Rules, Nepotism, and Sporting Conduct

Some of you may be aware that I co-founded the Flash for Everyone server, a Pokemon GO PvP server located on Discord. I recently resigned after a ruling I made on a reported rules violation was publicly criticized by a Silph judge. It is my opinion that the incident was handled properly by Flash for Everyone in its entirety, and that the Silph judge in question, chimed in on the ruling in a manner that not only violated Silph’s very own rules, but was also indicative of nepotism, unsporting conduct, and unprofessional/rude behavior. Under ideal circumstances, I would have stayed a member of Flash for Everyone, and formally disputed the Judge’s actions through my position of leadership on the server as mod/TOt. However, upon bringing up the matter to the management team (metaljones / kevkillerke), my desire to dispute and publicly contest the decision was outvoted. For that reason, I will publicly share the details of the incident here, including screen shots and discussion. For those of you who know me only as a teacher and educational leader, well … maybe read my next post! 😉

At 10:06 pm MST, just after the round had expired during a ranked Silph cup and the last pair had finished battling, there was one trainer who had not yet reported. This trainer had been tagged and asked to report a few times prior since they had finished prior to the other pairs. Finally, at 10:06pm I receive a DM claiming that the opponent they battled “was using mons in g1 that had different cps and lvls in g3.” I will note that they had already finished all three battles. In short, the rule violation that this trainer was reporting was 1.1, bullet 4, or what is commonly known as swapping:

Of course, as a TO, you are obligated to investigate and make a ruling. Accordingly, I asked the trainer for footage of the mons that differed in g1 and in g3. The trainer took about 5-7 minutes and then sent me numerous screen shots. During this time, I began to compose “heads up” messages in the Flash for Everyone #dispute channel, from 10:14pm – 10:17pm, to both of the trainers that I was investigating the situation. I was busy pulling Silph rules, confirming rules with other TOs in the private channel, etc., and discussing with other TOs how to handle the situation. While I waited for footage of swapping to come in, I posted the following to both trainers:

As you can see, the trainer in question had already provided evidence of incorrect CP values, and I was waiting to see whether the swapping claim could be justified. As I waited, I reviewed the rules on what do for incorrect CP values and/or incorrect battle parties. The rule is as follows:

At the time I was reviewing this, the trainer submitted more footage. Although the footage did not reveal evidence of swapping, as originally claimed, the footage did reveal that not only one mon, but in fact two mons, specifically Diggersby and Mandibuzz, both had incorrect CP values. Considering that the matches were all over, and that we were now 15 minutes past round expiration, and that there were two incorrect mons, I decided to issue a match loss as is permitted by Silph. Although I recognize that there is leniency in this rule, please note the match (all 3 battles) were already completed and we were now well over the round limit. Moreover, this was a live event, with a posted round limit of thirty minutes. I explained to the trainer in violation that they were more than welcome to continue competing, and that they would need to inform opponents of the mistake henceforward:

As you can see above, I immediately gave the trainer a chance to counter dispute the rules violation. I will also note that the request to be removed was made 10 minutes after they were initially tagged. The “just remove me” was at 10:26pm, and my initial tag was at 10:16pm. (In fact, as a courtesy, I went and tagged them in the public channel since they were ignoring / had not seen / or were otherwise unaware of the tag in disputes.) For these reasons, I will note that the trainers complaint, i.e., that they were not “approached” is, false. They were, and they took 10 minutes to respond, then quit. Once they quit, I switched over to the Silph screen, removed them, and advanced the round. About two minutes after I did this, the trainer decided they wanted to counter dispute after all, but I had already advanced, as you can see in this post:

After first quitting and accepting the ruling (although upset), the trainer changed their mind 12 minutes later and at 10:28pm, decided they wanted to dispute. Another TO on duty tried to tag me but they had already quit and accepted the ruling, and I had already advanced about a minute prior, at 10:27pm. The trainer above continued to engage me in discussion for the next 27 minutes. I won’t share all the details, but I will note that none of the claims or discussion points in this follow up had any merit according to Silph’s later ruling, nor did any of them make sense to me personally. The trainer was upset, and I was using my best harm reduction / de-escalation skills from years of teaching in public schools, coaching, playing sports etc., to help them calm down. Around the time the discussion concluded, the TO team notices that a well-known Silph judge had joined the server, and was typing. Here is her first comment:

