Saturday, June 30, 2007

Reminders of how uninviting online Go can be for newcomers

It was 8:30pm one night and I was awaiting a critical report from our company's subsidiary in Japan. It might come within 15 minutes. It might come in two hours. I thought I could instead be playing a game of Go, but the likelihood of a sudden interruption gave me pause.

"Why not play a game of Go with your 'anonymous' KGS account?", I thought.

As I discovered, my anonymous account had floated to "5k?"; its rank destabilized from months of idleness. So I put up a game with a remark that I was actually 7k and that I would gladly adjust the handicaps as needed.

Games 1 & 2: A Hostile and An Escaper
As expected, hardly anyone wanted to play with me since I didn't have an established rank.

The first challenge came from a KGS guest (no rank and no games) after almost 20 minutes of waiting. My opponent proceeded to criticize my moves and taunt me with remarks that were occasionally laced with expletives. It was clear that he was notably stronger than me. I didn't care for his demeanor so I resigned early in the game.

"Had enough, eh?", he remarked just before I exited.

The second challenge came from a player with a similarly unstable rank. The game did not go very well for this opponent and it quickly degenerated into a losing blitz. The opponent escaped.

The good ol' days weren't always that good
As you advance in rank and become better-known to the online Go community, encounters with discourteous players become less frequent; but they still occur. On, it's not uncommon to read the laments of new players about rude opponents.

These two games brought back memories of less-pleasant matches of online Go. In my early months, I had my share and blogged about a few; and these were the tip of the iceberg. As time passes, you learn to regard these encounters as anomalies and move past them quickly. I imagine however that they can discourage one from further play. Beginners and those without an established rank generally have it worst.

I wasn't discouraged in my early months because I had a strong desire to advance which was aided by the passion of imagined rivalries and the encouragement of many volunteer mentors and friends. After having been on this journey for two years, I can't help but wonder how many others might have chosen to not continue playing (or to play less) because of encounters with rude players.

Sometimes, real life isn't any better

Coincidentally, chid0ri captured a similar perspective in the 21st cartoon of EmptyTriangle. The difference was that it was from a woman's perspective and based on an in-person incident.

... perhaps it is not the reason why such a few girls are playing go (it could be the consequence; who knows), but it certainly might be the reason why a girl would quit playing - or, at least, stop attending tournaments
- chid0ri

Social ineptitude can be found anywhere.

Games 3 & 4: The faith restored
My data arrived from Japan shortly after the second game. I was actually relieved to have to get back to work.

Still, I was intrigued by what had happened. It's not everyday that I get to be a pseudo-noob on KGS. I thought I should carry on after my work was done and turn my evening into a social experiment.

My third challenger was a solid 6k. I got the impression that this person was in his early teens. He was refreshingly polite and cordial. He lost the game because of a couple of errors and we did a short review. We probably thanked each other for the game at least three times before we said our final goodbyes.

My fourth challenger was an active member from and also a solid 6k. True to his form, he played a thoughtful and polite game that went into byo-yomi. I was surprised to have won by a small margin. There was no end-game review or long goodbyes, but there was his usual and fully-typed "Thank you for the game".

And so, the night ended with four games with rude players claiming 50% .

Maybe I'll try this experiment again on another evening.