College Nationals and Its Problems

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

Post by db0wman »

College nationals are currently too difficult and don't provide the role that it should for many younger college players. Additionally, the field is full of grad students who have been playing the game for a ridiculously long amount of time. There needs to be a legitimate undergraduate championship run on questions at an accessible difficulty. That way, there can still be something to work for at the end of the season for newer players and casual players, instead of the intimidating ICT and ACF Nationals.

Both nationals are way too hard. When even the top teams are only getting 17-18 PPB, it shows just how inaccessible the questions are for the middle of the pack. One assessment that I’ve often seen online and concur with is that the middle parts are too hard. I think it would be a better playing experience for the average PPB to be shifted upward significantly. The average PPB at ACF Nationals 2019 was 13.18. I think that upping this to 16 or 17 would increase bonus involvement significantly. If making the questions more accessible interferes with their ability to differentiate between the top tier of teams, then just make the playoff/superplayoff packets harder.

It’s important for there to be a nationals or a championship or something to look forward to at the culmination of the season, or else there’s no real competitive motivation behind studying and going to regular season tournaments. Right now, due to the difficulty of the questions, the “peak” of the season isn’t very appealing. It doesn’t feel like a goal to look forward to, at least for new players like myself; it’s more of an ordeal that I’m already beginning to dread despite not even having started college quizbowl. I realized how much such a culmination means for my competitive mindset recently due to the COVID-19 outbreak posing a threat to PACE and HSNCT. I basically lost all will to study, because it didn’t feel like I’m working towards a goal. Furthermore, current high school seniors like myself only have college quizbowl to play after this year, which as expounded in this wall of text, is an unsettling environment for many of us.

The question difficulty and the lack of an end-of-season goal are some of the main reasons why there are so many DII one-and-dones. It becomes difficult to be casually involved in quizbowl but still retain a competitive spirit at tournaments. The lack of a goal makes studying feel like a waste of time, but you have to study in order to stand a fighting chance on such difficult questions.

Another reason for the existence of an undergraduate championship is the fact that most top teams are primarily led by graduate students, some of whom have been playing quizbowl since I was a toddler. Competing against players who have a decade of experience is already daunting, but they’re also like 30, which adds a weirdness factor to it all. They’re old enough to be my father. However, I’m not saying that they should be completely shut out from the community--many grad students fill important community roles that they wouldn’t be involved with were they not actively playing. But I think that there needs to be a significant part of the tournament schedule that is undergraduate-only.

With regards to the implementation of this change, there are several options. One of which would be to turn the current DII for ICT into a full undergraduate championship, with the question difficulty being roughly that of the current DI SCT or a bit higher. Alternatively, ICT as a whole could be an undergraduate-only tournament and keep the current DI/DII distinction, with ACF Nationals being the “graduate championship,” open to both undergrads and graduate students. If organizations are (understandably) averse to systematic changes, I would suggest just making the questions easier. Lowering down both ICT and ACF Nationals to what is currently a 3 or 3.5 on the Ophir scale, at least for the preliminary rounds and lower consolation brackets, would accomplish this goal.

Overall, my goal with this post is to draw attention to how many players stop playing after high school due to the difficulty hike and the lack of a real nationals accessible to casual players after they’ve played DII ICT. The regular season sets are already beginning to accommodate a wider audience, with even more undergraduate-only or regs- sets being written than in previous years. EFT in particular has done a good job of being accessible for novices yet challenging for the top tier of players. But it doesn’t matter how easy the transition is into college quizbowl if the overwhelmingly difficult tournaments that are college nationals are what lie at the end of the road. I think that it’s time that nationals became a more feasible goal for the average player rather than accommodating the preferred difficulty of the most elite players.

But if that’s not enough, here are some quotes from current high school seniors:
“Well, I haven’t really looked at college quizbowl. But it is pretty daunting when players have been there for so long making it impossible for new players to succeed. Add in the relative impossible difficulty compared to hs nats to hs regs, and college qb seems like it requires an insane amount of effort for an undergrad student to be competitive with people who have been playing for years and years. I just don’t have that incentive to focus that much time.”
"College players often like to throw in the idea of ‘would this exist in literally any other activity’ when the question about for example letting high schoolers play up is bandied about. Well let's apply the same standard here. Would college basketball have men in their 30s competing against 19 year old college freshmen? Do college swimmers play as long as they keep staying in school? It's time to improve the professionalism of our activity and make college qb normal"
“The high entry barrier into college qb is quite demoralizing for people new to the game (even to medium-to-high level hsers who have spent quite some time playing the game), and introducing a true undergraduate championship would give people outside the uberelite a chance to fight for a title without having to get stomped by people who have played the game for over a decade.”
TL;DR: College nats aren’t a fun goal to work towards in the same way that hs nats are.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Beevor Feevor »

I wholeheartedly endorse the themes in this post, both as a former high school competitor, an active 4-year undergraduate player on a decent collegiate team, and a future graduate student who does not want to see this trend continue and continue to stifle collegiate Quizbowl's growth. It's not enough to just have more tournaments at the easier end of the difficulty spectrum when ACF's flagship Regionals and Nationals tournaments continue to hit above where they can and ought to be in terms of difficulty.

