Thursday, November 20, 2008

I.S.C.ontroversy Continued

So last time we left with the cliffhanger of how online ratings actually mean more people should at least consider "cheating" on ISC. My argument is simply this. The most efficient way for many people (myself included) to improve their skill at most games is to play with others who are better than them. Conversely, playing with someone who is significantly worse may also lower your ability. My personal experience has been that when I play scrabble with players more than a hundred or so rating points below whatever level I am at, I quickly pick up bad habits and phonies that if I am not careful will linger and manifest themselves at the worst possible time when playing higher level competition later. A couple caveats before we go on: there are lots of different ways to be bad at scrabble or even mediocre. For instance, I know several players who make poor placement decisions, but know more words than I do (or at least in specialized categories like "threes that do not take an s" or "five letter z words"). There is value to be had with these games, but I still have to be vigilant to pick up the good and leave the bad. Additionally, if a higher rated player decides to "push around" a lower rated player by mixing lots of phonies in with their valid obscure plays then the experience is not going to be very productive either. So what does all this have to do with using aids while playing online? Simply this: playing void games and using aids to inflate one's online rating allows a player access to others who are much better than the "normal" level of competition they would have available. The void feature eliminates the possibility of the stronger opponent filling your mind with bad plays so each new word that enters your brain will be playable when you see it on your rack in a later game. Observing the strategic tendencies of high level players for word placement in real time eventually begins to hard wire "dos and don'ts" into the mind as well. I know countless players who very rarely play against opponents significantly stronger than them despite playing a high number of games both online and off. Unless they increase their studying and memorization they invariably remain stagnant or slowly decrease in ability. Those who use the tactic I have described to obtain games with superior competition have consistently improved their rating and often by leaps and bounds despite doing the same (or even less) traditional studying. It may be debatable whether this decision is morally right or not, but it is not debatable that it gets results.

6 comments:

Winter said...

I feel a very strong desire to bludgeon people who cheat on ISC.

Professor P (Inman) said...

Okay. I know many people feel that way, but I still do not understand why there are such strong feelings on the subject. Can you illuminate me?

Quintopia said...

I totally agree with your stance here, but I think there are other ways that players could train by doing without impinging upon ISC social conventions. For instance by playing void games on other networks where players can agree beforehand that any and all aids are fair game. Even if professionals are not found on these networks, players will be playing at a higher level than they would unaided, and so when equals play one another, it will be as if both of them are playing someone better than they are.

Possibly a good place to do this is in MB's official online game or in literati...

Romance Alta., said...

I've been playing Scrabble online on and off for a few years now, and just recently became obsessed with improving my game. I like to play stylistically, and tend to go for seven letter plays.

What frustrates me is when I'm pitted against the two and three letter opportunistic-type players who seem hard pressed to present me with anything other than "jo", "go", "and", "yo", etc. This effectively limits options for super high scoring and infuriates me to no end!

Erik said...

I agree with Winter - ISC cheats should be castigated in every possible way. If you want to improve, simply use a study aid like Zyzzyva (not during play) and use the 'Observe' function on ISC to view the higher rated (legitimate) players to learn strategy. Also, I strongly believe playing VOID or using an aid hurts your game much more that it helps (let alone making you quite pathetic).

LEOBLOG said...

Following a rather unpleasant encounter on ISC recently the Wordbiz site on my computer no longer functions - the site opens but with an empty blue page, without any possibility of connection to play. Coincidence ? I am beginning to wonder since my unpleasant opponent posted a message to me just before the problem arose saying "lucky it's just a game". Am I imagining an ill-intended loser having bugged my site or have other people experienced this problem of an empty blue page and can anyone help me with a solution to the problem ...