Ideal trashy distribution?

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Ideal trashy distribution?

Post by e_steinhauser »

Since discussion of the Gottfried Keller event has sparked some criticism of its distribution and those of other trashy events, I figured it might be worthwhile to ask people for their ideas on the ideal trash / pop culture packet distribution.

The general distribution for most trash packet submission events I've seen and participated in has been around 20% each Movies, Music, Sports, TV, and "Other Trash," though some tournaments have significantly lower sports content. It's seemed to work pretty well for the past decade or so, but since trash is by its very nature more ephemeral than the core academic game, I see no reason to consider it sacred.

So, with the rise of various internet cultures, the diffusive cable TV environment, and other electronic entertainment like video games, how should the distribution look? What definitely needs to be included? What should be highly discouraged or excluded?

Some things to think about:

* Are sports overrepresented?
* How do you handle contemporary music, considering how fragmented the listening population is?
* Where does the internet fit in?
* Is pop / trash lit askable?
* Is there a place for (as TRASH calls it) the "evil / bizzare"?
* What about "adult" questions?
* Is there an ideal balance between contemporary and older material?

I'll post my personal thoughts a bit later, but I figured it might be interesting to see what others think.
--eps

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Post by fizzball »

I think first one would need to determine the balance between "trash should focus on aspects of popular culture" and "trash should focus on aspects of popular culture, emphasizing things popular with those playing the game."

Examples of the problem include:

hockey vs. NASCAR

Arrested Development vs. Diagnosis: Murder

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Post by First Chairman »

I always thought the distribution was somewhere generally 25% movies, 25% music, 25% television and other performance media, 40% sports, 25% computers and internet, 25% gender-related, and 90% miscellaneous. :cool: :lol:
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Post by grapesmoker »

E.T. Chuck wrote:I always thought the distribution was somewhere generally 25% movies, 25% music, 25% television and other performance media, 40% sports, 25% computers and internet, 25% gender-related, and 90% miscellaneous. :cool: :lol:
What's "gender related"?

I support a 25% computer/Internet distribution. Such a thing would probably quadruple my trash PPG.
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Post by e_steinhauser »

grapesmoker wrote:What's "gender related"?
Several trash tournaments have, in the past, required a certain percentage of "female-friendly" questions. Usually they ended up as things like feminine hygeine products, "My Little Pony," and grrrl power trivia.

Not a bad idea in theory, but the results left much to be desired.
--eps

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Post by First Chairman »

Well, to be even more bizarre, I wonder where culturally-related topics belong. Sure, we have comic books, but there is also anime, Bollywood and cable shows on programs in which English isn't a native language.
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Post by e_steinhauser »

Just to answer my own questions:

When I ran Pitt's trash events back in the day, we combined TV and movies into one big Visual Media category. I still like this idea, particularly since it has the flexibility to include the non-traditional stuff that's so popular among the college crowd these days.

If I run another Ironhead this upcoming year (a distinct possibility), I'd likely aim for this distribution:

15-20% Sports
15-20% Music
35% Visual Media
5% Consumer Culture
5% Computer / Internet culture
20% Other

As for the sub-questions:

* I don't necessarily think sports are overrepresented. My problem with most sports questions nowadays is that there are too many "transaction" tossups and little to no emphasis on pre-1990 sports history.

* With pop music (and I think this also applies to TV), I find it's best to go with a few questions on what is objectively popular (ratings, sales, etc), another question or two on something good but not necessarily hugely popular, and then the rest as whatever. Assuming you cross all your genres, pretty much everyone will have something to smile at during the packet.

* The main problem I have with a lot of the internet stuff is that there's so much of it out there and the audience is even more fragmented than for music / television. Other than very generic answers like "MySpace" or "YouTube," the tossup conversion on niche internet culture is likely far less than what I would consider ideal for other questions (90%). You have a bit more freedom with bonuses, but a detailed bonus on a specific niche thing is just begging to be lamed.