I've heard arguments on the other side that broadly state the following:
  • Graduate students provide writing, mentorship, and other organizational experience that have not been historically filled by undergraduates.
  • Turning away people interested in the Quizbowl community just because they discovered the activity in graduate school and not during their undergraduate years is unfairly punishing.
  • Collegiate questions have been getting easier and more accessible over the years. There are ways to write challenging questions that make them feel engaging and educational for all players at ACF Nats - I know that I personally enjoyed the most recent two ACF Nats much more than the first two due to a subjective feeling that they were hitting "core" or interesting topics in engaging ways, rather than in niche, "trivial" ways.
Quizbowl's growth and development has been led for a long time by those who are most passionate about the activity. Nothing wrong with that: people with interest tend to invest time and resources into growing their interest as best that they can. What's been lacking, in my opinion, is a systematic way to solicit feedback from those around the periphery of the activity and draw them into the game. There's no reason why ACF and NAQT can't conduct polls at SCT and Regionals to gauge the community's responses to some of the proposed difficulty and eligibility changes that Dylan and countless others have brought up over the years. More inclusive data is needed to understand the biggest needs that the game has; as much as I love forum posts by veterans describing their philosophies and perspectives on the state of the game, there needs to be more voices in the room that carry weight.

I'm by no means disparaging the efforts of those who work actively to promote their circuits, write and edit tournaments, mentor younger players, etc. Almost everyone I've met in the Quizbowl community wants the game to grow and engage more people because they find it an incredibly meaningful way to spend their time. There's an opportunity, however, to make the game more meaningful and more engaging that's staring us right in the face. I would encourage the power-holders in the community to consider those changes and engage in a frank discussion about actionable items that can be taken soon to alleviate these very real factors that are holding back the growth of the collegiate game.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by 1.82 »

I basically disagree with this post. I'm sure other people will chime in as to why, but I'll just speak as someone who didn't play in high school at all but did play college nats to note that this is an incredibly bold claim, particularly coming from someone who has never played a college nationals:
db0wman wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:24 am TL;DR: College nats aren’t a fun goal to work towards in the same way that hs nats are.
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.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Ike »

I feel like there's several things being discussed here. One is about grad students, and another is about Nats difficulty. Those seem like two very different topics, and probably should be discussed in their own threads for the sake of sanity and keeping the conversation going smoothly.

And yes, the most adrenaline-packed weekend of my high school career was ACF Nationals, back when the ppbs and ppgs were significantly lower than they are now, so I really disagree as well.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by vinteuil »

I fully support the idea of an undergraduate championship (and have for years). I know that others (Matt Weiner) have suggested a full-blown simultaneous DII or undergrad ACF Nationals on a Regs-level set. Of course, the problem is that it's already a huge amount of work to put together one Nats set, let alone two. (And ICT is already too much of a loss leader for it to be reasonable to ask NAQT to turn it into an undergrad championship, besides the weirdness of having the two levels on such different formats.)

The other problem with completely separating out the fields is that the best undergrads will always want to test themselves against the best possible competition. (There's no way I would have signed up for an "undergrad nationals" even in 2015, when I wasn't particularly good and landed in the second bracket.) And of course remember that the ACF title teams in 2011–4 and 2017—half of the champions in the past decade!!!—were led by (and had the lion's share of their scoring coming from) undergrads.

I do think that Nationals should have easier middle parts and clues, maybe a decent bit easier on average. I think that makes it a better experience for everybody, and probably helps distinguish top teams.

But—and this is a sermon I've given on ILQBM before—I still think that some of the perceived difficulty of regular-difficulty and nationals college sets would be best contextualized by remembering that they're especially meant for advanced third- and especially fourth-year students. Your knowledge base changed a lot between your first year of high school and your fourth—not just from your classes or even from quizbowl studying, but also from your social and academic context.

There's nothing more frustrating than being an advanced undergrad in a given major (especially if it's a fairly common one) and hearing quizbowl repeat the same material based on your introductory survey class, giving you absolutely zero ability to buzz before somebody with much less expertise. (Just ask most social science majors!) Reducing the answerspace has negative consequences too.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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Ike wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:10 am I feel like there's several things being discussed here. One is about grad students, and another is about Nats difficulty. Those seem like two very different topics, and probably should be discussed in their own threads for the sake of sanity and keeping the conversation going smoothly.

And yes, the most adrenaline-packed weekend of my high school career was ACF Nationals, back when the ppbs and ppgs were significantly lower than they are now, so I really disagree as well.
Ike is correct. I agree with the broad strokes of this post and have long held the opinion that the Nationals are too difficult. The appropriate difficulty imo is much closer to Regs+, with the top teams approaching something like 22-23 PPB.

However, this has little to do with graduate students, and I don't know where the idea that quizbowl difficulty is due to domination by graduate student comes from. It's not true, nor can it approach truth because the claim that quizbowl is dominated by graduate students is itself false -- especially in the last 10 years of college quizbowl history.
Last edited by Cody on Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

I appreciate your perspective, and making ACF Nationals easier, along with making regular diff tournaments easier, is a pretty good idea, esp if the superplayoffs can be made equal to the current ICT or ACF nationals difficulty.

Two other points I want to make
Brad Fischer wrote:high school quizbowl has done a good job of promoting goal setting at levels that aren't "win nats," and i'm obviously not tuned in to the college circuit but it's never seemed to be the same case there.
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.

