Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nuance - Competitive vs. Competitively Evaluative

There's a lot of talk across the internet about "true" competitive tournaments, and hobby/non-competitive/casual tournaments.

I don't personally like the distinction, and I don't think most tournament organizers being branded as "hobby" really like the distinction either.

There IS a distinction between tournaments, and the formats they use ... but "competitive" has nothing to do with the format ... that's entirely to do with the players there and whether the event includes more COMPETITIVE matches than not.

Remember, if you have a T-Ball game where both teams are equally matched (or close), the game will be competitive.  Hell, it's even simpler than that - as long as the game is head-to-head in some capacity and has rules and mechanisms for determining a winner and loser, it's ... COMPETITIVE.  This doesn't mean everyone will compete at the same level who attends, or anything of the sort ... but let's not knock events in the wrong way.

Herein lies the rub - not whether an event is competitive, but whether an event's RESULTS are believable  Whether they will be perceived as accurate by the wider viewing audience.

There are a lot of things that go into this ... the first group you MUST respect are your attendees - do the people that paid money and came out feel like the final results were justified?  After that, the wider viewing and listening audience of possible attendees, naysayers, curious web-browsers, etc.

I'd like to take advantage of the much-maligned (wrongly) subject of Adepticon ... and compare last year's 40k Championships to this coming year's.

Last year I attended, faced 3 TOUGH tough lists and opponents, and won all 3 games in close fashion.  No easy wins, VERY competitive for me.  At the end of the day, I placed top 10 I think out of 240 ... but at 3-0 watched someone else go up and claim the prize, someone who had - for better or worse - had an on-paper easier time getting to that same record (and had scored more battle points along the way).  I also tied with said person on the 40k Quiz, the only 2 of us tied at that score; regardless, he snagged that prize too ... battle points used to tiebreak, perhaps.  Tied for max sports, but the sports went to the lowest BP.  That one, whatever.

Was this event competitive?  HELL YES!  Was it fun?  HELL  YES!  Was it competitively EVALUATIVE?  Well, no.  The only way to really evaluate the "best" competitor for the event would have been to take all the 3-0's and pare them down to a single winner.  You alternately could have pared it down to a smaller number; there were as many as 30+ people who had not lost yet (hard to guesstimate, since draws were possible, and it used p/s/t).

So, what is Adepticon doing this year?  Well, 8 rounds for up to 256 players.  Mathematically, the 16 who advance to the final day will by means include no one with a loss (it's possible there'll be multiple players with draws in the crowd, if there's a metric crapton of draws over the course of the day, but even that is unlikely).  On the final day, 4 rounds of 16 will mean there's an invariable result of "one guy hasn't lost, and everyone else has lost at least once."  Will it be competitive?  Well, yes, and the competitiveness will depend not on the FORMAT, but on the CALIBER of players (at Adepticon, there's a whole boatload of "damned good" ... just too big a crowd NOT to be) ... Will it be fun?  I sure hope so ... that depends on the caliber of opponent (personality-wise), the organization of the event (likely to be good), and the format of the missions/scenarios (who knows yet).  Will it be competitively EVALUATIVE?  Absolutely.

I wonder why people are frustrated by this sometimes on the flipside - why they feel it is ok for "muddied" results.  Let's look at a painting competition ... there's ONE winner established for each category, no?  They are evaluated along an objective scale that each category entry is evaluated upon.  Wouldn't it be strange if they narrowed it down to the top 10 armies appearance-wise, and then randomly awarded best to one based upon how well its owner did in terms of battle points?

Think hard before you simply slap "it's not competitive" on a tournament.  That's far more intricate a thing than the format of it.  That said - challenge tournament organizers around the world to push their formats to a level where they fairly and observably EVALUATE the "superlatives" of an event - the renaissance man, the best general or tournament champion, the best painter, etc.


  1. I think this is a much more honest evaluation of the nature of these events than the typical 'hobby' vs. 'competitive' cry you usually hear. Some people only see competitive meaning player skill, when in reality all events are competitive by nature. You really cannot turn to the dictionary to define words like 'competitive' and 'tournament' when speaking about multifaceted wargaming events. In reality there are different levels/flavors of competitive play or definitions of 'tournament'. If players know what to expect, then they can make informed decisions. If their expectations are in control, then they are in control. Problems players simply do not have their expectations in check. The non-attending internet simply will have no need for expectations and will therefore only lobby for their predisposed viewpoint.

