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.


At 3:42 PM, July 02, 2007, Anonymous ScatCat said...

You and chid0ri both raise a good point. Good manners aren't universal between players. Rudeness isn't slways confined to go players though. Kibitzers can, and often do, act with more discourtesy than any player.

My uncle spent a portion of the weekend with me and expressed interest in Go. I logged on KGS with my "stealth" account (hmm. Does everyone have one of those? ^^) and opened a random high dan game to give him an idea how GO was played.

My uncle is very religious and some of the more notorious KGS Kib-idiot-zers were busy filling the chat bar with off color remarks. Needless to say, Go in general and KGS in particular didn't make the first impression I wanted.... :(

At 12:42 PM, July 03, 2007, Blogger Jason said...

My last game on IGS a few months back was with a substantially nasty player.

His style of play was probably the most aggressive I've encountered. That's not the part that bothered me though. I learned Go along with a friend, and neither of us really had any strategy to speak of, so our 19x19 play was just a longer and bloody series of skirmishes than our 13x13 play.

I can deal with someone who wants to fight tooth and nail for every part of the board (even the ones he's lost). What I was shocked by was that he was a trash-talker, and persistent (subtle to progressively blunt suggestions to shut up and play were even more humorous to him than my misplays). Really the sort of adolescent bravado I'd only expect in an online video game.

After abandoning the game, I spent a good half hour trying to determine if there was a way to blacklist him so I didn't have to encounter him again. I was fairly disappointed to discover that you can't do this on IGS.

At 12:11 AM, July 11, 2007, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Hello ScatCat,
I haven't encountered many foul-mouthed kibitzers but it wouldn't surprise me to encounter some.

Hello Jason,
You can blacklist an impolite player on IGS. If you're using the glGo client, right-click on the player's ID and select Status>Ignored.

At 8:28 AM, December 28, 2007, Blogger TechNeilogy said...

I play online role-playing games, so I'm used to rude people (getting used to something like that is kind of sad when you think about it). But I have some thoughts:

First, I also meet a lot of really nice people, and – as in jade mining – sometimes you have to go through a lot dirt to find a few real gems.

Second, there is an idea shared by both Christianity and Zen that “it is not the well who need a physician, but the sick.” So one can choose to look at the darkness and see the hostility to light, or one can choose look at the darkness and see the need for light.

Third, rude people often make me more sad than angry. Their rudeness is often less an attempt to run one down than it is a misguided attempt to boost themselves up.

Fourth, compare the comment of a rude novice: “You *$#(*$ that was the *)$#)$# stupidest move I’ve ever seen,” to that of a master in the same situation: “That was a good move, but not the strongest.” Which is bluster and which carries power? The skilled archer does not aim for the center of the target…

Fifth, in Go terms, a rude person can be said to lack “dame-nature.” Being discontent with the wabi-sabi of life’s dame, they feel pressed to prematurely fill the empty spaces around them with something, even if it is unkindness.

Just some thoughts.


At 9:17 AM, February 13, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got a taste of this myself. About a year or so ago, being one of those hopeless "Japanophiles" (die hard anime/manga fans) I got into the kiddie series, "Hikaru no Go." At the time, I didn't know anything about the game, but when I realized that, unlike chess, there was no simply memorizing sure-fire methods to slaughter your opponent every time, I was interested. The possibilities for play seemed endless, and unlike chess, it didn't look like one could simply dominate the game by simply having a good memory. Immediately I dreamed of getting my own board and what not.

Well, before I could afford it, I found "online go." Knowing absolutely nothing about the game beyond the basic concept of it, needless to say I was pretty bad, and through some terribly embarrassing misunderstandings on my part, managed to quickly and frequently make a fool of myself. Already being an introvert by nature, it didn't help that players were rude and impatient, and expected me to know everything about how the software and game worked.

At the time, the experience was bitter enough to totally turn me off of the game. I liked it, but figured it'd be pointless with no other people to play, and self-confidence not being my strong suit anyhow, I gave it up.

Right now I'm getting my first set of super-cheap go stones, (I was playing with colored 'glass blobs' from the craft store before, because it was all I could afford) and dusting off my 3/4ths inch unfinished go ban, to take another stab at learning the game. Sadly, I think it will be a long time before I have the nerve to play someone again, because of that kind of behavior.

If I already knew completely how to play, and could play even as well as a casual, unskilled player, I might be able to deal with impatience and rudeness. But for an absolute beginner, who is just learning all of the rules, it's just too much to handle.

So thanks to those kinds of people, this go newbie will probably spend a year or two just reading, playing computers and studying on a board. I wish someone would start a club for absolute beginners and nice, patient people who wouldn't mind helping them. It's hard to get fired up about something that's completely solitary... especially when it's supposed to be a two player game!

At 9:30 AM, April 29, 2008, Anonymous Jim said...

All the kibitzers I have met have been very polite

At 8:06 AM, June 06, 2008, Anonymous Frank said...

You touched a soft spot here. I live in a place where Go is absolutely unknown, so I'm completely on my own here. I've played many games on KGS and IGS, but so far I've played only ONE game really worth it, and it was on KGS, my opponent crushed me in a 13x13 goban, but after the game was finished we discussed it thoroughly, with him showing me what my mistakes were and even trying some variations that might have worked better. It was a nice, enlightening game.

But as I said, that was it, I've never found anyone like him again, someone who can really make you grow. Everyone else was completely silent and leave after the match was over, or simply had fun being "Akota-San-like" smartasses (those who know Hikaru No Go know what I'm alking about).

On IGS it was even worse. There was this guy who, just after 50 hands or so, left the game and said "You suck, won't waste my time with you". I understand everyone wanting to play stronger players, it's the best way to learn new things, but leaving us beginners behind? Who's gonna teach us? How are we supposed to learn? That kind of behavior is very discouraging.

After that, I stopped playing Internet Go for 2 years now, and I don't think I'll ever go back there.

At 9:48 AM, January 21, 2009, Blogger Grikdog said...

What's worse than rude vs. noob? Two noobs, neither of whom know what they're doing. Especially when trying to set up handicaps on IGS. I get the impression that there are a lot of jackals who pounce on newbies to pad their stats, just like on FIBS or the chess sites. The software itself is usually an obstacle for beginners, because of tedious differences between clients. IMHO, every go server/client combo out there should offer the same minimum user comfort level as GNU Go running in Sente:goban, the Mac program. As far as rude players go, there's the usual snarkiness from bullies, familiar in every high school chess club in the world, probably. But my favorite to date was a guy on FIBS, the backgammon server, who lost to a mere 1438 rank (I'm lazy) and griped that he didn't appreciate losing to a computer. Until last year or so, there was no way he could have confused a human and a computer go player! I remember the first time an opponent I'd just lost to grabbed the controls of "my" KGS and replayed the game, with interminable comments on every mistake I'd made -- just piling on, I thought. It wasn't part of my experience in casual online gaming, but I have since learned to appreciate the intent, even without much aptitude for absorbing such information. I do find go fairly easy to understand, after the first 200 moves.


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