Entry: BOOKS/MOVIES/VIDEOGAMES Friday, June 04, 2004



QUIDDITCH SUCKS


A big part of the appeal of the Harry Potter books is how easy they are for kids to relate to. Even though Harry spends much of his time at a magical boarding school, the personal struggles he goes through are not foreign to real-universe kids. The schoolwork is hard, the bullies aren't always easy to deal with and his family is a nightmare. I don't believe for a second that any of this is an accident. While so much of this saga is escapist, fantasy-fulfillment for kids, J.K. Rowling certainly works hard at making readers recognize Harry's plights in themselves. No one ever grew up wanting/expecting a honest-to-goodness magic broom, but creating a universe where there are different broom models and then having your hero look longingly at the latest and best model in a store window is completely germane to adolescent materialistic desire. It removes much of the abstractness of the supernatural, brings you closer to the story and makes you care more about the characters.

Perhaps the most hip, of-today element of the fantastical Harry Potter universe is the sport of quidditch. Again, what Rowling has done is take an old standard in supernatural lore (broom riding for witches) and Poochie it up for today's kids by turning it into an athletic competition. When you throw in all the normal sports-drama components - making the team, training, strategy and the big game - you have a story that's much more close to real-life than it is to one of wizards and witches. If you're looking for a big audience, it's a really smart idea. Almost a stroke of genius. The only problem is quidditch sucks.

In even a casual introduction to the game of quidditch, it's flaws are so obvious and so great that it strips JK Rowling naked and reveals just how divorced she is from our world of muggle sports. Perhaps her greatest flaw of all is how unafraid she is to go into the specifics of the game, despite the fact that she's way out of her depth.

The general idea of a broom-riding basketball/hockey/soccer game is not unsound. The problem is introduced with the position of seeker and the hunt for the golden snitch. The objectives of having chasers get the quaffles into the goals and the seeker catching the golden snitch are completely unrelated to one another. It's as if two separate games have been clumsily welded together.

I think the notion behind the creation of the seeker position is a cheap one: to create a position for the protagonist that's extra special. The seeker is the center forward, the quarterback, the fourth leg of a relay, etc. - except ten times more important. A quidditch game only ends once a seeker catches the golden snitch. It also gives his or her team an additional 150 points. (Quaffle goals are worth 10 points each)

If you were an avid quidditch fan, your most common feeling would be one of non-satisfaction. Essays by sports columnists attacking the rules would be commonplace. The better team would often lose and the winning team would often have hollow-feeling victories. There would be numerous tales of the seeker who lost the game for his team when he foolishly caught the golden snitch, not realizing his team was down by more than 150 points at that second. The fan outrage would dwarf all complaints about the BCS polling, Amateur boxing judging and World Cup penalty shootouts combined.

JK Rowling's creation of quidditch in the HP universe obviously had merchandising dollars in mind. This is completely fair game. Milking franchises for as many revenue streams as possible doesn't automatically hurt the art. It's all in the way it's handled. And again, quidditch just sucks. But there's no need for merchandising here. You can already play quidditch at home! The NBA finals are upon us. Bring a friend over, turn on the TV and each pick a team. Then pull out a chess board and play while the game is going on. If you win the chess game, give yourself 150 points and add it to the score of whichever NBA team you picked. If that total score is greater than the number of points of your opponent's NBA team, you win! The marriage of the two contests into one makes just as little sense as quidditch.

Although not without tension in the books and movies, in practice, quidditch doesn't hold up. As soon as I read the rules in the first book, my main thought was one of sympathy for the videogame designers who would inevitably be saddled with the chore of turning this reverse-engineered-for-dramatic-purposes smorgasbord of sports ideas into an actual game. It was therefore with great surprise that I learned that the game "Quidditch World Cup" was released by Electronic Arts.

