Using the camera to make rulings: Viewer, Commentator, and TD responsibilities.

I’m starting this topic specifically to talk about games that are live streamed. Currently, the IFPA/PAPA unified ruleset has no specific rules as to how video review can be used in real-time or to retroactively affect a TD’s ruling on a game.

During any point in a pinball competition where the number of pinball machines being played exceeds the number of TDs in a tournament, it is not possible for the TDs to watch the games with complete focus. This is obvious and not something that anybody argues should change since every tournament with a qualifying portion has very many games being played at the same time. In addition, the majority of the tournament rules are enforced by the games themselves. Often, players will responsibly take it upon themselves to report issues they experience at a machine such as stuck balls, scoring issues, and beneficial malfunctions. However, issues will still certainly be missed in single-player games.

Once a camera is placed on a game, the number of eyes on a single pinball game grow tremendously. Twice, however, I’ve been in the situation where the information being exchanged between commentators and viewers is not, or not completely shared with me, the tournament director. Most recently, this happened with Volley in Round 1 of the Pinfest 2022 finals, but it also happened during The Rolling Stones match during the NYCPC 2019 finals.

Taking this chat excerpt that I don’t have access to while I’m scorekeeping and directing a tournament, it seems like some viewers in the chat have come to a consensus agreement as to what the ruling for this game should have been. However, none of those viewers have communicated this to me. I wish any of these people in chat would have sent me any sort of communication, be it a text message, tiltforums DM, discord DM, Instagram message, or Facebook message so that I could have made a better ruling. What’s more disappointing to me is that the 2 commentators did not walk the 20 feet to come talk to me and explain what they had witnessed malfunction on the game. Instead, they sent the stream producer who was not watching the match to the same extent over to me. I’d like to note that none of the players in the match being streamed reported any game malfunction or scoring issue.

Meanwhile, on another game, without the camera and dozens of players engaging in discussion on what they saw, and comparing clips and notes, I’m making rulings to the best of my ability by consulting with the players in the match and responding as soon as they notice an issue. On a game of Mata Hari, players in the match flagged me down to let me know that a player had trapped up after receiving many extra points from an unknown source. The issue could not be re-created mid match, and Mati Hari doesn’t allow for easy mid-game diagnostics like a WPC or SPIKE game with a menu system. The ruling was made that the player experienced a significant beneficial malfunction which voided his game score and were given a compensation game to be played after the game in progress. During the compensation game, the significant beneficial malfunction happened again, which led to a catastrophic malfunction ruling where the game was repaired and then played again.

Had the situation that happened on Volley happened without a camera on the game, I feel like it would have played out the same way as the Mata Hari situation, where all the logical steps in the rulings would have been exhausted until the game was invalidated, and then hopefully repaired and replayed. On Volley, we got stuck in this section of the rules:

Any beneficial malfunction which provides one or more players with a significant scoring or strategic advantage in a way that is not part of normal gameplay will void the score of the affected player(s), unless all immediately-affected players and Tournament Officials can agree on a suitable adjustment of the score or other elimination of the advantage

Since we had the cameras, we could always retroactively provide a suitable adjustment of the score by using replay/clips and deducting 10,000 points for every time the score reels jumped.

I’d like to hear other people’s thoughts as to how the camera and live stream tools we have should be used generally in pinball tournaments, and how people believe these game malfunctions can and should be reported to tournament directors.

I think for NYCPC our team is going to try to institute some new policy specifically related to games that are being live-streamed. This will be an experiment, like replay usage has been in all sports, and will likely take influence from the professional sports replay rules we are familiar with. I’m particularly fond of the evolution of the NFL rules, which now outsource ALL replay decisions to a shadowy group of overlords in New York City for all critical decisions, while leaving the nuts and bolts of down and distance to the officiating crew on the field. Ultimately, we will run into the same problems that those sports have dealt with in regard to accuracy, entertainment, and pace of play.


Do not do the FUCK the PLAYER way. Like what golf did in the past with video review.
And do not do have an duel penalty in where you get the penalty and then an other penalty for not putting the penalty on (that you did not know about) on your score card.

Do not give someone an penalty for something that you need to an zoom in to see That yes they did make an penalty (like you taped game the under the fair/foul line or you tapped the game when an Lazarus happen) So now we need rule it an bang back / death save.