* Pop lit suffers from the same problem as the internet, but probably even worse. I personally can't stand hearing pop lit questions, as either the one person in the room who knows the answer gets it in the first line, or the question just goes dead.

* I'm uncomfortable with including questions that make others uncomfortable. There's certainly room for the "bizzare" under such headings as pop culture current events or true crime or whatever. Trash ought to be the most accessible quizbowl-style event, both in terms of content and attitude.

* Time distribution is another sticking point of mine. American popular culture goes back a long way, and there's a pretty rich history waiting to be asked about (that people still actually know!). Too often trash packets are 90% about stuff within the past three years. I like to go with a third each for topics on the past 2-3 years, past 10 years, and the last third before that. This could also be because I'm now officially an old fart.
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Post by e_steinhauser »

E.T. Chuck wrote:Well, to be even more bizarre, I wonder where culturally-related topics belong. Sure, we have comic books, but there is also anime, Bollywood and cable shows on programs in which English isn't a native language.
Comic books and anime would fit solidly under the "other" category. Non-English language movies and television would fit into their respective categories, but I'd put a very harsh limit of one question per packet on any of that stuff. It would need to be answerable to make it as a tossup, though an occasional bonus part would likely be fine.
--eps

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Post by Captain Sinico »

I'm going to go with something like this:
20% Sports
20% Music
15% TV
15% Movies
15% Videogames and internet
15% Other stuff (comic books, popular literature, etc.)
However, this is purely a matter of personal preference. As someone who doesn't watch any TV, I'm going to guess that my preferences are a lot different from most people who play trash. My ideal tournament would be, like, 40% baseball since 1995, 30% NES and computer games, and 30% classic rock and hip-hop, but that would make a poor tournament on the whole, I think.
The only thing I think is systematically wrong with most coarse trash distributions as such is the exclusion or marginalization of videogames, which are both ripe for questions and as popular as television or movies by some metrics. At finer levels, the music subdistribution seems pretty poor (e.g. there isn't nearly enough hip-hop or R&B) and the stuff in the "other" category is usually bad (far too much of the kind of first-line-nail-or-die pop lit that Eric was talking about, questions on stupid novelty products or whatever, etc.)
The point is that I really think that the exact numbers in the distribution aren't nearly so important is asking about things within the distribution (whatever you do choose) that people have heard of. That's precisely why I tend to like the post-Chicago-Open trash tournaments that precipitated this thread more than others I've played. At Richler and Keller, I'd heard of almost every tossup answer; in fact, I was somewhat more likely to know a mean Keller tossup answer than a mean Chicago Open tossup answer this year. Conversely, at the other trash tournaments I've gone to, some large fraction (between 1/4 and 1/2) of the tossup answers are things I've just never heard of.
So, as with just about any tournament, one should write clue-dense, pyramidal questions of appropriate length on relevant things that your audience has heard of. As long as an editor or writer does their best to achieve that, I don't care very much what distribution they choose, with the possible caveat that it ought to be announced in advance if it's too weird.

Later,
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Post by e_steinhauser »

ImmaculateDeception wrote:The only thing I think is systematically wrong with most coarse trash distributions as such is the exclusion or marginalization of videogames, which are both ripe for questions and as popular as television or movies by some metrics.
While gaming may be quite popular, is it really all that ripe for good quality tossups? Aside from the big franchises, people's tastes vary so widely that I'm not so sure you can fill more than one tossup per round with a solid question. Even where answers might be quite knowable, the surrounding material is often very thin. Bonuses are much more doable, obviously.

ImmaculateDeception wrote:The point is that I really think that the exact numbers in the distribution aren't nearly so important is asking about things within the distribution (whatever you do choose) that people have heard of.
I agree wholeheartedly with this. Particularly with tossups, if at least 50% of the people in an average room meet the answer with a shrug and a "whatever," it's an objectively poor thing to ask about. You can get away with it a bit more on bonuses, particularly when the lame rule is in effect, but trash should be about pure fun, nostalgia, and recall.
--eps

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Post by barnacles »

As someone who generally enjoys trash but isn't necessarily very good at it, I too find myself usually a bit lost when I go to standard trash and TRASH tournaments (Who is this television actor everyone else has heard of? etc). I think my favorite trash tournament was John Kilby's RC Cola this year (as my review within would show).