What was I missing? I just couldn't believe that a game so ill-conceived could be made to work. Well, this is how they did it. They gave each team a "Golden Snitch Bar." As you and your opponent try to score quaffle points, your bar moves toward the center. Once the two sides meet, the golden snitch is released. This is an interesting solution, but certainly is not the quidditch Rowling describes, where the elements of quaffle play and golden snitch capture are concurrent, not sequential. The book of "Sorcerer's Stone" includes a second quidditch game, which was removed from the film. In it, Harry catches the golden snitch almost immediately, ending the game before it even began. Clearly, this game could not be replicated in the Electronic Arts re-envisioned version. Since no quaffle play took place, none could be rewarded with golden snitch bar advancement.

So why all the fuss? Well, I guess it's the snooty attitude that making a game that actually works isn't important as long as the trappings are fun. I truly believe that Rowling's cursory approach to designing the game thumbs its nose at all true sports enthusiasts. It trivializes us. It says "well the silly games that you watch don't make any sense, so why should mine?" Well, they do make sense, honey. And they're important. Although not exactly the same thing, look at all the work John Madden put into his line of videogames before he'd assign his name to them. He refused to allow technological limitations deter him from making games that were true to football. And his stubbornness yielded pure game greatness. It's quite clear that the game of quidditch has been devised by a soccer mom who most likely doesn't even understand soccer.

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Well it is mentioned in a few places in the books as well as the little charity pamphlet Quidditch Through The Ages that catching the snitch can take a very long time. In some cases, even days. The teams just have to keep playing until the snitch is caught. Rowling keeps the action moving because she is trying to write a story, not run a game simulation. keep it up thanks for the sharing
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Well it is mentioned in a few places in the books as well as the little charity pamphlet Quidditch Through The Ages that catching the snitch can take a very long time. In some cases, even days. The teams just have to keep playing until the snitch is caught. Rowling keeps the action moving because she is trying to write a story, not run a game simulation. keep it up thanks for the sharing
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December 5, 2010   09:20 PM PST
 
The fact that Quidditch is built around Harry is bothersome, but not so much ó Rowling doesn't really take the trouble to develop a solid standalone world that's independent of Harry's discovery of things. With regards to that game, a more salient problem is this: Not once in the series does Harry fail to snatch that Snitch except for extenuating circumstances. In other words, he never legitimately loses. Not only is it dumb, but it's a lost opportunity on Rowling's part ó Harry cares deeply about his athletic performance, and would be impressively humiliated if rival Draco Malfoy were a truly equal and sometimes superior Seeker.

Anyway, in addition to the core flaw pointed out by many, Quidditch seems kinda limited for a world with so much raw power. I expect that Potterverse wizards would prefer a sport whose players could use their wands, for example ó that would be truly intense, and open to an infinitude of creative possibility.

(When you got tired of pushing the Quaffle with repulsion spells against the opponents' repulsion spells, you would start to think up other creative means of achieving your objective, such as literally moving the goalposts, or magically messing with the players' minds, or turning the ball into something else just before your opponent scored with it, nullifying their gain.)

Either that, or it should have been a game like Futurama's Blurnsball, where we are given a vague sense of rules mapping onto a game we already know, but then every time they actually play, some craaaazy new rule pops up. Harry would know twice as much as the readers get to about how the game is played, but only half as much as the game's experts, like Madam Hooch, would know.
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July 14, 2008   11:23 AM PDT
 
Quidditch adds to the story, it probably shouldnt be over analyzed
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Gloris
March 1, 2006   11:53 AM PST
 
The reason the snitch/quaffle relationship is not the same as a chess/basketball one are the variable you left out of your analysis, the bludgers. That's the connection right there. If your aerial enforcers concentrate on trying to stop the seeker than more goals will be let through because you can't be in two places at once (unless you're Hermione of course). An important strategic element comes in to play here whether to concentrate on short term game or the crapshoot of the snitch.
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ides
November 26, 2005   02:50 PM PST
 