Second, a cognitive bias I want to direct your attention to is this idea that older players "dominate" the game. Many of the best players in the middle of my career (besides me, obviously), were late UGs and early grad students (Matt Jackson, Matt Bollinger, Jordan Brownstein, Jacob Reed, Will Alston, Auroni Gupta at the time). Your proposed UG championship would also be dominated by a few of these figures, and I don't think the perception will really change much.
Last edited by Sima Guang Hater on Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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Sima Guang Hater wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:19 am 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 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.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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Sima Guang Hater wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:19 am Many of the best players in the middle of my career (besides me, obviously), were late UGs and early grad students (Matt Jackson, Matt Bollinger, Jordan Brownstein, Jacob Reed, Will Alston, Auroni Gupta at the time). Your proposed UG championship would also be dominated by a few of these figures, and I don't think the perception will really change much.
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.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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Ike wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:10 amAnd yes, the most adrenaline-packed weekend of my high school career was ACF Nationals, back when the ppbs and ppgs were significantly lower than they are now, so I really disagree as well.
I think that different people derive their quizbowl adrenaline from different aspects of the game. For some people, like Ike and other top players (even before they became top players), the thrill is playing hard questions and learning things, even if they're not winning or getting questions. Matt Bollinger and I had a conversation recently where we agreed that the two of us would enjoy playing hard questions in a dingy basement at 9PM, but that's not terribly representative of what most people want out of quizbowl.

I think for most people, especially those in the silent majority that were trying to appeal to here, they want to feel like they can hit the button, get some questions and feel like there's some pace and speed to the game, rather than just waiting to the end of every question and often not getting the answer. In fact, thinking back to when I first started playing, I don't know how long I would have continued if I wasn't playing with Jerry, who would get like 9-10 questions in a game while I got 1-2 at best (and I could say "I'm helping!" like Ralph Wiggum).

I'm not suggesting this means that we have to completely restructure ACF Nationals, but those of us that have made this game a big part of our lives and climbed its heights could use some humility, and realize that many people don't derive the same enjoyment out of enduring through hard questions that many of us whose opinions are disproportionately represented in quizbowl's leadership do.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:29 am
Sima Guang Hater wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:19 am Many of the best players in the middle of my career (besides me, obviously), were late UGs and early grad students (Matt Jackson, Matt Bollinger, Jordan Brownstein, Jacob Reed, Will Alston, Auroni Gupta at the time). Your proposed UG championship would also be dominated by a few of these figures, and I don't think the perception will really change much.
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.
Maybe I'm just not representative, but I was the leading scorer on a 4-6 team at HSNCT my senior year and have enjoyed college nats (despite not placing well).

Also I have more thoughts about this post that I'll hopefully get around to posting later.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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vinteuil wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:23 amI 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.
I think the cultural shift will happen if and only if there is enough outreach to bring in lots of new teams that could fill out a quizbowl middle class, get them involved in a circuit of EFT/Fall level tournaments on a regular basis, and then make sure regionals has big fields after the buy-in. This would require a lot more staff, outreach, and coordination than we have now.

This came to me after I posted, but I would also support championships between teams from schools sharing the same athletic conference as additional incentive (Ivy, Big 10, whatever) as additional goals for teams to attain.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:29 am
Sima Guang Hater wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:19 am Many of the best players in the middle of my career (besides me, obviously), were late UGs and early grad students (Matt Jackson, Matt Bollinger, Jordan Brownstein, Jacob Reed, Will Alston, Auroni Gupta at the time). Your proposed UG championship would also be dominated by a few of these figures, and I don't think the perception will really change much.
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.
Leaving aside the question of whether this is the case or not, the reason that ACF Nationals doesn't have a much larger field (which, I think it's reasonable to assume, would be the purpose of what you're describing) isn't really because of difficulty. There are a limited number of college teams in existence that have the ability to send a team of kids who are willing and financially able to spend a weekend traveling across the country to quizbowl nationals. Obviously not all high school teams are created equal, but by and large college quizbowl teams don't have a lot in the way of financial resources, and so it's hard to imagine any college tournament drawing a triple-digit field even if it were at a difficulty that every single one of them were to consider ideal.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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For some people, like Ike and other top players, the thrill is playing hard questions and learning things, even if they're not winning or getting questions.
At the ACF Nationals I was referring to, I was not a "top player" in the sense that you're using it throughout the rest of your post, and your previous post. I enjoyed it back then compared to the other HS nationals because the dynamics of the game are very different. The problem is, under my view, treating ICT and ACF Nats as just beefed up versions of the NSC or HSNCT. The dynamics of each tournament are vastly different than their high school counterparts. Playing one like you'd play the other is just a surefire way to not enjoy either one. I do think that Nationals can be made easier (as I called for after writing, what was the easiest Nationals tournament of the 2010s, in that two top teams broke 20 ppg, and over a quarter of the field broke 15ppg.) The bottom line is that if you're expecting a surefire way to collect 15s at ICT like you can at HSNCT or the NSC, you're going to be disappointed. That is a feature, not a bug.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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1.82 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:41 amThere are a limited number of college teams in existence that have the ability to send a team of kids who are willing and financially able to spend a weekend traveling across the country to quizbowl nationals. Obviously not all high school teams are created equal, but by and large college quizbowl teams don't have a lot in the way of financial resources, and so it's hard to imagine any college tournament drawing a triple-digit field even if it were at a difficulty that every single one of them were to consider ideal.
While none of us want the first sentence to remain the case in the long term, Naveed's second point here is a useful reminder that high school and college extracurriculars are extremely different, not least in that the well-to-do parents who fund so many HS teams' nationals attendance are not interested in doing so when quizbowl has no relation to college acceptances.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:29 am 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 isn't true, in my experience. I was never in contention for a national title in HS, but I still found setting goals for nationals in college a rewarding process even when I was far from contention. It felt good to meet some of those goals my sophomore year, despite not having any chance of making the top bracket. I think that players from teams that didn't expect a win or a high trophy placement at HS nationals are maybe more prepared to set personal goals at college nationals.