The distribution, while not very specific, allowed for more creativity outside of sports, TV, and movies, and the answers he chose for those categories at least were things I had heard of. He made his bonuses rather easy (which I liked but others found a bit annoying) and even though it didn't help my performance a great deal, I felt better about hearing answers that I was at least familiar with. The only problem, I guess, is that many other people (namely older trash players, especially veterans who have been to many, many trash tournaments) have a much broader knowledge base for trash, which would make them in turn want a broader range of things being asked.

I guess it would just be my preference to see more trash tournaments directed towards younger players. It's no secret that in many ways trash depends on the academic quizbowl infrastructure in terms of holding tournaments, writing questions, and having teams come to play. So, more concessions to the college-aged crowd in terms of question accessibility and pop culture relevance wouldn't be a terrible thing, especially if you factor in the fact that it could expand the trash circuit.

I echo the sentiments of the esteemed Vinokurov and Sorice in my demand for more sweet, sweet video game questions.

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Post by yoda4554 »

I basically like Sorice's distribution, with the exception that I think that there should be a mandated defined category of trash lit including bestsellers, comics, genre fiction, etc. And while I understand that it's sometimes too easy to write a tossup on something popular within a subfield of that topic that most people have never heard of, there should be enough around to write enough good, answerable tossups.

Something no one has mentioned are consumer products questions, which I believe are a standard part of most trash distributions--there was probably something like 1/1 at Keller. I've never been a big fan of those or terribly good at them, but it's been my impression that they're things that many people know and care a lot about. Do people like those in regular doses (assuming they're well-written)? Do people feel as good about powering Birkenstock tossups as those on their favorite albums or movies?

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Post by Captain Sinico »

e_steinhauser wrote:While gaming may be quite popular, is it really all that ripe for good quality tossups?
Yeah, I think so. There are decades worth of classic games that people probably know at least some about in addition to what's hot now. Also, I've found that videogames tend to be very amenable to being made the answers to pyramidal questions since, especially in the case of modern games, they contain a good deal of content that is much more accessable to someone who knows a lot about a game (like, for example, hidden or optional zones or items) as well as things that anyone at all familiar with a game should know (common enemies or powerups or something.) If a game has a plot, you're practically getting the tossup mined for you by a helot troll, as long as you can find all this information (same as any question.)

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Post by e_steinhauser »

yoda4554 wrote:And while I understand that it's sometimes too easy to write a tossup on something popular within a subfield of that topic that most people have never heard of, there should be enough around to write enough good, answerable tossups.
If you expand "pop lit" to include things like comic books, comic strips, popular columnists, and the like, sure. Unfortunately for most submission tournaments, they end up being "name this random novel from a sci-fi or fantasy series I picked up at Border's last month."

yoda4554 wrote:Something no one has mentioned are consumer products questions
I think consumer products / culture questions are an integral part of the trash experience, and questions on schlocky Americana things are also always welcome. I like to see 1/1 in packets. Personally, I also always like to include one food question in a pack as well, though they often fit in with that category.
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Post by AKKOLADE »

e_steinhauser wrote: While gaming may be quite popular, is it really all that ripe for good quality tossups? Aside from the big franchises, people's tastes vary so widely that I'm not so sure you can fill more than one tossup per round with a solid question.
Can't the same be said for movies, or television, or sports, or comic books, or shit that happens in Chattanooga? Someone who just jumps on, I don't know, The Sims or World of Warcraft or just any one particular game won't have much success with video games. But someone who only watched Tarantino or Bruckheimer's not going to be very successful with movies. There are people who know stuff about multiple video games, and I believe they make a large enough percentage of TRASH players that video games are more deserving than just one question a round.