In addition to the snitch issue, what always bothered me about the game is how ridiculously dangerous it was. The beaters seek to pummel opponents with very fast-flying bowling balls, from what I understand. A single head or torso shot could be lethal. What kind of a kids game is this?
Super Dad
October 1, 2005   12:44 AM PDT
 
I enjoyed the books alot but the quidditch game DOES suck and DOES detract from the books.
It's a flaw people, not a fatal flaw but it's there none the less. The posts below that condem anyone for making a legit complaint about an obvious flaw are the ones with the problem, not the critic. Some just seem to have Rowling up on such a high pedestal that they want her to be above criticism.
No one is above constructive criticism and the HP books are not Holy books handed down from on high. And writing it off as "just a kids book" or "it's fantasy so any illogical think goes" is just excuse making.
Creating a fantasy sport to allow the protagonist a chance at glory is an excellent idea, but Quidditch was ill conceived from the start. Deal with it.
DBene
June 20, 2005   07:07 PM PDT
 
I also love playing quidditch in my backyard...every once in a while, I have three of my friends over, and we play in the back yard. All it takes is four long charlotte pipes, about six or seven feet long, and two hula hoops. Using two of the pipes, criss cross them and tape the hula hoop to one of the open ends, and sharpen the other end, sticking it into the ground. Do the same and stick it into the other side. Then you need a red bouncy ball (the Quaffle), a golf ball (the Snitch), and two soccer balls (the Bludgers)...assign one person on the team to be a Keeper/Beater (he takes care of guarding the goal, as well as throwing bludgers at opponents, and scoring, for this game only) and the other to be Chaser/Seeker (in charge of the main goal scoring, and locating the Snitch). But before the game starts have a person who is not playing hide the golf ball somewhere in the backyard. HAVE FUN!
QuidditchSeeker18
April 19, 2005   08:36 PM PDT
 
Oh, shut up. I love to play Quidditch in my backyard. We use a handball, six hula hoops, 7 guys, a small bouncy ball, ref, two other guys who randomly throw hard stuff at us, while running around with brooms. It is lots of fun! Don't ruin it. Quidditch rules!!! Note: Can't wait until we can fly!!!
...
June 26, 2004   11:50 PM PDT
 
I think it would really just be ch better and like other sports if when the snitch is caught, it is worth 20 points. Every time you catch the snitch an inningis over. There are seven innings in a game. Catching the snitch does not automaticcly make you win the game.
jax
June 21, 2004   04:38 PM PDT
 
I think there are a few things being overlooked in this analysis of quidditch as a sport.

First of all, Harry plays on a school team, and they have limited skill at the game. In book 4 Rowling describes a professional quidditch match, and the teams start racking up points so fast that within only a few minutes, catching the snitch does not necessarily mean winning the game. In fact, that is just what happens: Krum catches the snitch, but his team loses.

Secondly, it is mentioned in a few places in the books as well as the little charity pamphlet Quidditch Through The Ages that catching the snitch can take a very long time. In some cases, even days. The teams just have to keep playing until the snitch is caught. Rowling keeps the action moving because she is trying to write a story, not run a game simulation. But the clear implacation is that in the usual course of events, games are longer than Rowling describes, so that quaffle-handling can be just as important as having a good seeker.
Also, it should be pointed out that we experience almost all of the books through Harry's eyes, and the strong point of Team Griffindor is that they have a really talented seeker, so that's what they leverage. In the World Cup, Ireland has a great chaser unit, and they win the game through scoring ability. Other teams might have good beaters and win games through defense. Different teams will have different strengths and will thus produce different results. Gee, just like real sports.

Lastly, the purpose of both the seeker and the bludgers is to add a wild card element to a fairly standard ball game (brooms not withstanding). They allow the game to suddenly shift directions at any time, with rapidly opening and closing windows of opportunity as the score changes, players get injured, ect. I suggest that the problem with quidditch is not that Rowling failed to think it through, but rather that many readers have failed to imagine the full possibilities of the game. But don't worry. Once we muggles nail down that anti-gravity thing, (or at least gin up a working holodeck!) I have NO DOUBT IN MY MIND that someone will try to play this sport. Then maybe we'll see. peace all -jax-
Thomas Peter Ray Jr
June 18, 2004   06:49 AM PDT
 
"JK Rowling's creation of quidditch in the HP universe obviously had merchandising dollars in mind."

