Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Picking Favorites - Sportsmanship @ the Open

Ah, sportsmanship.

A lovely subject, don't you think?

Last year, at our "biggest" tourney of the year (not too big, an outdoor affair), we went with a different approach to sportsmanship, and it's one that I think we'll echo this year at the Open so far - but I want some input.

First, I'm going to (again, hope they aren't thinkin' I'm picking on them) use Adepticon results (those that were available to collate) to highlight a GOOD example of "typical" sportsmanship playing out.

What Adepticon does, for those that don't know, is present a "list" for players to check through. In the case of the 40k championships, 12 questions about your opponent ranging from "were rules arguments resolved amicably" to "would you voluntarily play this person again?" You scored your opponent "1" point for each, to a max of 12 per round. If you finished the Championships with perfect sportsmanship, you scored a 36.

Let's take a look at the scoring spread for their various 40k events, utilizing that scoring format (I would have analyzed Fantasy too but their site didn't have the results independently viewable).

Combat Patrol - Friday (Max Score for Sports - 9)
59 participants (ringer musta played)
50 scores of "9" (Max)
5 scores of "8"
3 scores of "7"
1 score of "6"

We see that the "average" sports score, then, by far is the "max" ... you have no idea who the true best sportsman is, and they no doubt broke it by some arbitrary tiebreaker (in the case of Adepticon, presuming same as other tourneys, they broke it by giving it to the LOWEST battle point scorer). It's also clear who probably the worst sport is ... at least one of the two superlatives is highlighted, discouraging being a "bad" sport. Let's see if it's the same for the rest ...

Combat Patrol - Saturday
54 participants
52 scores of "9" (Max)
1 score of "8"
1 score of "7"
Yup, one arbitrary guy of the 52 gets best sportsmanship award

OK, but that's just combat patrol, what about the "big" events ...

40k Championships (Yellow Heat) - Sunday
109 scored participants (presume ringer played) ... max sports score of 36
72 scores of "36"
10 scores of "35"
9 scores of "34"
5 scores of "33"
3 scores of "32"
2 scores of "31"
1 score of "30"
1 score of "29"
1 score of "28"
1 score of "27"
4 scores of "24" (these could be terrible games, you got 0, or "score sheet not turned in properly, no idea obviously)

40k Championships (Blue Heat) - Sunday
110 participants, Max score of 36
85 scores of "36"
5 scores of "35"
4 scores of "34"
7 scores of "33"
2 scores of "32"
1 score of "28"
5 scores of "24"
1 score of "19"

So, with 219 players, 72% of them were tied for a prize and "best sport" ...

Now let's take a look at something really interesting ... the Team Tournament ... 110 teams, 440 players ... max score of 56

52 scores of "56"
20 scores of "55"
8 scores of "54"
4 scores of "53"
7 scores of "52"
4 scores of "51"
2 scores of "50"
5 scores of "49"
2 scores of "48"
3 scores of "45"
1 score of "44"
1 scores of "41"

So, results and interpretation ...
For combat patrol net ---> 90% tied for best sport
For 40k championships net ---> 72% tied for best sport
For Team Championships net ---> 47% tied for best sport

What can we glean from the Team Championship scores being more varied, and perhaps (arguably) more realistic? I'd like some folks to guess, b/c I just have a theory. My theory is that sportsmanship via a checklist done in front of your opponent is a PRESSURE GAME. When it's just one on one, you're far more likely to give max sports to AVOID CONFLICT. When you're with a full team of your friends, however ... strength in number. There's far less pressure to give an opposing team "max score," b/c conflict is actually less likely when you have friends around (or the fear of conflict, rather).

That's a side note, though, the team vs. singles score phenom ... and not relevant to what we do.

What I think happens in this scoring system is not a bad thing, but it turns Sportsmanship into a consolation prize very often. Almost everyone (or at least a significant majority) is going to get max sports, and so you give to the person(s) with the lowest battle points. Yay, you get a prize, you nice people you! Especially in a major GT where you have to explain the tiebreaking and scoring procedures, this can actually be more than a little insulting.

So what do we do?
Well, at the end of the day, we have you rate your opponents. Yup - that's right. You'll each get a sheet that has your 4 opponents listed on them, plus a note about the codex / army they played as a reminder. You'll have to rate them, 1-4, 1 being the highest, 4 being the lowest.

NOT EVERYBODY LIKES HAVING TO RATE SOMEONE A 4! That's ok ... you're not rating someone "worst" and someone else "best." Well, you're rating someone most fun, and the other people "almost but not quite AS fun." You can shake it however you want, what happens is this in practice:
The "Median" becomes a middling number, where your average score was 2.5 if you're in the middle of the pack - a good, decent human being who was sporting and enjoyable enough to play with. This shunts those GIANT number accumulations to the MIDDLE of the scoreboard, and makes the people who get all or almost all 1's a much smaller population total, and a truly "class act" bunch of folks. It's also a smaller crop to have to filter out ... if you're lucky as a TO, it's a REALLY small crop (as little as "1" person to get all 1's).