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Post by barnacles »

e_steinhauser wrote:While gaming may be quite popular, is it really all that ripe for good quality tossups? Aside from the big franchises, people's tastes vary so widely that I'm not so sure you can fill more than one tossup per round with a solid question. Even where answers might be quite knowable, the surrounding material is often very thin. Bonuses are much more doable, obviously.
I think if you look at most gaming websites and magazines, there wouldn't be a great deal of difference in the things that are covered. While tastes vary and there are several different genres, I think overall that most video game players tend to be well informed about most of the games that come out. Also, I think there is a pretty good idea of the importance of older games, even for young players who haven't played them.

I also disagree that the surrounding area is thin. So many different aspects of any video game can form a good tossups, whether it be plot, the control scheme, descriptions and names of levels and bosses, units, game modes, unlockable secrets and characters, etc. If I were more bored and had a lot of time, I think I could write a video game tournament (or at least it would be feasible). I would embarass myself by playing at the CO if I got to play a video game tournament afterwards.

He says as he goes back to playing his pirated version of Star Fox Command on his DS ...

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Post by Mike Bentley »

barnacles wrote:
e_steinhauser wrote:While gaming may be quite popular, is it really all that ripe for good quality tossups? Aside from the big franchises, people's tastes vary so widely that I'm not so sure you can fill more than one tossup per round with a solid question. Even where answers might be quite knowable, the surrounding material is often very thin. Bonuses are much more doable, obviously.
I think if you look at most gaming websites and magazines, there wouldn't be a great deal of difference in the things that are covered. While tastes vary and there are several different genres, I think overall that most video game players tend to be well informed about most of the games that come out. Also, I think there is a pretty good idea of the importance of older games, even for young players who haven't played them.

I also disagree that the surrounding area is thin. So many different aspects of any video game can form a good tossups, whether it be plot, the control scheme, descriptions and names of levels and bosses, units, game modes, unlockable secrets and characters, etc. If I were more bored and had a lot of time, I think I could write a video game tournament (or at least it would be feasible). I would embarass myself by playing at the CO if I got to play a video game tournament afterwards.

He says as he goes back to playing his pirated version of Star Fox Command on his DS ...
How is the game? I am looking forward to it a lot, as Star Fox 64 was one of my favorite N64 games.

As someone who has written his fair share of video game questions for various trash tournaments, I feel that there is a large breadth of information available for these questions. As mentioned earlier, videogames lend themselves well to pyramidal questions due to their length, complexity, and often in-depth but optional back stories. Questions can also be expanded from just merely games to systems, control devices (like, say, the NES Power Pad), game designers, etc.

Personally, I feel that video games ought to at least make up 1/1 of a trash packet.

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Post by grapesmoker »

leftsaidfred wrote: There are people who know stuff about multiple video games, and I believe they make a large enough percentage of TRASH players that video games are more deserving than just one question a round.
Again, while I'm not a trash player, between 2000 and 2005, I probably played almost every remotely popular computer game that came out, and many that weren't popular at all.
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Post by Irreligion in Bangladesh »

First off, video game tossups can be VERY well done, just as almost any other subject. This could even be expanded to trashy video game clues on academic subjects (in trash tournaments, of course.)

Here's a question: in a normal, academic-ish (after all, I'm talking about Illinois here) high school format where Pop Culture is sadly given a 1/1 in almost every packet, should video games be part of the canon? I've seen a tossup on Link before, but almost nothing else. Would it be fair game for a pop culture question every once in a while?

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Post by Mike Bentley »

styxman wrote:First off, video game tossups can be VERY well done, just as almost any other subject. This could even be expanded to trashy video game clues on academic subjects (in trash tournaments, of course.)

Here's a question: in a normal, academic-ish (after all, I'm talking about Illinois here) high school format where Pop Culture is sadly given a 1/1 in almost every packet, should video games be part of the canon? I've seen a tossup on Link before, but almost nothing else. Would it be fair game for a pop culture question every once in a while?
Well, they come up a surprising amount in Maryland's fall high school tournament (which affords a larger than average allotment for pop culture). From my experience high school teams enjoy them and are knowledgeable about them (a name's the same tossup on "Belmont" went at the Castlevania clue in the room I was in), so I don't see why there shouldn't at least be a couple here and there in high school.