I understand that, for a variety of reasons, my experience is not representative. While I would personally enjoy it if nationals maintained or increased its current difficulty, I understand that this would not be a good decision in general. Nevertheless, I think some pushback against sacrificing what I take to be some of the best features of high-level quizbowl is warranted.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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heterodyne wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:49 am
Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:29 am 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 isn't true, in my experience. I was never in contention for a national title in HS, but I still found setting goals for nationals in college a rewarding process even when I was far from contention. It felt good to meet some of those goals my sophomore year, despite not having any chance of making the top bracket. I think that players from teams that didn't expect a win or a high trophy placement at HS nationals are maybe more prepared to set personal goals at college nationals.
I'd love to hear more here - what did those goals look like?
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

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It’s important for there to be a nationals or a championship or something to look forward to at the culmination of the season, or else there’s no real competitive motivation behind studying and going to regular season tournaments. Right now, due to the difficulty of the questions, the “peak” of the season isn’t very appealing. It doesn’t feel like a goal to look forward to, at least for new players like myself; it’s more of an ordeal that I’m already beginning to dread despite not even having started college quizbowl.
Speaking on the transition from high school quizbowl in a relatively competitive circuit to college quizbowl, one of the things I accepted was that unlike high school, we weren't going to dominate every tournament and might not even be in the top bracket of every tournament. Our team consists entirely of freshmen, one of whom played almost no quizbowl in HS, and just making ACF Nats was one of our goals. We would have gladly attended ACF Nats and probably placed in one of the middle to lower brackets. I made it my goal to improve as a player, and playing tournaments (I played DII SCT and Fall Open and almost every difficulty in between) allowed me to do that. I feel rewarded when I get a question from something I learned from a previous tournament. I can definitively say I am a better player at the end of freshman year than at the end of high school, even if I have less PPG.
lack of a real nationals accessible to casual players after they’ve played DII ICT...
But it doesn’t matter how easy the transition is into college quizbowl if the overwhelmingly difficult tournaments that are college nationals are what lie at the end of the road.
I agree with others in saying that the point of college nationals isn't to be accessible. Granted, I've never played a college nationals either, but I think Fall Open had a similar environment and difficulty. I didn't expect to win every game and instead just wanted to get a question or two off of the top players. I liked both questions about new topics not in the HS canon and news ways of asking about topics that had come up before. Even if the questions were difficult for us, my goal is to do better at every nationals than at the last.

Also, ACF Regs, Nats, and DI SCT all have an Undergraduate title, which can be a goal for those who have "graduated" DII ICT.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by vinteuil »

Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:54 am
heterodyne wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:49 am
Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:29 am 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 isn't true, in my experience. I was never in contention for a national title in HS, but I still found setting goals for nationals in college a rewarding process even when I was far from contention. It felt good to meet some of those goals my sophomore year, despite not having any chance of making the top bracket. I think that players from teams that didn't expect a win or a high trophy placement at HS nationals are maybe more prepared to set personal goals at college nationals.
I'd love to hear more here - what did those goals look like?
I can't speak for Alston, but my goals in undergrad included things like "make top bracket," "beat at least one title contender," "get the tossup in ___ category against ___ team/player,"and "see how our team dynamic/scoring changes at higher levels." It was very gratifying to meet most of those (and heartbreaking/motivating to miss out on the others).
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Mike Bentley »

A few thoughts:

I don't think it's outrageous to assert that graduate students (or people who end up in extra-long undergrad careers for whatever reason) increase the overall level of competitiveness at college nationals. Last year, 15 of the top 18 teams appeared not to be UG eligible if I'm reading the ACF Nationals standings correctly. I'm sure not every grad student on these teams was necessarily carrying the team, but if grad students weren't playing I think it's uncontroversial to say that average PPGs would go down and thus there be greater pressure to make the tournament easier.

At the same time, the current market for college nationals is small enough that prohibiting people with 4 years college experience from playing may make these tournaments less viable. Perhaps an easier overall tournament could make up the difference but I'm not sure.

Thinking back to my experience, I wasn't a good enough player to really enjoy college nationals until my senior year. And even then I had a crappier time than the one ACF Nationals that I played as a semi-grad student. I'm a little skeptical of someone like Ike representing himself as a non-top player at any point in college--he was already a much better player than I was when I played with him in a summer tournament after I graduated from college and he from high school in 2008 (or maybe he was even still in high school then? I don't remember.)
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Creating subsidiary titles is a very cheap and logistically easy way to give lots of teams something tangible to play for at a nationals. As an undergraduate I cared very much about the Undergrad title at ICT (alas, we lost in the finals) and even the then-nonexistent ACF Undergrad title, which a team I was on was retroactively given. In those days I think the subsidiary titles were somewhat mocked and seemed as gimmicky, but they are in the selfish best-interest of quizbowl. Every time a team gets to take home a shiny trophy (and they're not that expensive) that's all sorts of good stuff that can happen, from the local media taking quizbowl seriously to kids on that team getting more motivated and validated to some kid seeing the trophy and being inspired to win one of his own. I would encourage ACF/NAQT to be as creative as possible about creating new subsidiary titles. Why not just give 3 trophies to the top three small colleges, or top three LACs, or to the top 3 "new programs", or a "rookie of the year" trophy to the top finishing school that never played ACF Nationals before, or even a "comeback team of the tournament" for the team that most improved its standing from previous years, or a "trust the process" plaque to a team that has been somehow deemed to have successfully completed a "rebuild", whatever that means. I'm literally just writing these as they come to me, I'm sure a more purposeful brainstorming could produce even more.