    In regards to AdeptiCon - we have ALWAYS been a Hobby Competition. I know some people want to drop that label on us as a veiled insult, but we fully embrace it. Traditionally AdeptiCon has always been, and always will be, a social event first. Secondly it is celebration of the hobby. Somewhere after that, and not necessarily third, comes the friendly competition aspect.

    In 2011, the goal is to have one solid competitive event that is evaluative of player skill (or at least light years beyond where we have traditionally been). Does that change the above priorities? Not at all. Does that mean we are no longer a Hobby Competition - absolutely not!

    If the goal of systems like the NOVA are to be inclusive all all player types...then any event using this system is a Hobby Competition too. It's perfectly feasible to have evaluative competition within a Hobby Competition.

    Good article Mike. Refreshing viewpoint in opposition to the typical beating of drums.

  2. You must understand the distinction between a competition and a contest. A competition determines the winner throught objective means. A classic example--a footrace: First across the finish line wins. There are no doubts about the winner. The same is true for other object based events. Hence the references to NOVA being competitive, because the gamer with the most victories, the undefeated guy, won. There is no argument about it. And the participants control their destiny.
    Painting contests are just that, a contest, in which judgement determines the winner, awards victory, gives first prize. Beauty pageants are contests. So are many Olympic events, or anything involving judges or an evaluation of the worthiness of the entrants. One can always argue and complain about Judge's Bias, politics etc. ad nauseum with a contest. You do not win a contest. You are awarded the victory. Your fate is not in your own hands.
    Any tournament that combines the two elements ceases to be competitive. Competition plus contest equals contest, not competition. With NOVA, you kept the elements separate, with the winner and the aces on the competitive side, and the Ren Man and painting awards on the contestative [word?] side. Gamers could chose their poison(s). This, I believe, is one reason for the happy feelings which NOVA participants had. And it is a good solution to the problem of rewarding good players and good hobbyists. It rewards both, sort of a separate AND equal approach.
    I should hope that other tournaments will recognize this distinction, and tailor their tournaments accordingly. Keep the contest out of the competition.
    Oh, and in response to a previous post, ( gonna say it is NSFW), http://www.coolminiornot.com/index/whatm/Wyrd/id/241104
    ¡Dios Mio Perdita, como te has vestido! ...Now, what were you saying about breasts? ;)

  3. Good post - I especially like the comparison to how painting is evaluated. I imagine there would be some guys up in arms if they lost painting because battle points knocked them down in the rankings. That's why (for me at least) having a single winner at the end of the day is so appealing.

    Oh and by the way - I took you up on your offer for assistance Mike but you never got back to me. I'm not trying to be a jerk or anything, I just shot you a couple of emails and never heard back so I'm trying this way to get your attention!

    Although I disagree with some of the ideas (some aspects of the invitational), your transparency and level of response all over the internet has been a great benefit to the hobby. Keep up the good work.


  4. Mike this reminds me of the college football BCS/playoff argument.

  5. +1 Mike. Well reasoned and it again seems to come down to different definitions for different camps.

    Really we just need a fire and some sing-a-longs.

  6. Mmmm. I'm not sure I really stand behind your definition of "competitive" here- was that particular game competitive for those particular players? Sure. But that's not the same as being competitive in the broader sense. One atom having a ton of kinetic energy does not make an object hot- you measure the average energy across the whole thing.

    But really, it's just a matter of degree of competitiveness. Even the softest, fluffiest events tend to have 30-50% of their total score based on wins/losses, so it's not as though they are irrelevant or even the least relevant; indeed, it's a rare thing when they aren't the _most_ relevant. It's just that I, and many other people, I think, believe that they should be the _sole_ determiner of who wins the tourney. I am a gaming purist in the same way that I am a food purist- peas do not mix with mashed potatoes, and hobby competition does not mix with wargaming competition.