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Post by barnacles »

ikillkenny wrote:How is the game? I am looking forward to it a lot, as Star Fox 64 was one of my favorite N64 games.
It's actually really good, I think. I was a little concerned that a flight sim wouldn't work very well on a touch-screen, but it's very intuitive and fun. It isn't exactly like Starfox on the N64, as all the missions are in free flight, not the on-rails style of much of its predecessors. I enjoyed this a lot, but I've heard that they missed it. Anyway, there's also a small mini-map strategic mode before you go on flying missions, which I also think is a nice touch. There are a lot of playable characters (all of them with different strengths and weaknesses), most of them unlockable, and though I haven't tried it yet I can imagine multiplayer (including wifi!) will be excellent. Of course, I'm playing it in Japanese, so I don't understand the story at all, but the game itself is really fun I think.

And now, to justify that off-topic rambling, I think that using video game tossups to fill in a trash requirement is perfectly acceptable, especially for high school students who I imagine play quite a few video games (though I suppose you wouldn't want to overdo it with just video games). At Charlie's high school tournaments, he puts in a 25 trash tossup round at the end while stats are being compiled that doesn't count for anything but is generally very well accepted by teams. Just a thought.

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Post by Kilby »

A lot of good stuff so far. I'll just throw in some of my general thoughts:

- If you've seen the distribution for a tournament I've edited, you'll know what I'm going to say about the trash distribution. There are four pillars that make up what I would call the most popular of popular culture: music, movies, TV, and sports. I would say that almost any Joe Blow on the street could tell you about a favorite movie, song, show, or athlete. Not everyone is going to have a favorite non-academic novel, video game, etc. For that reason, I would say an ideal packet has at least 50% of its questions evenly spread out among the big four while the remaining portion asks about as many different topics as possible.

- As an avid gamer, I completely buy into the idea of having more video game questions. The video game industry is huge nowadays and, at least for the near future, doesn't look to be slowing down. I would say moving toward all trash packets having 1/1 is a good place to be right now. For a tournament aimed at the college age and younger crowd, there would definitely incentive for bumping that up, but I don't think its time to have more than 1/1 in general trash tournaments. The time will come very soon when this category demands more attention.

- Given that video gaming is coming into its own, I think it's only fair to separate it from the technology part of the distribution and allow (but not require) 1/1 in a packet on computer/Internet topics. This can be a tricky topic (especially when trying to pick out which Internet phenomena are gettable), but I have faith in people knowing this stuff. I'm always surprised when I talk to non-tech people who have seen, for instance, the latest Hasselhoff video that's going around.

- The first thing I always do when playing at a packet submission tournament is to look and see in each round who we play and who wrote the packet. You can usually figure out if you got a good draw (a young team playing an older team on a young team's packet) or a bad draw (that same young team playing an older team on a older team's packet). That's why I think that the best packets are the ones that cover as wide of a variety of topics as possible. The time periods covered is probably the most important aspect of question variety to examine. In other words, asking questions on as many different time periods as possible is a good thing.
fizzball wrote:I think first one would need to determine the balance between "trash should focus on aspects of popular culture" and "trash should focus on aspects of popular culture, emphasizing things popular with those playing the game."
- I tend to go with the former. Obviously, if people don't want to hear a lot of questions on NASCAR, you shouldn't have 1/1 in every packet. But there's no denying NASCAR is popular in this country, so you would ideally like to have a few of those questions in a tournament set. After all, it's popular culture, not popular with the trivia crowd culture.

