April 24th, 2016

krazy koati

How you lose them if you feel the feeling start

So here's the first problem with selfie leagues. You can do them any old time. I mean, you have to drop in for the finals, yes. But, at least in the two which we've played through so far, the finals aren't much playing. The Grand Rapids Selfie League had eight-person finals brackets, so there were two rounds of three games each. This worked out well for me: I did well in my first round and came into fourth place in the ``league''. In the Marvins selfie league there'll be four-person brackets. I'm not sure how many games that will be. But the point is, if you are into competitive pinball to be with people while you play, there's not a lot to be there for.

Second problem, which is a variation on the first: CST wasn't able to make it to the Grand Rapids selfie league final. So he was placed after the people in the A division, but ahead of the people in the B division. In short, he came in ninth for a league he skipped. That's a bit messed up.

Third problem: selfie leagues allegedly make it easier for new, casual players to join in. They don't have to commit to anything besides being at a hipster bar at some point when they're able to over the course of a month. Great, right? Well, of the 16 people who participated in the first Grand Rapids Selfie League how many do you imagine weren't already regular players? Fewer than that. Heck, it was maybe three-quarters people who were in the state championship in March.

And then the big problem. One of the games in the Marvin's Selfie League this month was FunHouse. My and bunny_hugger's favorite game. It's a tough table; there's a lot of things that can go wrong, and this particular table has a problem of ball locks not registering. This screws up multiball, and that makes it very hard to get a high score. Since the score table was last reset two months ago, only one person, MWS, had broken sixteen million points.

In a night of play with MWS and taking in the new table at Marvin's (The Hobbit), bunny_hugger had one of those glorious, transcendant moments. She put up over 25 million points. Not quite Grand Champion, but incredibly good, especially with the table in the shape it was in. This might not stand as the highest score on the table all month, but it would surely stand for a healthy while.

The next weekend someone posted a sorry to her. Remember that father-and-son team, the ones who seem vaguely suspect even though we can't quite point out anything explicitly wrong? The son put up a score of 44 million, according to his selfie.

We were flabbergasted. It seems hard to believe. One of our A-division pinball friends summarized the problem. Our A-division friend allowed that he would be able to put that score up himself. If the table were locking balls reliably. If he played in the strictest control, bringing the ball to a stop on the flippers every time and lining up every shot. And kept doing this for a game that would take over a half-hour, more likely 45 minutes. Most likely after warming up with a similar game or two. ... The kid? ... Well, the kid is not a control player. Many people aren't. I barely play for control myself; I like the continuous flow of a ball that isn't stopped. But I do have a generally good sense of where to shoot the moving ball. The kid doesn't seem to generally show that much judgement. It's surprising that he should put up a score nearly double bunny_hugger's and, for that matter, one and a half times the previous grand champion score.

Someone else in the league said they'd have to check the level of the machine. The selfie league president joked he'd have to review the security footage of the game. The normal joking after someone puts up a score well above his perceived level? Sure. A tacit acknowledgement that something weird happened there? Perhaps.

Another person beat bunny_hugger's impressive score the day after that. His seemed less improbable. But it still stood out.

Sour grapes on our part? Maybe. It isn't like any of them could actually objectively fiddle with the machine. The most they could do is take advantage of a malfunction the game happened to have. The ball getting stuck, say, or the machine giving jackpot awards for easier shots, both ways the table can break down. But MWS and CST, their curiosity, and ire, aroused went over. They didn't see it behaving strangely at all.

Perhaps the high-scorers did just play very well when they needed. This happens. As I said yesterday, we did that. And a week later, AJG, the state champion, would almost double the kid's score. That's plausible; he is the sort of person who can put the tight control and time in to a table like this. The kid? ... But we don't know. If this happened in a real league, the other players would be watching, aware of any mishaps or accidents or malfunctions. And for the good side of it, they would be there, ready and able to appreciate great play when it happens. Here, there's an unavoidable doubt that has to attach to anyone playing appreciably above their level.

You understand now, though, why many Selfie Leagues have a rule about not disparaging other players' scores. At first we had thought the rule an import from some distant source where some drama rampaged through some league's Facebook page, long ago. We don't now. It clearly isn't a remote possibility that player envies might turn into open conflict. And I'm not sure I like the social dynamic that makes this so easy to see.

Trivia: The Apollo 14 ``rickshaw'', a wheeled cart for carrying eqiupment and samples, weighed eighteen pounds but could carry a 360-pound load, and be pulled with one hand. Source: Where No Man Has Gone Before: A History of NASAs Lunar Expeditions, William David Compton.

Currently Reading: Justice at Nuremberg, Robert E Conot.

PS: Also, Some Mathematics Answers, Whatever Those Are, for those who need non-my-mathematics-blog stuff to read.