Sometimes these kinds of subsidiary awards will feel very lame to give out (oh look, only 3 LACs showed up and only one made the top bracket, no drama there) but they are good propaganda for the game and may be motivators for some teams in the long run even if they're not all motivators every single year.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by jonah »

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 12:41 pmCreating subsidiary titles is a very cheap and logistically easy way to give lots of teams something tangible to play for at a nationals.
I'm not qualified to weigh in on this thread as a whole (having played little college quiz bowl and never been very serious about it as a player), but I do want to address this: subsidiary titles are in fact quite complicated. I'm not saying they shouldn't be considered, but let's not trivialize it. For one thing, titles interact with each other in weird ways. E.g., the Division I ICT format document (2019 edition) devotes a considerable amount of space to addressing what if the possibly-top undergrad team is involved in the overall finals, or if the top two undergrad teams are far apart in the standings, etc., and there are potentially difficult situations, requiring deviations we don't even write out, if multiple complicated circumstances (ties and teams involved in multiple titles) collide.

On top of that, of course, each additional title is another game or set of games (e.g., if there's a tie for second) to figure out under time pressure at the end of a big, stressful, tiring day. The more of these there are, and the more they have complicated interactions, the higher the potential for essentially uncoverable error.

Adding another title with potential relationships to the others would probably complicate matters at least quadratically (due to interactions).

Again, I'm not saying this shouldn't be considered, I just would prefer that people consider it with clearer understanding of what's involved.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by ryanrosenberg »

jonah wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 12:49 pm
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 12:41 pmCreating subsidiary titles is a very cheap and logistically easy way to give lots of teams something tangible to play for at a nationals.
I'm not qualified to weigh in on this thread as a whole (having played little college quiz bowl and never been very serious about it as a player), but I do want to address this: subsidiary titles are in fact quite complicated. I'm not saying they shouldn't be considered, but let's not trivialize it. For one thing, titles interact with each other in weird ways. E.g., the Division I ICT format document (2019 edition) devotes a considerable amount of space to addressing what if the possibly-top undergrad team is involved in the overall finals, or if the top two undergrad teams are far apart in the standings, etc., and there are potentially difficult situations, requiring deviations we don't even write out, if multiple complicated circumstances (ties and teams involved in multiple titles) collide.

On top of that, of course, each additional title is another game or set of games (e.g., if there's a tie for second) to figure out under time pressure at the end of a big, stressful, tiring day. The more of these there are, and the more they have complicated interactions, the higher the potential for essentially uncoverable error.

Adding another title with potential relationships to the others would probably complicate matters at least quadratically (due to interactions).

Again, I'm not saying this shouldn't be considered, I just would prefer that people consider it with clearer understanding of what's involved.
I heartily endorse this post.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by ryanrosenberg »

vinteuil wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 12:13 pm
Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:54 am
heterodyne wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:49 am
Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:29 am 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 isn't true, in my experience. I was never in contention for a national title in HS, but I still found setting goals for nationals in college a rewarding process even when I was far from contention. It felt good to meet some of those goals my sophomore year, despite not having any chance of making the top bracket. I think that players from teams that didn't expect a win or a high trophy placement at HS nationals are maybe more prepared to set personal goals at college nationals.
I'd love to hear more here - what did those goals look like?
I can't speak for Alston, but my goals in undergrad included things like "make top bracket," "beat at least one title contender," "get the tossup in ___ category against ___ team/player,"and "see how our team dynamic/scoring changes at higher levels." It was very gratifying to meet most of those (and heartbreaking/motivating to miss out on the others).
We definitely had "make top bracket" and "beat at least one title contender" as stretch goals, but also "be the best-finishing team in our region," "hit X PPB", "do well on X category" as other goals.

edit: ACF is also asking teams for their Nationals goals as part of the registration form, and we've gotten some good ones so far (not sharing so you'll read them in the ACF Nationals program when it comes out).
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

I agree with others in saying that the point of college nationals isn't to be accessible. Granted, I've never played a college nationals either, but I think Fall Open had a similar environment and difficulty. I didn't expect to win every game and instead just wanted to get a question or two off of the top players. I liked both questions about new topics not in the HS canon and news ways of asking about topics that had come up before. Even if the questions were difficult for us, my goal is to do better at every nationals than at the last.
1) Walter did in fact do this, I recall him getting a couple of very strong buzzes in our game vs Brown!
2) This is a healthy attitude that should be encouraged.

On difficulty:

I think ACF Nationals, thanks to its longer tossups allowing finer gradation, has a lot more room to experiment with decreasing overall tossup and bonus difficulty. I'm less convinced this is true of ICT, where there are already a lot of buzzer races in questions - I think you need a well-crafted, challenging tournament of around the difficulty of 2015 or 2019 ICT (the two easier sets in recent memory). But I think the ICT is a pretty good benchmark for appropriate difficulty - looking at the 2019 edition, the bonus conversion distribution was pretty ideal. I think it'd go up a bit for the top teams if there were a bit more smoothing of hard parts, which can be challenging given NAQT's ongoing transition to a more volume-writer-driven model, but I don't think a goal of "the winning teams get 21-22 ppb" is infeasible.