I would seriously doubt that. At the time the first book was written, there was no indication that these stories would gain the sort of following that would merchandising viable. It seems much more likely that Rowling invented a sport without thinking through the logistics. Most sports develop over time, starting off with a general idea, with additional rules being introduced as the situations that require them crop up. Quidditch sprang fully-formed from the head of Rowling, without the advantage of field testing. As a result, it doesn't work very well. Had it been played even a few times in the real world, it would have become obvious to the players that something had to be done about the seeker/snitch rule. Either the game should end by some other means or the score for catching the snitch should be much lower.
Cyril
June 16, 2004   04:09 AM PDT
 
So yeah, you're right on all counts. I think if you're so inclined you can dismiss it by just using the standard 'wizardly types in this setting are notoriously nonsensical'. I think you could probably write similar articles about how flawed many of the other conventions are in the series. Any writer as knowledgable as a skilled amateur in a given subject is going to find major flaws, imbalances, and equalities in the wizarding world.

It just seems like wizards aren't much the type to write long essays or pontificate on fairness. The ones with the most power are just going to decide arbitrarily along the lines of some 'greater good' or personal agenda, depending on how they're aligned. Anyway, offtopic.

Bottom line, you're right but it's only glaring to many of us because you've chosen to highlight it. And to you because that's something you focus in on in fiction.
James Kabala
June 14, 2004   06:36 PM PDT
 
The original post is great. This has long annoyed me, as has the failure to disband Slytherin.
I have only read the first two books, so I was unaware that the championship was determined by cumulative points rather than won-lost record. If you ask me, this only makes things more confusing and unrealistic.
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June 13, 2004   07:26 PM PDT
 
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Filip
June 13, 2004   02:46 PM PDT
 
Thank you - I really like the Harry Potter, but the first time I read the quiddich rules I had exactly the same thought: "how are they going to make a video game out of it?"
Also: fantasy books authors have to be ESPECIALLY concerned with coherency of the presented world. I think anyone can see the difference between the "Lord of the rings" and the "Alice's adventures in the wonderland" (I am not sure if I got the second title right, I am not an English speaker). In the first one you can really be touched by what is happening and feel like you are inside. The second book is very enjoyable, but impossible to be taken seriously.
And Harry Potter books do try to be moving.
klr
June 13, 2004   07:04 AM PDT
 
All right, then, imagine that you're in the stands, watching a game of quidditch. Would you want to just sit there twiddling your thumbs while you waited for one of the seekers to find the snitch, or would you want something else to watch in the interim, since, as Rowling states in one of the books, it can take a really long time for that to happen? Yes, the point of the game is to find the snitch. But there are variations on the outcome of the game, such as in "Goblet of Fire," where one team earns the victory in the game but the other team steals the game by finding the snitch. Also, the points in quidditch are applied to the points earned by each house during the school year, so THAT is also the point of the rest of the game.

I still think there are better things to debate than the rules of a game no one would ever be able to play.
Saintly
June 12, 2004   06:56 PM PDT
 
All the people who jump to Rowling's defense with 'Hey, it's a different world and different rules apply" are missing the point... Suspension of disbelief only takes you so far. It can ask you to accept the fantastic, the magical; talking trees, hippos that fly, dragons, elves... but it can't ask you to accept something clearly *illogical* and flawed.

It's not a band-aid for poor writing, or poorly thought-out concepts.

As an example, suppose there are two ways that the students can get to class from their dorm; one being a perfectly normal hallway that gets them to class quickly, and the other being guarded by a fierce dragon that eats every other person who passes. Plus, the second path is twice as long as the first. I accept the dragon. It's fantasy. I wouldn't accept that all the students would choose the second path to get to class every day without a REALLY GOOD REASON why they were behaving illogically.