Did an BSD Avatar move when the ball was in bang back / death save zone.

Will you have an VIDEO judge? Be ready for 2+ min video reviews?
Have to do an 30 min objection review like what happened at the Kentucky Derby?

and things like this may need an dead heat rule.

Say in head to head or maybe some other formats. If both players get in say 1-2 sec then it’s an auto tie.

Now game software can use some kind of save state / role back to X for tournament play.

In and what point is it really fair to force an play to void an game over an small scoring error?

Some tournaments have rules saying no score editing other then adding points from comp balls.

Time issues with an say an 5+ min review and then an full new game?

Time issues with and 5-10 min review with score tracking and editing?

Time issuing with checking all 4 players game if you checking just one for an scoreing error?

I would say that taking “rulings”, good or bad, from the random pool of streaming spectators is a bad idea. Some may not know the rules of the game (but think they do); some may think they saw something amiss (but didn’t), or vice versa. And it’s not hard for spectators to say things in chat that cause other spectators to start thinking “well, maybe I saw that too…”, which may or may not be the case. Since you’re looking to pro sports for guidance, this would be like an NFL ref being on the edge of call/no call on a play, and looking up to the stadium crowd for feedback on how the call should go. Not good.

It’s an interesting concept, though, to have a pre-designated panel of “video replay officials” – people who are known to the TD, including their knowledge of the specific games in use – who agree to monitor the stream closely, look for any notable problems, and report those problems ASAP to the TD via side channels.

However, unless every game is being streamed, there is some concern about fairness (real or perceived) where some games at the event have the advantage of Video Replay Officials, and others do not.

also need an way to rewind / have an log back buffer. Remote only may make that harder.

Thanks for raising this issue. Good to discuss. Next time you’re TD’ing and something similar comes up, I will certainly DM you. I was expecting that someone in the commentating booth would be notifying you, and that you wouldn’t want your phone blown up with a bunch of DM’s from other people watching the stream.

Besides the section of rules you already referenced, I would also direct you to Section IV: Miscellaneous, Section 1: Special Score Handling. See below (emphases are mine):

IV.1.d. When playing an electromechanical machine, players must understand that some score reel skipping or inaccuracies are inevitable over the course of a tournament due to the mechanical nature of the mechanism. If a score reel is not operating properly, players must notify officials immediately. No ruling will be made unless the score reel in question is the highest, or next-to-highest value reel. Tournament Directors reserve the right to adjust scores on electromechanical machines if an obvious error has been made and the integrity of the match in question can be maintained. If the error in question was not witnessed by a Tournament Director, or it did not occur in a way such that an obvious correction can be made, no adjustment will be made and the score shown will stand. In the case of a continuously malfunctioning score reel, Tournament Directors reserve the right to declare a game invalid for the affected player, or for all players involved in the match.

You certainly had/have a documented option to adjust the scores due to the obvious errors, if you felt that the integrity of the match could be maintained. For that, I apologize for defaulting to the last sentence of that same section, which is what I’m more familiar with doing. In hindsight, either option is acceptable.

I also recommend keeping in mind the other elements in play are (a) time, (b) TD bandwidth available to closely monitor further score reel issues, and also (c) availability of back-up pins.
Tourney schedules are almost always pressed for (a), don’t have enough of (b), and typically have some of (c) available… thus why I usually go straight to the last sentence of that section.

As a fellow TD, when we faced a nearly identical issue in finals of TPF on another EM, Fast Draw: a scoring/score reel issue on an EM noticed by the stream, and the commentators immediately brought it to the attention of the TD’s. Prior to going back to review the video, we began closely observing the game scoring, and noticed that the issue happened again. Because the issue was now happening repeatedly with no known easy fix, many more balls to be played by the group, and it would be difficult/laborious to monitor and correct, we exercised the option to declare the game invalid, and the group reassigned a new pin.