I'd also note that recent "Nats-" tournaments have overall had great middle part selection in terms of difficulty and would be a good model going forward for what Nats could and should look like on that front. Policing hard parts to help broaden the upper end of bonus conversions is really challenging and probably can never be reliant on anything more than reasonable heuristics, but I think it's doable for sure.

The one thing I'd really like to emphasize, though, is that elite college players are the best in the world at this game. Even middle teams are still incredibly knowledgeable and strong. If you go into Nationals and aren't ready to fight for each win, you're going to have a really tough time. Personally, I like that aspect - it's a challenge worth reaching for, and made every game meaningful for me when I played on a much weaker team in undergrad. Having hard questions helps enhance this, I think - and while they could and should be made easier, as many threads have discussed, I think this aspect of Nationals is a bit like coffee or beer, something you acclimate to and come to appreciate with more than one taste.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by eygotem »

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 top college teams to score similarly, unless you seriously believe that high school nationals are easy to the point of being illegitimate.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

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.

In any case, the overall point is reasonable - a set like "stanford housewrite" allowed the top college teams to get around 20-22 PPB, and I think most people thought it was an eminently fair difficulty for distinguishing those teams. Anything easier seems unreasonable, IMO.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by jinah »

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 still remember having a conversation with Saajid ahead of Nationals my freshman year along the lines of "I'm not sure why I'm playing when [very good high school player on my team] is so much better than me," where he basically said that the greater depth of the college game and the degree to which it tests advanced knowledge (to Jacob's point) is a huge equalizer, and that I wasn't necessarily as behind as I thought I was. I did not do particularly well at Nats that year, but I continued to play and have gotten immense satisfaction from answering questions that draw from things I have learned in college and in my own studies. High school retention is important, but some of the changes people are suggesting would I think hurt college recruitment for the game as well as its intellectual/philosophical underpinnings.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by CPiGuy »

Irreligion in Bangladesh wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:29 am
Sima Guang Hater wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:19 am Many of the best players in the middle of my career (besides me, obviously), were late UGs and early grad students (Matt Jackson, Matt Bollinger, Jordan Brownstein, Jacob Reed, Will Alston, Auroni Gupta at the time). Your proposed UG championship would also be dominated by a few of these figures, and I don't think the perception will really change much.
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.
Ok, so speaking as someone who objectively kinda sucks at quizbowl, this just isn't true. "Qualify for nats" is a pretty significant goal for a lot of teams, as is something like "make third bracket", "make second bracket", etc. All of these are pretty equivalent to "make HSNCT playoffs" or whatever. I've never felt like I don't have a purpose or a goal to meet going into a national tournament, and I've never been anything remotely close to winning one.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by John Quincy Adams's Alligator »

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 top college teams to score similarly, unless you seriously believe that high school nationals are easy to the point of being illegitimate.
There are a lot of reasons why this might not be true - in particular, hs nats is often not the hardest difficulty level the top teams regularly play, as many teams play EFT and even Penn Bowl. NSC hard and middle parts have the luxury of having lots of precedent and higher difficulty levels to draw from to ground their difficulty. Good justification for an NSC hard part might be "players who regularly engage with higher canon will likely have been exposed to this topic" or "high schoolers who know intro college-level material might know this" and so on, and middle parts will usually be solidly canon things - but there's really no analogous experiences for college nationals. In my experience writing Terrapin Open at least, the middle/hard parts I drew from solely canonical topics (even ones that don't show up regularly below college difficulty) had wildly higher conversion rates than a middle / hard should. IMO (and people who have edited nats or whatever should definitely chime in if I'm off base here!) nats hard and even middle parts require some experimentation because its very difficult to predict what the field knows, and a natural consequence of this are that they're going to be hard, because it is much better to test the top tier of the field on content that is fresh and hard rather than stale (i.e. the natural variance means the mean should probably skew a bit lower, because the point of nationals is to decide the best team). This doesn't mean they can't stand to be less easy or experimental, but they probably should not approximate the conversion numbers / goals of high school nationals.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by heterodyne »

I would, in general, echo what others have suggested in saying that middle parts are a good place to target if you want to make your set feel subjectively gentler. I appreciate that ACF Nats hard parts can get into interesting and unexplored territory, but those are a lot easier to stomach when you aren't missing the majority of the middle parts you're hearing, even as an "average" national-level team.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by 1.82 »

jinah wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 2:16 pm 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 agree with this wholeheartedly. The first quizbowl tournament I ever played was when I was 20 years old, and at the time I was not committed to quizbowl at all, because other people had been playing a lot longer than me and would surely beat me. Over the course of my first year playing quizbowl my interest increased, because I realized that the higher the difficulty, the less it mattered that other people had been playing for far longer than I had; I could beat people with much more experience than me to hard tossups based on what I already knew. Making college quizbowl easier for elite high school players would serve to help lock others out, which runs contrary to what I want college quizbowl to be.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

Beevor Feevor wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:53 am There's no reason why ACF and NAQT can't conduct polls at SCT and Regionals to gauge the community's responses to some of the proposed difficulty and eligibility changes that Dylan and countless others have brought up over the years. More inclusive data is needed to understand the biggest needs that the game has; as much as I love forum posts by veterans describing their philosophies and perspectives on the state of the game, there needs to be more voices in the room that carry weight.
ACF agrees with this! We conducted a survey in December that gave us valuable data on the community's perception of our tournaments.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Carlos Be »

I whole-heartedly agree with this post.