If they *do* all take the second path, then I'd expect to see logical consequences. There wouldn't be many students left after a few days of classes.

The logical consequence of the game of Quidditch is that the entire game consists of two people searching for the snitch. The rest of the game is pointless, just as the author of the article describes.
Jorge
June 12, 2004   09:12 AM PDT
 
Any truly good writer who creates a game in his universe that is vital to the way that particular universe works, will take care to make the game solid and believable.

I've always wanted to play Hadoul, invented by Jack Vance.

If JK didn't bother to write a game that works even if it's important, than that's a regrettable flaw.
Of course, she's the most successful writer [revenue wise] in the history of the species.
Guess how many nights she doesn't sleep soundly because you don't like the way she wrote a game in her books.
klr
June 11, 2004   05:10 PM PDT
 
I stand by my earlier comments. While quidditch is certainly an important and integral part of the Harry Potter stories, and while, yes, a large amount of emphasis is placed on the sport in the books... this is still fiction. Nothing in the game of quidditch is even plausible, much less possible. I've never seen anyone fly by my window on a broomstick, yet my willing suspension of disbelief allows me to accept that, in the world of witches and wizards in the Harry Potter stories, this is possible. In the same way, we are asked to accept the rules of quidditch. You might as well critique J.K. Rowling for her use of mythological creatures that don't exist in the real universe. I have never seen a hippogriff, yet I accept that, for the purposes of this story, they exist. When you are creating a world which has its own rules, as this one certainly has, you are automatically granted artistic license to decide what is acceptable and not acceptable within the boundaries of that world. I am a playwright, and I find it perfectly acceptable to create a game for play in a fantastical world that has rules that would not be adequate in our world.

Having said that, I don't disagree that anyone has the right to critique anything they want. I feel, and have always felt, that an "audience" to any particular genre of writing, performance, etc., immediately has the right to point out the strengths and weaknesses involved in a particular piece. So it isn't the discussion or "critiquing" of the rules of quidditch that surprises me; rather, it is the passion with which many people seem to be defending their position on this nonessential issue. No one is talking about the construction of the piece, or the character development. Instead, an enormous amount of time, energy and space is being spent discussing the rules of a game that no one will ever be able to play. And this is all happening, according to some of the people who are posting comments here, under the umbrella of literary critique. I find that fascinating.

I don't recall anyone ever calling any of the Harry Potter books "good adult literature;" I have only ever heard that they are enjoyable to adults as well as children. As far as children's literature is concerned, the books are really wonderful. I am 30 years old and enjoyed reading each one very much. On the other hand, I recently finished reading all four books by Dan Brown, the author of "The DaVinci Code," so I do resent the implication that adults who read these books are reading below their level and not reading appropriate material. I read many genres and styles of fiction. I would expect anyone who claims to write fiction to also want to appreciate the different styles of writing that exist in this world. And so I must refer back to my comment about how fascinating it is that this many people are willing to become so passionate about something they claim is beneath their reading level. Critique and criticize what you want; just be respectful that everyone has his or her opinion and is entitled to express that opinion without being called names or subjected to insults.
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June 11, 2004   02:03 PM PDT
 
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Randel
June 11, 2004   01:21 PM PDT
 
I must concur with the author of this "review." When I read the Potter books, I was also nonplussed with the rules and scoring of quiddich. I let it mentally slide, but for anyone who has ever played an organized sport of any kind, it amounted to a non-sequitor; a hurdle to the suspension of belief you must achieve to "get into" your fiction reading.
To the nay-sayers: how hard would it have been to come up with a more plausible set of rules for quiddich? Seems lazy or sloppy to me.

Just my $0.02.
al
June 11, 2004   12:58 PM PDT
 
Many people have saying in the later comments that critiquing quidditch is a waste of time, and that we're all a bunch of cynical bitter critiquing critics. Well, they have a point. It certainly is a nitpick.