- I'm not sure what to do with the issue of "gettability." As Jacob mentioned, I made a real effort to make sure that almost every question that was asked at RC was gettable by someone in each room. The veteran teams were less than pleased with this. They were mad at me because I cut a lot of questions from their packets that I knew would either go bageled or be answered by at most one or two people out of over a dozen teams playing. It was almost as if they wanted a few of the questions every round to be unanswerable just to keep them on guard from the answer always being the obvious choice. I agree that a few stumpers are good to keep things from being too predictable, but it really seems in trash that there are way too many toss-ups that are unanswerable and way too many bonuses that require medium-knowledge to even get ten points on. My argument would be that, for the sake of growing the game, it would be better to err on the side of "too gettable," but I could be wrong about that. I'm editing Muck Masters the opposite of how I edited RC (I'm leaving the hard questions in), so we'll see how that goes.

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Post by fizzball »

e_steinhauser wrote:When I ran Pitt's trash events back in the day, we combined TV and movies into one big Visual Media category. I still like this idea, particularly since it has the flexibility to include the non-traditional stuff that's so popular among the college crowd these days.
I'm intrigued by this. So would you accept without comment a pack that filled the Visual Media distribution with 100% cinema questions? I'd think you'd need *some* sort of split here.


Maybe the time is right for more videogame questions. Clearly it's more than a fad (god, all those collectible card-game questions...the pain...), and emulation of old systems is more common now, so if you were a Sega kid playing on NES questions, you're less likely to be toast.

But what do you cut from present distributions to make room for them? I submit that questions on commercials and infomercials have outlived their usefulness. With TiVo/DVR technology, on-demand cable/satellite, downloadable episodes on torrent sites and iTunes, and increasing numbers of TV series hitting DVD shortly after airing -- and hell, plain old VCR timeshifting -- commercials and paid programming are less relevant, and less askable.

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Post by No Sollositing On Premise »

I support something similar to 15% sports, 15% film, 15% television, 15% music, 10% gaming and internet, 20% miscellany, and 10% sports, music, TV, and film overflow. Believe me, gaming is a pop genre that is very capable of providing in-depth pyramidal questions; I once wrote an entire packet on video games, including tossups about I-shaped Tetris pieces ("accept 'long pieces', 'straight pieces' or clear knowledge equivalents") and M. Bison ("[his subordinates include] prizefighting boxers, Spaniard homosexuals, and Muay Thai masters"). Trust me, it can be done, and it can certainly be done better than I did.
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Post by e_steinhauser »

fizzball wrote:
e_steinhauser wrote:When I ran Pitt's trash events back in the day, we combined TV and movies into one big Visual Media category. I still like this idea, particularly since it has the flexibility to include the non-traditional stuff that's so popular among the college crowd these days.
I'm intrigued by this. So would you accept without comment a pack that filled the Visual Media distribution with 100% cinema questions? I'd think you'd need *some* sort of split here.
No, we required some TV and movie content and requested a fairly even split between the two. Mainly it was a way to put all sorts of stuff under one big umbrella, allowing some flexibility in question writing. The reason I still like the idea now is that it's an easy way to dilute Hollywood content and give a good spot for things like web animations and the like.

fizzball wrote:Maybe the time is right for more videogame questions. Clearly it's more than a fad (god, all those collectible card-game questions...the pain...), and emulation of old systems is more common now, so if you were a Sega kid playing on NES questions, you're less likely to be toast.
After reading all the responses to my initial skepticism on video game questions (and I'm a pretty avid gamer myself), I suppose I have to agree. 1/1 per round might be an absolute necessity now, and I'd be fine with 3 questions per round.

My main problem with going as high as 4 or 5 questions in a 45-ish question pack is that video games simply don't have the sustained impact on American popular culture that the big four categories have. A few years down the road, maybe, but aside from the biggies like PacMan and Super Mario Bros they're not a huge part of that shared American cultural experience.
--eps

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Post by grapesmoker »

e_steinhauser wrote: My main problem with going as high as 4 or 5 questions in a 45-ish question pack is that video games simply don't have the sustained impact on American popular culture that the big four categories have. A few years down the road, maybe, but aside from the biggies like PacMan and Super Mario Bros they're not a huge part of that shared American cultural experience.
Sorry, what? Everyone under the age of 30 knows what Doom and Halo are. Not to mention Grand Theft Auto, Battlefield 1942, Diablo, Warcraft, the Sims, Civilization... those are just the super-mainstream ones. There are plenty others that may not be quite as popular but are still well-known enough for the casual gamer to know about them.