The difficulty of ACF Nats is absurd. Hard bonus parts and early tossup clues are essentially wasted in distinguishing teams. There's no reason to expect writers to write lines and lines of clues that maybe 3 people are going to get any information out of whatsoever. (Conveniently, ACF Nats lacks power stats so we can't see just how unbuzzable the early clues are.)

Possibly the most fiendish consequence of this difficulty is that good players begin to doubt themselves. When you repeatedly 10 bonuses in categories you know, you start to believe that you don't know that category. And then when you do get that early buzz or convert a middle part, you believe by default that it was a misplaced clue, or that it was later in the tossup than it actually is (powers would help with this). Obviously not everyone suffers this effect, but collegiate quiz bowl should not restrict itself to the very confident.

I want to clarify the point about graduate students. I don't think many people have a problem with graduate students playing because they're graduate students, but rather the problem is because they've been playing for so long. Experience is a pathway to many advantages some consider to be unfair:

1. Clue accumulation
Hyper-experienced players buzz on clues that were "stock" as long ago as 2009. While one remedy to this is to avoid writing such clues, this is infeasible. First, how on earth is a writer supposed to know what clues were over-clued so many years ago? Second, those clues might be legitimately important, and avoiding them could lead to difficulty creep.

2. Increasing returns on osmosis
By osmosis, I mean the process in which players retain clues that come up in tournaments or packet readings without studying them specifically. Players are more likely to remember things that are related to something they already know. Thus, if you know more things, there are more things you are likely to remember.

3. Understanding the limits of the canon
It often happens at higher difficulties that players buzz not by knowing a clue specifically, but by limiting down the answer-space until they can make a good guess. This is very difficult if you don't know the limits of the canon. Furthermore, the so-called "upper canon" is largely arbitrary (based on what qb writers decided to write in times past), so it is rarely possible to learn the limits of the canon without having played a bunch of quiz bowl.

4. Practice buzzing on a given clue
For whatever reason, players often find it difficult to buzz on something they know if they have not heard it clued before. For example, it can be hard to remember character names or minor plot details from a novel until you have been explicitly asked to recall this information.

If you have won so many book prizes that you are insulted by them, or if you have won so many national tournaments that you lobby ACF to reschedule when you can't attend, then perhaps it is time that you step down.

I'm through now, but let me leave you with one more thing. 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.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Ike »

Mike Bentley wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 12:29 pm I'm a little skeptical of someone like Ike representing himself as a non-top player at any point in college.
I played 2009 Nats as a high school student, and the posts I've made are about that experience specifically.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by AKKOLADE »

Ike wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:30 pm
Mike Bentley wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 12:29 pm I'm a little skeptical of someone like Ike representing himself as a non-top player at any point in college.
I played 2009 Nats as a high school student, and the posts I've made are about that experience specifically.
You were also among the best high school players ever.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Mike Bentley »

Ike wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:30 pm
Mike Bentley wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 12:29 pm I'm a little skeptical of someone like Ike representing himself as a non-top player at any point in college.
I played 2009 Nats as a high school student, and the posts I've made are about that experience specifically.
Oh, okay, I misunderstood. Still I think you were better as a high school student playing solo than I ever was playing ACF Nationals as an undergrad.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by heterodyne »

justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:03 pm I whole-heartedly agree with this post.

The difficulty of ACF Nats is absurd. Hard bonus parts and early tossup clues are essentially wasted in distinguishing teams. There's no reason to expect writers to write lines and lines of clues that maybe 3 people are going to get any information out of whatsoever. (Conveniently, ACF Nats lacks power stats so we can't see just how unbuzzable the early clues are.)
I like listening to them and learning things, and it's fun when I buzz on them :)
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Stinkweed Imp »

justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:03 pm I want to clarify the point about graduate students. I don't think many people have a problem with graduate students playing because they're graduate students, but rather the problem is because they've been playing for so long. Experience is a pathway to many advantages some consider to be unfair:
All of these things are the product of putting effort into becoming good at quizbowl, not merely being in school for a long time. The elite players who are grad students are elite because they studied a lot (which includes things like reading packets and trying to 'quizbowlify' their knowledge), not because they've just been around forever. Of course, grad students having been involved in quizbowl for longer does give them an advantage, but it is by no means insurmountable, as evidenced by the many undergraduate players who are as good or better than the top grad students
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by A Dim-Witted Saboteur »

justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:03 pm They are creating a new generation of quiz bowl that is not restricted to elite academics.
What is this supposed to mean
Young players are not going to accept the dogma that quiz bowl has to be intellectually and financially inaccessible.
Who is saying this

Also, fam you're arguing against maintaining the difficulty of a quiz bowl tournament; maybe the "we will bury you" stuff is a tad hyperbolic
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Carlos Be »

Goofy Evanescence Vine wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:39 pm Of course, grad students having been involved in quizbowl for longer does give them an advantage, but it is by no means insurmountable
There is no reason that an advantage needs to be insurmountable to be discouraging or unfair.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by heterodyne »

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. I suppose we could make things less fun, by limiting the field to only a portion of the people in school. But that seems kind of silly to me.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Cheynem »

Can I just say that there is no way you can eliminate advantages in quizbowl? A player who has been playing since middle school has an advantage over a grad student who starts playing in masters school. Players who attend well-funded schools with veteran players who can provide wisdom and guidance have advantages over players who are trying to start up a program with little experience.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by High Dependency Unit »

I don't think it's a problem for teams to just aspire to make ACF nationals; that's basically what I'm setting as our team goal for next year. However, Nationals is still too hard, and still incredibly inaccessible for a number of teams. As a student from a liberal arts college, I also feel like it's relatively unfair for many opponents to have graduate students -- I'm not wholly opposed to their presence, but this year there are no undergraduate tournaments for me, and undergraduate champions qualifying doesn't work in an undergrad-heavy, talent-heavy region like New England (to be perfectly fair I don't wholly know the qualification rules for Nats or ICT). There's nothing wrong with nationals being a place where people can square off against the top teams; there does seem to be an issue with who makes it there.