But I disagree that we shouldn't bother evaluating Harry Potter just because it's children's literature. I think it's important, in developing your critical acumen, to consider all sorts of works, and being able to clearly understand and express their strengths and their flaws. This is part of what makes you a literate adult. And doing this is particularly important in the case of Harry Potter, because it's often held up as an example of good adult literature as well --- and I agree with Dwarg that this doesn't hold up.

I find particularly funny Chamberlin's comment below, painting everyone blasting quidditch as a bunch of cynical academics who can't create anything themselves. Personally, I'm concerned with matters like the realism of quidditch precisely *because* I write fiction. (And I gather that so does Tom Franck, the guy who's running this blog in the first place.) As a writer, it's crucial for me to be concerned with the smallest details of my fiction. I need to be able to find the little flaws and fix them, whether it's an unrealized character, a misplaced comma or a poorly designed sport. I would go so far as to say that the ability to critique is arguably the most fundamental skill for a writer. Of course, in the case of Harry Potter there's nothing I can do to fix quidditch --- but it's important for me to hone my skills at critiquing so that I can spot this kind of mistake when it appears in my own fiction.
Dwarg
June 11, 2004   12:08 PM PDT
 
I too find it depressing that so many adults feel the need to praise childrens books and talk them up as, "good for adults too" when so much amazing writing exists and is easily accessible to us today. I'm not sure if it represents degraded intellectual capacity or just satisfies the escapist need to ignore real-world problems and live in a mentally and emotionally stunted fantasy world.

After hearing all the hype I read the first book and I think it showed incredible imagination and delivered a good, although overly simplistic, message to children. Rowlings has created a lush fantasy world, but the characters, plot, and conflicts, while perfectly suited for children's reading, should leave adults shaking their heads at the silliness--especially the trite and contrived endings.

But back to quidditch. The fact that it is a fiction book has nothing to do with quidditch's legitimacy as a sport. When Kurt Vonnegut wanted to create a religion in Cat's Cradle he did so in a way that showed an understanding of not only religion, but its relationship with politics, and the power it holds over its followers. When Ms. Rowlings wanted to create a sport she did so in a way that shows she has no understanding of how sports work. For all the weight she puts on the sport, influencing teachers decisions and consuming the lives of a number of the students, she might have taken the time to create a sport that would merit that level of interest.

But they are just children's books.
Chamberlin
June 11, 2004   11:51 AM PDT
 
I live in a very academic town full of intellectuals and artists and find this type of pomposity hilarious. I don't know if I would refer to the author of this review an academic but he/she sure wants you to think they are. What it all boils down to is this...there are two different kinds of academic people. Either you create or you critique. I've always found the latter to be a bitter and overly cynical lot who just really can't create anything of their own so they make a career of thrusting their nose in the air at other people's creations - even when that creation is a series of CHILDREN'S books that a lot of adults also happen to enjoy. I am 32 years old and love reading them. It is nice to feel like a kid again. I do read other things that the author of the review of Quiddich might approve of, but believe me, I read them because I want to, not so people like him/her will approve.

By the way, posting a formal "review" of a fictional game within a very fictional children's book is pretty ridiculous, don't you think? Your next writing assignment: 1000 words comparison of The Hulk and Superman - Could Superman beat up the Hulk?
Bee
June 11, 2004   10:36 AM PDT
 
While I completely disagree with the author of the review of quidditch, I find the posting of "Hairy Putzer" to be truly offensive.

While flaming people for reading childrens books and implying that someone couldn't possibly read the Harry Potter books and Pulitzer prize winners for literature, he also manages to put his ingnorance on display.

I quote: "Read a real book every once and awhile people!"

How about this. "Read a book every once in a while, people." Maybe you should go back to grammar books and the dictionary for a while. It might help you with See Spot Run.
klr
June 11, 2004   08:48 AM PDT
 
Okay. First of all, there is nothing wrong with adults reading these books; one of the things that critics agree on about these books is that, while they're intended for children, they're so well-written that even an adult can enjoy them. Plus, sometimes you're in the mood for a nice, quick, entertaining read. That's what they're good for.