Similarly, this helps you identify the problem folks to backtrack and record on in the future. In the 40k championship games above, I can guarantee you they weren't all fun. I know we scored some opponents with most of their points who were total jackasses in one team round ... downright dicks. Maybe they thought the same of us too, but we all got max points - I know, I saw both score sheets. In the rate-your-opponents format, where one person has to get a "1," one gets a 2, one gets a 3, one gets a 4, and they can't all get "max," the jackasses filter to the bottom too, instead of using peer pressure or other "sportsmanship gaming" tactics to keep themselves at max points.

AND HEY, at the NOVA Open we don't connect sports to competitiveness, so they have a right to be sporting, fair, non-cheating players ... but they're not required to make a "sappy sweet" game of sportsmanship. Again, separate but equal - the people who ACTUALLY are good people get the right and recognition of competing for best sportsmanship, and the people who aren't, aren't as pressured to do MORE than "play fair, don't cheat, respect your opponent."

Remember, at ANY tournament ... terrible sportsmanship is noticed, punished, and managed, regardless of a "sportsmanship" score.

Ya'll's feedback?
- Mike


  1. I like the idea of rating the opponents at the very end. While standing across the table from some one you are less likely to rate them lower when there's a chance they could sneak a peak at your sheet, not like what they see, and then alter your sporstmanship score.

    What happened to the idea of rating your opponents on a scale of 1-100? The odds of having multiple people with the same score are pretty low. Just a thought.

  2. I'd actually like to seperate it.... I know, I know, bear with me.

    One award, Favorite opponent. Everyone picks their favorite opponent of the event. Not sure how you'd score this...

    However you retain the sportsmanship scores for the overall. Pretty much out of say 50 points possible most people will get all 50, it's the 'was this person playable against' questions. The only thing this will do is hurt you. It's the base line. You've got to mess up to get less than a 50. Because of that, everyone is on the same playing field.

    Get what I'm trying to get at?


  3. You're suggesting that keeping sportsmanship as a component of record keeps people de-tarded.

  4. I remember hearing about this system after the outdoor tournament, and thought it sounded very clever.

    I also remember there being some bellyaching about it, but I can't remember what exactly the complaints were and I'm somewhat certain it came from folks who are ideologically opposed to sportsmanship scoring, so it probably doesn't matter.

  5. I know that Bill Anderson didn't like having to rate someone the "worst" haha, b/c he enjoyed all of his opponents.

    That's the only bellyaching I heard ... there may also have been some from people who didn't like that the median score became more like a 50-60% instead of a 100%.

  6. I will step up to that, I had 4 great opponents at the outdoor tournament. It was very tough for me to differentiate between the 4 so I ended up with 2 feelings on my ratings....
    1st, I felt like I was picking a "worst of 4 good games" for my #4
    2nd, I felt that my scoring was fairly arbitrary, which was a bit unfair to whoever got the 1 vs the 4.

    Outside that, I do understand the scoring method and like the idea over the checklist. As I mentioned, Mike, I am not necessarily knocking the scoring system because I do not hav a good alternate solution. I almost want to suggest a combination of this along with the "check-list", but I am unsure that is an elegant solution.

  7. I don't really think having large numbers of people tied for "best sportsmanship" is a problem. In my mind, Sportsmanship should generally be a "neutral" batch of points, one that you can assume you will get unless you do something wrong. Any deductions below that should be because you behaved poorly in some way. While 40K is certainly a social game, I'm not interested in playing it as a popularity contest or a "who is your most favorite gamer" event. Provided a player behaves amicably, follows the rules, and plays with good speed and good faith, I see no reason they shouldn't score max for sportsmanship.

    To be honest, I am not a fan of sportsmanship scores at all, but in lieu of the teams of judges most other tournament games (Magic, etc) use, I think they make an acceptable proxy. They do, however, lend themselves fairly easily to abuse, especially as the size of the event grows and familiarity of the players shrinks- hoping to win the tourney? Dock everyone you play a couple points and you up your chances of coming out on top. I would even expect that, in most cases, the effect is not conscious, but human bias makes it easy to say "well, that guy was a little bit rude sometimes and I didn't like the way he moved his models" when we've just lost a game or otherwise done poorly.

  8. You know that adepticon had the same system and scrapped it only because of the logistics of it. So this isn't earth shattering (not that you are claiming to be the originator of the idea or anything).

    I think this is a pretty good system and it works great for the 10-20 ish person RTT that has a good TO at the helm. But a big event? You'll need to have a pretty good system, with a database editable by multiple people (a simple excel sheet is not gonna cut it) and staff to do it well and accurate and timely when there's 200 attendees. Might be reasonable to do excel style when there 64 though, still gonna be tricky.