Another example that’s aligned with what you did, though I’d argue the error was easier to track: during IFPA Worlds when held at Becker’s place, @ANM and I were playing a game of Butterfly (also an EM), and it was noticed that the game was not always counting the correct amount of bonus during the bonus count. In that case, TD’s went with the adjustment option, and @Smack847 sat there with a pencil and paper making tick marks under each of our names based on how much bonus had been missed. In this example, there was close TD monitoring bandwidth available, and the error was only happening during bonus count, which was easier to monitor and note the adjustment required as it happened.

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if you are going to have ruling come from camera’s then you need full time video TD(s). Yes you should do this but its another burden to running a tournament.


Put me in the camp that disagrees with this. Anytime a TD has access to any evidence that helps get to the truth of the situation and help to make a more accurate ruling … You take that evidence wherever you can find it.

Back in IFPA6 in London we looked at someone’s handycam footage from a match to help on a ruling (there was no streaming back then but someone was randomly filming the match in progress from over the shoulder).

The fact that a bunch of games may not have access to such evidence doesn’t discount the fact that the TD has the chance to make the most correct ruling on whatever games happen to be under camera.


Fair challenge Josh and not what I meant - let me rephrase - if you want to get the most out of it and you want consistency you need a full time video TD if you are stating you want use twitch viewers as psuedo TDs that call out stuff TD’s should be looking at then it’s not a terrible thing other than what about if they don’t shout out or miss stuff or don’t know enough about the game to call out something bad is happening.

I think we want consistency.

To use videos generally to help make a fairer ruling, of course that should be done and I’ve done that myself.

That right there annoys me too. I assume in pinball most commentators are either higher level players that know the rules or TDs themselves. If I ever commentate and I notice that, I’m getting up to personally walk over there. It makes things go swifter.

Video footage how it was used in Volley I think is fine because of what we had. I am in agreement with the less we can do to harm a player mid game is the best route. Sure, it may not be always available but when it is, I think we should use it.

I think our language will include something like “Should any video evidence arise before, during, or after a match is played, the TDs will confer to ensure the most accurate ruling decision can be made.”


I’m awaiting the first instance of using audio evidence to prove player intent :wink:

“Did you intentionally take advantage of a stuck ball in multiball?”
“Of course not”

rolls the tape

Audio heard: “Woo! One ball multiball! Woo!! Jackpot jackpot jackpot!”


Great initial topic, Tim.

You might want to consider time-boxing this one, or changing the phrasing. If something’s brought to your attention in the finals about a match in the quarterfinals, I know I wouldn’t go back to correct the ruling. There’s a statute of limitations on bringing something to the TD’s attention before you have to lock in results and move on to the next round. Perhaps something like “Should any video evidence arise about a match that has been played, the TDs will confer to ensure the most accurate ruling decision can be made.”


But other tournament players or observers in the room raising an issue (something obvious like EM scoring errors) would always be welcomed right? why would twitch viewers be any different?

TDs make rulings, they’re not expected to catch every issue with a game in progress.

Not say it isn’t welcome just saying it’s a two edged sword and as Corey says how long do you time box it? We had an unfortunate incident at UKPinfest were a player did something (in my view unintentionally) but it was picked up some time after the tournament on replay.

I’m all for using more video and online capability in pinball to make it better and better.

I’d argue that once a match is finalized and results are submitted, that match is deemed final. Too dicey to go back and retroactively change matches after the fact a la pro golf and the replay debacles that have happened over the years, as @JoeTheDragon mentioned. However, anything prior to that game score (or that round, depending on format I guess) being submitted would be fair game - video evidence, bystander observations, whatever.

And, sorry this happened to you all TDs this weekend - I was one of those viewers in the chat yelling at my TV, but it never occurred to me (or probably, others in the chat) that what we saw & the info we were providing in the chat wouldn’t make it to you or another TD. Not taking shots at anyone, I just think we all assumed that info would get to you ASAP, somehow. A TD “direct line” of sorts is an interesting idea for larger tournaments being streamed, or perhaps a chat command to call attention to a malfunction for review? Something like that, combined with ensuring that stream commentators are aware to notify a TD for anything questionable, feels like it would be enough.


I think sometimes commentators don’t check on chat as much as they should. Definitely need to keep an eye on it during the match especially. Could help get that info to the TD faster.

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TD should be watching the games and maybe a designated web assistant who relays the chat to the TD to keep the TD focused. Just a suggestion.

Call them an Video judge