Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quidditch Isn't A Well-Designed Game

Caperton at Crooked Timber reveals that people have started a Muggle Quidditch league. (Since it's Muggle Quidditch, you don't have to fly.) But this doesn't solve the major problem with Quidditch, which is that the scoring system makes it a boring one-on-one game for Seekers.

In most matches we see in the books, 6 of the players are barely relevant to the outcome. Since getting the Golden Snitch scores 150 points and ends the game, and the only other way to score is in 10-point increments, having a good Seeker is basically all that matters. I recall only one game described in the books -- the one where Victor Krum loses the game on his own terms -- where the decisive points are scored by non-Seekers. I guess the Beaters kind of matter, insofar as they can create obstacles for an opposing Seeker, but the other 4 players hardly make a difference. They do nifty-looking stuff, but it's usually just a sideshow.

Of course, this works well enough plotwise in the books, because it's all just a vehicle for Harry to win at things. If that counts as working well. I like a bunch of characters in the books (Lupin! Hermione! Snape! Dumbledore! Hagrid! Tonks!) but I'm not such a big Harry fan, as I think he's mostly just an Awesome Suit for boys to dress up in.


Blar said...

Have you come across Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality already, or do I get to be the first to recommend it to you? It belongs to the category "Harry Potter fanfiction", but it's full of science and rationality and excellent sci-fi/fantasy writing. Harry is completely different from Rowling's version, reminiscent of a young John Stuart Mill. Here's an excerpt where he gives his take on the sport of Quidditch (it begins with Harry speaking to Ron):

"That's just wrong. That violates every possible rule of game design. Look, the rest of this game sounds like it might make sense, sort of, for a sport I mean, but you're basically saying that catching the Snitch overwhelms almost any ordinary point spread. The two Seekers are up there flying around looking for the Snitch and usually not interacting with anyone else, spotting the Snitch first is going to be mostly luck -"

"It's not luck!" protested Ron. "You've got to keep your eyes moving in the right pattern -"

"That's not interactive, there's no back-and-forth with the other player and how much fun is it to watch someone incredibly good at moving their eyes? And then whichever Seeker gets lucky swoops in and grabs the Snitch and makes everyone else's work moot. It's like someone took a real game and grafted on this pointless extra position just so that you could be the Most Important Player without needing to really get involved or learn the rest of it. Who was the first Seeker, the King's idiot son who wanted to play Quidditch but couldn't understand the rules?" Actually, now that Harry thought about it, that seemed like a surprisingly good hypothesis. Put him on a broomstick and tell him to catch the shiny thing...

Toast said...

Seriously, dude?

low-tech cyclist said...

Yeah, I couldn't help but notice that myself when reading the books.

You want to know my biggest problem with the series, though? Harry and friends' fetish, in the final volume, with keeping underage Hogwarts students out of the battle.

I mean, where did this shit come from? Harry, Hermione, and Ron have been fighting Voldemort since they were eleven years old, but all of a sudden, with the fate of the wizarding world on the line, everyone sixteen and under (most significantly Ginny Weasley) has to be tucked away from the fighting.

They're deprived of agency in the battle that will determine whether or not they'll be Voldemort's slaves for whatever portion of their natural lives Voldy lets them live. That makes no sense at all.

wsn said...

I thought this too, but in one of the books I remember Harry having to wait until Gryffindor scored a certain amount of points more than the competition so that G could win the tournament, not just the game.

Which I took to mean that the cup standings take into account all points scored, not just snitch points. So you still want to score points.

I'm not sure whether or how win/losses count in the standings though.

Garrett said...

If you would do your research then you'd know that muggle quidditch's rules state that the snitch is only worth 30 points, making it important, but not an almost absolute win if caught. Many times in Muggle Quidditch has the snitch been caught and the other team one. So it really isn't all that flawed.