Bad quizbowl

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Bad quizbowl is a term used to refer to that which is not good quizbowl, including non-pyramidal tossups, questions which are designed to be transparent or reward lateral thinking, formats that use gimmicks, content that emphasizes trivia, math calculation, or trash to an inappropriate degree, and tournament formats that do not rank teams in a rational way.

Canonical examples of bad quizbowl include College Bowl, the National Academic Championship, and MSHSAA.

The bad quizbowl circuit in high school

Also known as the "alternate universe," the parallel structure of bad quizbowl to good quizbowl remains in effect in certain geographical areas -- good quizbowl has its invitationals, state championships, and national tournaments, and bad quizbowl has the same. Large portions of the upper Great Plains and Rocky Mountains areas are still dominated by Knowledge Bowl. Questions Unlimited still appears to be the dominant influence in Arkansas and in outlying U.S. territories such as the Virgin Islands and Guam. Otherwise, NAQT has mostly transformed the Questions Unlimited alternate universe into part of a nationwide good quizbowl culture, and History Bowl has brought good HSAPQ questions to QU bastions.

Bad quizbowl at the college level

Until the early 2000s, college quizbowl was split into a segment of teams who played College Bowl, ran very poorly edited invitationals, participated in bad tournaments run by TRASH, and would not come closer to good quizbowl than the questionable first years of NAQT, and an opposing faction which was the ancestor of today's good quizbowl principles. Since then, college quizbowl has been almost completely transformed into a good quizbowl circuit, with NAQT questions improving markedly and ACF becoming more popular and the only style used in independent academic and trash tournaments.

Opportunity cost

The idea that all tournaments should just run in whatever way they prefer and that there should be no attempt to persuade people to choose good quizbowl over bad was often put forth in the past. This is fallacious for several reasons:

  • nearly all teams have limited time and money to devote to quizbowl, meaning that any bad tournament hurts attendance at good tournaments
  • bad quizbowl was and is run by vindictive people who frequently sought to destroy good quizbowl by means other than just competing fairly for attendance; in essence, they were asking for a level playing field that only the good quizbowl side would need to abide by
  • many bad quizbowl tournaments were intertwined with larger issues (racial discrimination, bias towards certain teams, plagiarism) that made it ethically questionable to participate, all questions of quizbowl aesthetic preference aside
  • good quizbowl is, objectively, a better use of money and time for the stated purposes of quizbowl than bad quizbowl, and was justified in proclaiming its superiority because this was correct