Modern World

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The Modern World Tournament was a disastrous side tournament written and operated by Will Alston and Kirk Jing of Dartmouth. It occurred as a side event to the 2014 NSC, on the evening of May 25, 2014.


The tournament was initially announced as revolutionizing the current events and trash distributions, which the Dartmouth team deemed to be overly focused on unimportant topics and written in the wrong way. People interested in seeing how this new approach at writing would pan out, as well as people interested in current events or trash and people staffing the NSC who thought playing any kind of side event might be enjoyable, signed up to play.

To allay concerns based on the prior questions and posts of the writers, Kirk Jing declared that "none" of the questions in the tournament would be on anime.

Pre-tournament Trouble

In the week before the NSC, troubling disclosures began to shake the field's confidence in the event. People not planning to participate in the tournament who had signed up for playtesting reported that most of the "playtesting" sessions over Skype consisted of the tournament's two editors screaming at each other. Plans to move the tournament out of the slot allocated to it by PACE (which had reserved and paid for the hotel rooms and specifically solicited a "Sunday night/Monday morning" event) or to have a "dinner break" before starting round 1, despite the fact that PACE NSC was scheduled to completely end by 4:00 and met this goal, were discussed and shot down. At the same time, the operators of the tournament realized that they had never booked travel to the NSC (which PACE was paying for as part of its standard arrangement for tournament staffers) and briefly threatened to cancel the event if they could not make last-minute plans.

During-tournament trouble

The event itself was run in a noticeably subpar fashion, which exacerbated the field's disbelief at the question content. The tournament directors made no effort at all to recruit staffers or buzzers prior to the event, and had to sign up any volunteer willing to help them out in a frantic scramble during the NSC. After asking people playing or staffing the tournament before round 1 if they happened to be in possession of buzzers, at least one room was left with no buzzers and was playing slap bowl as a result. Extremely slow and incoherent reader Kirk Jing was forced to read instead of TD due to the lack of available readers. The TDs did not work with the PACE leaders who had keys to the hotel rooms in advance of the event, causing two long delays while rooms were unlocked. The tournament proceeded at a very plodding pace as a result.

Bruce Arthur brought conservative magazine columnist Blake Neff, whom he had met through his Skeeball team, with him to help answer questions on the Dartmouth team's political interests, without informing him of how quizbowl worked beforehand, leading to several instances of saying answers without buzzing or interrupting the other team's bonus. In the second round, aforementioned moderator Kirk Jing illustrated his quality by sitting there pondering for over a minute over whether to give Mike Sorice credit for the answer The End of History or whether The End of History and the Last Man was required in its entirety. Sorice eventually entered an alternate plea: "Rule one way or another and if it's against me, I protest." Jing's ruling is unclear to this day -- Sorice's recollection is that the ruling was against and then no protest was ever considered (in best "As the writer, editor, moderator, and protest committee, I declare that the question I wrote and edited was correct!" fashion.) Whatever the case, Neff took umbrage at this protest and decided to call Sorice "a bitch," which somewhat predictably led to a challenge to fistfight that was declined.

Neff's feat of powering a tossup, getting called for conferring, and nearly getting into a fight with Mike Sorice during his first-ever game of quizbowl has since been dubbed the "Donald Taylor hat trick."

The Sunday portion of the tournament collapsed after seven rounds due to field exhaustion with the slow grind through unenjoyable material. The round seven stats for one of the rooms were lost. The tournament directors abandoned their own event and sent the packet set to a player with instructions to run it himself if he wished to play the promised Monday morning portion of the schedule, as they would not be returning for the second day of their tournament.

The question set

By far the most objectionable part of the event was the questions themselves. Despite the promise of a radically new and superior way of writing current events, the questions were a mixture of pedestrian "fill in the blanks about political scandals" content much like the current events in any other tournament, uninterestingly written 1990s and early 2000s history that barely qualified as current events at all, and random sports and video games questions with no apparent connection to important "modern world" events.

In contrast to Kirk Jing's promise that there would be no anime in the tournament, there were multiple questions purely on anime in every round, and several other questions using anime clues. Other strange and fetishistic interests, including disturbing pornography, bodybuilding, and Internet memes, repeatedly came up in the question set. Perhaps the nadir of the set, or perhaps just the best demonstration of the convergence of awful ideas, was a bonus entirely devoted to a mid-1990s Serbian videotape in which a man plays the melody to a song about massacring Muslims on an accordion.

The set was rife with bizarrely pedantic answer lines, most notably its insistence that there is no country called "China," with obviously racist and misogynistic asides, with outright lies or misunderstood clues sometimes designed to further a political agenda and sometimes just because the writers did not know what they were doing, and with additional clues that, while not necessarily bigoted or incorrect, were part of a cumulative torrent of political jabs that annoyed players and reinforced the sting of the clues which did cross the line.

Post-tournament trouble

The tournament was widely denounced as a horrible failure on every level, from its lack of logistical planning, to its complete missing the mark on any new approach to writing current events, to its lies in the announcement about what it would contain, to its repeated examples of angering staffers and players with socially unacceptable content.

A planned mirror at HSNCT was cancelled due to a consensus that inflicting this set on another audience, especially one containing high schoolers, was a terrible idea.

Kirk Jing did not return to the forums after the start of the tournament on Sunday night and communicated through third parties that he always intended this tournament to be his suicide-bomb out of quizbowl.

Will Alston attempted to shut down the discussion of the set through multiple avenues, including accusing players of "threatening violence" against each other, complaining about people joking about Kirk Jing in a subsequent side event, and asking board staff to forbid further discussion of the tournament due to it being "unproductive."