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.