Obviously a national liberal arts championship is not very feasible, but there are now 6 (Bowdoin, Wesleyan, Amherst, Williams, Tufts, Hamilton) NESCAC schools with teams and creating a conference championship would be pretty cool, though I don't think such a competition makes that much sense in other places. But if someone wants to look at a "middle class" of teams, the emergence and hopeful continuation of teams like ours is something to watch.

Finances are obviously an issue for everyone too, smaller programs especially; I'd like to go to one big tournament outside of New England next year, but that'll be Penn Bowl if Nats is further away than College Park.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by jmarvin_ »

I don't want to spend too much time on this, but I thought I would contribute a point about difficulty. In short, the attitude given in the original post of this thread has always been very confusing to me. I didn't learn about real quizbowl I was a high school upperclassman, and with much effort we managed to qualify and go 5-5 at HSNCT my senior year. In college, I tried to start a team at a university without one, and despite literally going 0-X at regional tournaments in the first few years, we still had fun, and still had goals. One of those was, as a few others have stated, to qualify for nationals at all, which we were proud to do when I was a senior.

I bring this up only to make clear that I have never been an elite player at any level and have stuck through this game—for years with absolutely no financial/institutional support or pre-existent community—because it is inherently fun and edifying. This game is fun to lose, and being a casual player who improved almost totally by playing and learning outside of the game and never by carding or extensive packet study, I still found it to be a blast. The attitude that collegiate quizbowl is inherently too difficult puzzles me because the difficulty has always been one of the game's primary attractions, if not even a goal of its own. My personal goals as a player have often been precisely on the order of "become competent at X category at college regular difficulty," and now "nationals difficulty." The fact that the game was in the past largely out of my reach, but was obviously playable and attainable by impressively intelligent players around me, was always for me a strong call to try to get to their level and actually learn things. I found the fact that there was SO MUCH interesting stuff in areas that I love that I had never heard of to be incredibly exciting, if not the main draw of the game, even, alongside getting to bring some of your own esoteric knowledge into play whether by writing or by having some lucky thing come up for the first time in a packet you play.

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 quizbowl 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.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by vathreya »

Goofy Evanescence Vine wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:39 pm
justinfrench1728 wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:03 pm I want to clarify the point about graduate students. I don't think many people have a problem with graduate students playing because they're graduate students, but rather the problem is because they've been playing for so long. Experience is a pathway to many advantages some consider to be unfair:
All of these things are the product of putting effort into becoming good at quizbowl, not merely being in school for a long time. The elite players who are grad students are elite because they studied a lot (which includes things like reading packets and trying to 'quizbowlify' their knowledge), not because they've just been around forever. Of course, grad students having been involved in quizbowl for longer does give them an advantage, but it is by no means insurmountable, as evidenced by the many undergraduate players who are as good or better than the top grad students
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.

Additionally, with the new freedoms that come with college life, I don't think many high schoolers, even elite players, are prepared to sacrifice whatever is necessary in order to get good at quiz bowl. For college athletes, students are somewhat rewarded (although in many cases not enough) for their efforts through scholarships and potential careers, not to mention increased social currency (in many cases). For quiz bowl, these benefits are virtually nonexistent, and your only motivation is the chance of winning. It's different when a college athlete practices for 2-3 hours every day for a potential scholarship and/or contract, and when a quiz bowler studies for 2-3 hours every day to just win a trophy and some clout from an already insular community, with very little benefit for your career (unlike in high school, where having something of that magnitude on a college application can feel significant). To former high school players who got into quiz bowl because of the competitive aspect, and did well because of their interest in getting better at quiz bowl, the effort just doesn't seem worth it. Quiz bowl, for many people, is fundamentally about getting things right, and if you feel like you can't do that enough without sacrificing significant portions of your time, you're going to call it quits.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by heterodyne »

Working hard to improve at an activity because you enjoy participating in it, even though it might give you no material benefit, is good. It strikes me as quite odd that your post presents this as bad.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

More later, but I'm going to emphasize the point that those of you posting in this thread saying that you enjoyed getting beaten by good players and it made you want to stick around are suffering from severe survivorship bias; chances are that does not apply to most people that pick up a buzzer.
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by eygotem »

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 quizbowl 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.
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...
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Re: College Nationals and Its Problems

Post by vinteuil »

vathreya wrote: Fri Mar 13, 2020 9:09 pmwhen a quiz bowler studies for 2-3 hours every day to just win a trophy and some clout from an already insular community, with very little benefit for your career (unlike in high school, where having something of that magnitude on a college application can feel significant). To former high school players who got into quiz bowl because of the competitive aspect, and did well because of their interest in getting better at quiz bowl, the effort just doesn't seem worth it. Quiz bowl, for many people, is fundamentally about getting things right, and if you feel like you can't do that enough without sacrificing significant portions of your time, you're going to call it quits.
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 quizbowl 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 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.
JR
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