Competitive-leaning players are more interested in on-table than off-table?  Speaking for myself, I am not rude or unsociable in games, though I'm not always going to become your best friend either...does this meet the definition of Sportsmanship these respondents imagine?  Well, we would need to ask their opinion on that - and that is simply too large an undertaking for my blog, and impossible for any larger blog - too much confirmation bias, methinks.

Could a blog network do it?  Well, no, not really.  BoLS Alliance is tied to BoLS, and at risk of the same confirmation bias.  FTW, great as it is, is MUCH more 'Hobbyist' than 'Competitor' focused (whatever THAT means) and would never see balance either.  Heresy Online?   Much better balance of potential people, but is it large enough without falling back on the Forum? House of Paincakes?  No - too fledgling, and not big enough.  Librarium Online?  Well, I admit not knowing too much about their network - but I spend a lot of time on the blogosphere, and don't know much about it, so...odds are it wouldn't generate enough 'buzz' to get a decent number of respondents.  Frankly, I don't see any realistic way to do it, especially given exit polls at events are as unreliable as election exit polls, at best - and because people often attend multiple events and therefore can vote multiple times.

Without a universal standard to fall back on then, how can we best define what is, and is not 'Sportsmanship'?

I think the best way is the simplest - 'Not Being A Dick.'

Not cheating, not moaning about the opponent, their playstyle, their list or bemoaning your luck in a bad-natured way, as though it were somehow the opponent's fault.  If you don't do those things, I'll probably get along with you, and, where relevant, tick the 'would play again' box.  If you're a shit player (like, really shit, like, playing you is neither any form of challenge or fun) then I probably won't...but that won't be because of your sportsmanship.  Really, probably the biggest compliment is that you WANT to play someone again, you want to, simply, spend more time in their company, over a shared interest.

Now that that digression is largely settled...

These figures are all very well, and very interesting in telling us what the people THINK they want, but, as we've seen many times before, people don't always want what they think they want (and don't even always know what that is!)

Going by the information provided*  by MKerr regarding WargamesCon 2010 - "Players in the top 10 averaged a 7.0 Sportsmanship score for the entire event (out of a maximum of 8). The average for every player was 7.2."

We find from this that the Sportsmanship score actually had virtually no bearing on the results.  Sure, the range isn't fully explored here, and 31% of statistics can be used to prove 10% of 'facts' 93% of the time, BUT - the implication is very clear - either the people who Sportsmanship Scores are here to harm don't go to tournaments, or they just aren't that common after all.  Either way, what's the relevance of the score?

If people want this entirely subjective facet of life (not the Hobby, please...Not Being A Dick is nothing to do with GW or 40k, it is a basic requirement of civilized society) to be scored in their events (as, apparently, they do) then there has to be some sort of way for this to make sense - some way for the score to MEAN something, as it seems not to have at WarGamesCon.  Before we go any further - this isn't in any way an attack on the people who voted, attended, ran, worked at/on, or had wet dreams about either of these events.  Well, maybe the latter.  That should be clear, but this is the internet - putting the mis in misunderstanding, since 1993.

Moving on...

The NOVA Open used a different method again.  This time, you were to score each of your opponents, depending on how much you enjoyed the game, from most to least.  There was not any implication that 'least' meant you didn't enjoy the game, but, sadly, that's the way the human brain works.  For some reason, we always associate 'liked least' with 'didn't like' - and so this system seems to have been fairly misunderstood. I don't think this is Mike's fault, but it doesn't matter, really.  If people don't properly understand the system, then they won't implement it properly - if they don't do this, then it is failing to do its job, to an extent.

Stelek's system suffers from a similar flaw.  Again, I get the system fine (or so I think), but for clarity - correct me if I'm wrong Stelek - everyone gets one 'White Pearl' they MUST award, to a Day 1 opponent, for the 'Best Sport' they played that day.  (Yes, I can see this often going to the last guy as the most fresh in their mind.  If everyone does this, no foul, but BIG problem...) Everyone also gets one 'Black Pearl' that they MAY award to a 'Bad Sport' they faced.  It is by no means compulsory, but that doesn't mean there might not be a perception that they should use it (also on Day 1)

Is it even necessary though?

Do we need ANY sort of Sportsmanship Scoring system?

My own experience of GW events tells me that it doesn't even matter.  Cheaters gonna cheat, and likely do it in ways that don't get noticed by their opponents, because they aren't familiar enough to recognise it as cheating - or perhaps the cheaters are buddies with the TO...maybe even GW STAFF who are off that weekend.  Jerks are going to be jerks whatever 'system' is in place to try and remove them from games/events, and no amount of bans is likely to change that.  Chipmunkers will still exist, in traditional 1-10 points systems without checklists, and I've never seen a remotely decent checklist, excepting one a while ago by the Hod that approached fine, but really still left something to be desired (as I recall...) - Checklists are too rigid, pure subjectivity to prone to bias, chipmunking, social engineering and other 'gaming the system' techniques.  IF we are to grade Sportsmanship, surely it needs to be in as unobtrusive a way as possible, as irrelevant to anything else?

If, in a NOVA system, two players had equal Battle Scores and equal Paint Scores (somehow) then winning Renaissance Man through Sportsmanship is, essentially, Mike turning round and saying "Hey, well, unlucky there man, you equalled this other dude's Paint and Battle scores, but, essentially - he's a better human being than you, and so, he gets the prize.  Sorry about that." [Note to self, examples are more real with names...]

It doesn't matter if that's the truth (better person part) because that is what that boils down to - and it's not any different for other events, except that NOVA puts far more emphasis on the non-gaming aspects of the Hobby than any other event I am aware of, and as the shining beacon for non-Competitive access to Vegas (yeeeow!) it is the standard bearer (or should be!) for the proud Hobbyist wanting a chance at a big prize - and being a 'better person' or simply 'more popular' is NOT my idea of a good way to decide things.

To finish - I ask again, do we even NEED a Sportsmanship Score at all?  As a separate award, divorced from anything else, sure, it's nice to have I suppose - but, a really nice person would just refuse the prize, no? Well, that's a little tongue-in-cheek, but even so.  I shall finish with another statistic from Adepticon - when asked "I feel that cheating (rules abuse, abuse of soft scoring, weighted dice, etc) is rampant within the Warhammer 40K tournament community and something needs to be done to remedy it." a staggering 55% of respondents disagreed.  Remember, these are the same people who voted for the Sportsmanship Scoring to stay, in such great numbers.  You can argue that these are precisely the people who often don't know the rules inside-out, and so could be getting cheated all the time, by accident or design, and just don't know - but in an event which deems itself uncompetitive (unless I misunderstand [and 'event' as in the Team Tournament, as opposed to 'Event' like Adepticon itself] ) does this matter?  As long as they have fun?  If no-one knows (ie, no malice involved) then I would argue 'not necessarily', and possibly even a definitive 'no' on the issue.

I digressed (again) sorry.  The point is, the majority of these self-same people don't think that cheating is a big deal - why then, do THEY think we need Sportsmanship?  I would contest it may be just because they are used to it.  They are told they need it, and continue the cycle, like the Australians with Comp.  Like we Brits and playing 1500. (Silence Tasty!) I think the very question of whether or not it is a valuable, relevant part of our Hobby needs to be addressed - and, well.  It's for the TOs to determine how to continue with that information.


* - I don't think I actually got any info that made it into this article from the linked article.  However, this was a neat little article, and if the series were fleshed out would doubtless be a compelling read, for the statistically minded in particular.  The info was from Chainfist, though I don't recall exactly where (or maybe I preferred not to link the specific article...)
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