I sense a computer game packet for TTGT11 coming on...
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Post by Bender Bending Fernandez »

I have no problem with video game questions (even though I miss most of them) as long as they aren't all on current games and aren't too deep. As has been noted, games haven't penetrated as deep into the cuture as movies and tv. The one's I've heard to date have been pretty fair, with memorable ones on Centipede and Yar's Revenge, and the worst toss-up being one on some character from Mike Tyson's Punch Out. I'm still waiting for a question on M.U.L.E. :lol:

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Post by Matt Weiner »

Kilby wrote:Obviously, if people don't want to hear a lot of questions on NASCAR, you shouldn't have 1/1 in every packet. But there's no denying NASCAR is popular in this country, so you would ideally like to have a few of those questions in a tournament set. After all, it's popular culture, not popular with the trivia crowd culture.
Really? That sounds odd. I think even academic tournaments have given up on asking on things you know the players don't care about in the name of "this is something you SHOULD know because it's IMPORTANT." It's weird to see trash tournaments carrying such a banner. Anyway, clearly your premise is incorrect when we look at other categories; we don't put any particular weight on things that are popular with mainstream America that most quizbowl players don't care about. If so, we would have a slew of questions on Everybody Loves Raymond, American and soap operas in the TV category; the sports category would have 20 golf questions for every one on hockey; movies would focus more on plot details from Little Man and Monster House and less on the cream of the arthouse crop which (rightfully) dominates the recent-film category; etc. I'm sure there are plenty of people at a tournament held in Chattanooga who want to hear, and can answer, NASCAR questions, and that should be reason enough to include them there, but I really don't understand this notion that the set of answers should be based on some social metric rather than on the preferences and knowledge of the tournament attendees.

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Post by e_steinhauser »

Matt, I don't think it's really all that odd. There are some hard numbers on the relative popularity of various things throughout the culture (ratings, attendance figures, sales, etc), and if something reaches a particular threshold of popularity, it probably demands at least a few token questions throughout a set. If there were similar metrics for importance on the academic side, I doubt anyone would hesitate in using them to justify their inclusion in the canon.

The analogy with "Everybody Loves Raymond" just doesn't work. You could compare something like Jeff Gordon questions to "ELR" questions or auto racing questions to family sitcom questions, but otherwise it's apples and oranges.
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Post by Kilby »

Matt Weiner wrote:Really? That sounds odd. I think even academic tournaments have given up on asking on things you know the players don't care about in the name of "this is something you SHOULD know because it's IMPORTANT." It's weird to see trash tournaments carrying such a banner. Anyway, clearly your premise is incorrect when we look at other categories; we don't put any particular weight on things that are popular with mainstream America that most quizbowl players don't care about. If so, we would have a slew of questions on Everybody Loves Raymond, American and soap operas in the TV category; the sports category would have 20 golf questions for every one on hockey; movies would focus more on plot details from Little Man and Monster House and less on the cream of the arthouse crop which (rightfully) dominates the recent-film category; etc.
e_steinhauser wrote:Matt, I don't think it's really all that odd. There are some hard numbers on the relative popularity of various things throughout the culture (ratings, attendance figures, sales, etc), and if something reaches a particular threshold of popularity, it probably demands at least a few token questions throughout a set. If there were similar metrics for importance on the academic side, I doubt anyone would hesitate in using them to justify their inclusion in the canon.
Exactly. I stand by my "incorrect" premise that topics that are popular in the culture should be included in a distribution that is meant to test one's knowledge of popular culture. What I'm not saying is that ONLY mainstream topics should considered in the distribution. Look at the point I made in my original post:
Kilby wrote:That's why I think that the best packets are the ones that cover as wide of a variety of topics as possible.
A while back, someone made a point on the board that the move away from a shared, national popular culture to smaller and more numerous clique-based cultures was going to be an issue that trash must face. The answer should not be to simply pick-and-chose which groups are appropriate for the trash cannon and stick to those... variety is the key. That's the only way to keep from discriminating against players with differing cultural tastes.