Regarding this first comment, yes, I have also seen the same. In fact, this is why we permitted the trainer to continue on in the tournament henceforward as long as they notified all future opponents. Reminder – the mistake was not caught before battling, but after the match was over (all 3 games concluded). Secondly, Silph allows for a possible rematch and/or up to a round loss, so the claim that this was “handled poorly” is totally false. Lastly, I would like to note that absolutely nothing in the Silph rules speaks to the amount by which CP values egregiously (who defines that?) differ, so the idea that the amount would have any bearing on our decision whatsoever is entirely without merit. Now, the next comment the judge made was particularly odd:

This comment above is off base because it demonstrates that the Silph judge starting commenting on the situation before reading the conversation. In fact, the trainer never disputed any battle! The trainer reported a rules violation upon catching it, while reviewing video, after a sweaty game 3. The trainer in question never disputed game play. This comment came out of the proverbial “left field” and has literally no bearing or connection to this incident whatsoever. Moreover, when combined with the the tone in her comments above, i.e., saying we acted poorly, indicates both a rush to judgement and also a lack of research and understanding of the situation. This conduct does not seem professional. Instead, the Judge violated Rule #10 of Silph, undermined the three acting TOs (with 10 minutes of research), did not use and/or recommend Silph’s Misconduct site to either of the trainers and/or any concerned outsiders. Silph’s Rule #10 makes it quite clear that TO decisions (especially those in accordance with the rules) should be honored. The next comment was as follows:

First of all, I am not opposed to publicly commenting, after all, as this blog post reveals, I am all about transparency, and I have deliberately included all names/igns. With that said, however, the reason many organizations, including Silph, historically have misconduct reporting systems is to mitigate against a rush to judgement and/or abuse of power. Sadly, these mechanisms did not function properly during this incident. I will now address the “rulings” one by one. Regarding the first ruling that “at worse a loss for Game 3 of this match.” As I quoted above, the rules clearly permit a match loss to be isued by the TO, stating “up to an including a match loss.” Her comment above clearly indicates that she was under the assumption that the trainer was disputing game play and/or lag, which they were not. Ironically, even though the Judge did not understand the situation, had we followed her ruling, the trainer would have lost the match, just as they did with our ruling. As for her comment about “honest mistake,” I have no idea what that means. Rules are not made for people to bend and massage them according to subjective opinions about honest mistakes, but rather to be an objective standard applied equally to everyone. I will never change a rule because of my personal opinion regarding someone’s motive, and a SIlph judge telling me to won’t change that – in fact, if anything, it makes me concered over the ethical integrity of the Silph rules if such conduct is not only condoned, but recommended! As for the suggestion to interrupt a live flash tournament, conduct a fact finding and screen sharing endeavor with the the rule violator in question, there absolutely nothing in the rules to support this. If a Judge wants to re-write the rules to include this leniency, by all means … do so. But, for now, the rules state that invalid battle parties can result in up to a match loss. If Judges and/or other TOs have an issue with TOs / servers following that rule, then they should urge Silph team to re-write the rules to include this stipulation. It does not seem right or fair to the game that a Judge can come in and denigrate any TO team and call their actions poor for following Silph rules. Also, by doing so publicly and in real-time, these actions were in violation of Rule #10. The comments were rude, misguided, unprofessional, and the Judge never understood the situation. After the above comments, I issued a polite directive to all TOs to follow the ruling in good faith, while I went to bed and then later discussed the event through DMs with the leadership team. Upon discovering my motives and reasoning, my colleague kevkillerke, wrote the following on the Arena Discord:

In the post above, you can clearly see that kev made an effort to gently point out that this was a rules violation, not a game play dispute. Her reply is below:

Once again, she talks about subjective opinions and speculation about trainer intent, distinguishing between what she calls “an honest mistake or a malicious attempt at cheating.” She is once again, officially recommending that TOs attempt to use subjective judgement to determine the intent of the rule violator. As far as I can tell, this flexibility does not exist in the rules anywhere. In fact, rules are written in order to avoid these types of subjective behaviors, otherwise who you know, not what you know would determine how rules violations are resolved. Is this a good ole boys/girls network or are these official game rules? Lastly, player A is not obligated to contact player B or a TO – the rules say “should” not “must.” However, we all know Silph rules are riddled with grammatical mistakes, so even if we assume that the authors meant must, he in fact did that. I was notified immediately, and I notified the invovled trainer and tagged the rule violation reporter both in the same post at the very moment they noticed it and that it was brought to my attention. I mentioned this earlier, and the public channel history and time stamps all clearly confirm this. Thus, this requirement was met. Here is another post that was made (please note the SCREAMING):

You can now see in the post above, from the use of the word “regardless,” that the Silph judge is likely more caught up on the actual situation now. However, instead of apologizing, or explaining that she misunderstood the situation at first, she instead SCREAMS additional advise to kev. Let’s address the first claim, namely, that “the TO should then attempt to communicate with the player under review about the situation BEFORE making any sort of judgement call.” They were – time stamps and tags provided above. The trainer in question was given 12 minutes to counter dispute the rules violation claim, having quit at 10 minute mark, and later changed mind at the 12 minute mark. So, that’s clearly wrong. In the final paragraph, the Judge explains that TOs should “attempt to remain unbiased.” I wholeheartedly agree, and assuming a so-called “honest mistake” on the part of a fellow trainer in the tournament, merely because they are a leader in the community and/or because an outsider leveraged their power/authority to bring you in, is exactly such an example of letting perception bias alter a fair judgement. The primary reason that this situation garnered any attention whatsoever, is in fact, because it involved a trainer with a known history of leadership in the community. Throughout all of this … no one bothered to ask, what about the other trainer? What about the fact that they have rights? It’s as if everyone saw a “big name” and got scared, and decided to break the rules. There is a name for that – it’s called nepotism (I know those involved are not related per se, but you get my point), and there are laws in many States and/or federal organizations that deliberately safeguard against the type of bias that it brings in. Also, do not assume that that the trainer involved was the one above, sometimes those with leadership reputations are also victims of the back-door networks. Rather, the point is, this kind of nepotistic behavior turns a fair game into a good ole boy/girls junky Discord network. It ruins the fun entirely. This was a simple case of a trainer fuck up, round expiry, and match loss. How did it turn otherwise? Who ya know … not what ya know! I am a slightly above average PvP player/junkie, who loves supporting healthy and fun activities. The power tripping, rush to judgement in this, and the just blatantly callous rulings / decisions really make me question Silph’s guiding principles. Moreover, the undermining of TO authority and violation of Rule #10 should be of concern to all. Sure, it is just a game, but ethics and behavior are always present, whether a game or political office. This situation was handled 100% appropriately by the server.

[Update: I will note that shortly after this ruling a TO from a different server reported a match in which a mon with 100s of CP difference was used, and they were advised to permit a rematch as per this ruling regarding Flash for Everyone. Is that the spirit of the rules?]

[Update: Go Stadium director of finance (not competing or participating that night) frankly admits to leveraging power, position/experience as a TO, and insider relationship with Silph Judge to encourage her to join the server and subsequently violate Rule #10 as described above. Thanks for putting a large red bow on this blog post for me. I only hope Silph will read this and make some appropriate decisions and/or changes to help ensure that fairness and fun continue to be priorities in the community. Tweet below.]

1 thought on “Rules, Nepotism, and Sporting Conduct

  1. Zioncmnd has built and organized countless Silph tournaments with fair judgement. The disputes I have witnessed in my server and in others by this TO were approached with respect to the competitors and other TOs involved. I would have ruled the same as Zioncmnd. With respect I would like to address it was not appropriate for a Silph Judge to comment in the matter until it was resolved or was submitted for further guidance. Which is also in accordance with the Silph League rules and regulations 10. Where all staff decisions are final. If you feel a staff decision warrants appeal all evidence and information should be submitted via Report Misconduct form to be reviewed by the Arena Team. Not a Judge, the Arena Team. Actively budding a live situation only fed the flames that this gentleman can visibly be seen trying to contain.

    Cheers my friends,
    Bychance93

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