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Trash Distribution

Post by Phil Castagna »

Well,

To answer Jerry et al.,

I've never heard of Battlefield 1942 or Diablo (I'm under 30). I am vaguely aware that Warcraft is a game of some sort, and I've never played any Sim or Civ game in my life. I would however, answer a question on any Mike Tyson fighter in about 7 words. I just think this shows how hard it is to come up with a "list/canon" of "what people should know" for trash.

I think it's more of a question of "popular things to people who will give up time/money to come play a trash tournament" than asking what is "important". Therefore, there are more questions on Aaron Sorkin shows and Buffy than there are about Raymond.

An elite academic player (Matt Weiner, Andrew Yaphe, etc.) if read a standard 20-TU packet with no one in the room, could probably answer 17-19 of the questions. In my experience, a comparable trash player (Craig Barker, James Dinan, Greg Sorenson, Dwight Kidder) would average around 13-16 correct answers. Just because of the variety of subjects asked, most very good trash players are lost on 4-7 (or more) questions. Unfortunately, any discussion of trash distribution seems to always boil down to "more questions on stuff I like/know" and less on things I don't like/hate/think are too geeky/boring/overasked.

Good question quality, insightful and well-written clues, and no obviosu overrepresentation trumps most people's assessments of the material rather than the question itself.

A final point. I think it's nigh impossible to write a pyramidal tossup on certain subjects (The Simpsons) due to the finite well of clues and its collective consciousness. Maybe some sort of structure where people understand this problem and seek to avoid the kind of buzzer races that such questions become.

Phil Castagna

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Post by solonqb »

laszlow wrote: I once wrote an entire packet on video games, including tossups about I-shaped Tetris pieces ("accept 'long pieces', 'straight pieces' or clear knowledge equivalents") and M. Bison ("[his subordinates include] prizefighting boxers, Spaniard homosexuals, and Muay Thai masters"). Trust me, it can be done, and it can certainly be done better than I did.
Having been lucky enough to play on said packet, I assure you all it was wildly entertaining, especially the Tecmo Bowl tossup.
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Post by QuizbowlPostmodernist »

Kilby wrote:That's why I think that the best packets are the ones that cover as wide of a variety of topics as possible. The time periods covered is probably the most important aspect of question variety to examine. In other words, asking questions on as many different time periods as possible is a good thing.
This probably covers a lot of my question-writing philosophy. Viva variety. In an academic packet, I'd say that if all the lit questions deal with your favorite authors, then it's not sufficiently diverse. In a trash packet, I'd say that if all the music questions deal with music you love, then it's not sufficiently diverse.
fizzball wrote:I think first one would need to determine the balance between "trash should focus on aspects of popular culture" and "trash should focus on aspects of popular culture, emphasizing things popular with those playing the game."
This is always the biggest difficulty. There's a wide gulf between a ClearChannel-ish packet of bland, mainstream topics and one whose theme is "these are a few of my favorite things." I don't know which extreme is worse. I've spent some time writing questions on niche things I don't like because it seemed like the fair thing to do to allow me to write on a few niche things I like. For example, I don't think I've read comic strips regularly since Calvin and Hobbes ended, but I've written at least a couple dozen in the last year.

Over an entire tournament, people should be entitled to hear at least a few questions on some of their favorite things, unless they have entirely bizarre tastes (I've met a fan of Christian boy bands, I've met a fan of interstate intersections questions....I am not satisfying either of their tastes), but no one is entitled to have a lot of their favorite things come up. You should also come away from a well-distributed trash tournament remembering questions on topics you utterly loathe. That strikes me as fair.

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