Now, on to the Quidditch issue. The fact that there is a debate about the authenticity of it as a sport is slightly ridiculous. Until we can learn to fly, the entire sport, when placed into the real word, is ludicrous. It is a fantasy, as is the entire world of Harry Potter. NOTHING IN THE BOOKS IS MEANT TO BE TAKEN AS GOSPEL. It is fiction. Relax. Don't you have anything more important to debate? Like, for instance, the fact that the third movie was far less true to the book than the first two were?
Hairy Putzer
June 11, 2004   07:05 AM PDT
 
Read a real book every once and awhile people! Its obnoxious and depressing to see that vast expanses of the adult population only read children's novels. If you liked Harry Potter, you may want to check out See Spot Run or Frog and Toad are Friends.
JBH
June 11, 2004   06:46 AM PDT
 
I think you are taking this entirely too seriously and losing sight of the most important thing: these books were written to be read and enjoyed. Case closed. If there are flaws, so be it. If your opinions differ from those presented, either don't read them, or write your own stories. Rowling may not be a sports expert, but she doesn't have to be. She makes millions of people happy. And you putting your two cents in, just trying to share some small part of the limelight only makes you look like an opportunist.
CelticDragon
June 11, 2004   04:40 AM PDT
 
When looked at through the lens of what it is supposed to be, Quidditch makes sense, but when looked at as a sport in and of itself, it doesn't. What Quidditch is really supposed to be is another on the checklist of childhood wish fulfillment, i.e., Sports Hero. The position of seeker is tailormade to highlight Harry Potter primary assets, namely being agile, sneaky, and clever. The fact that retrieving the Golden Snitch ends the game and awards the team 150 pts. makes him all the more important. The readers of the Harry Potter books, mostly the child readers, are imagining themselves AS Harry Potter, and for them the fact that Harry is already famous, rich, and popular isn't enough. He needs to fulfill ALL their dreams, as he is them, at least when they are reading the books.
Jake
June 10, 2004   04:34 PM PDT
 
Of course, the wizards-think-different thing doesn't work in all situations (e.g. eye-gouging and finger eating). But it does work for quidditch. Remember that the test is not whether we would do it but, while considering the inherent rules, if the world is internal consistant.

First, the individualistic wizarding culture would not care at all whether "EVERYBODY [gets] to have a chance at shining glory". If they're willing to tolerate house-elf enslavement, discrimination against other non-humans, a virulently anti-muggle born house and have a almost minimalist government why would they care about the feelings of a few athletes.

Second, just because the other six guys (or girls!) are subordinate to the seeker doesn't mean that no one pays attention to them or that they don't matter. For much of the game there isn't an action with the seeker, they're just cruising around looking for the snitch. During this time, people would pay attention to the quaffle fight. The rest of the team also matter in game terms. If they're Beaters, then they can impact the primary game by protecting their seeker/attacking the enemy seeker. If they're chasers of the keeper then if they completely outplay the other team and score 16+ more goals, than they can nullify the enemy seeker. More realistically, as someone below pointed out every goal counts in the cumulative score.

Most likely Slytherin house survived because ambitious and cunning people would occupy powerful positions in government and the economy. Just look at the influence that the Malfoys have and multiple that by all the Slytherin alumnus.
Dr. G
June 10, 2004   01:24 PM PDT
 
Man, am I glad that someone else finally voiced this criticism besides me. When I read the first book, I almost didn't finish it because all the quidditch crap annoyed me to no end. The game really is poorly conceived, and since it is often featured in the books, really drags the novels down.

But then, Rowling is just a hack writer, anyway. A rich hack, indeed, but a hack just the same.
Stacey
June 10, 2004   11:27 AM PDT
 
Um... guys? It's fiction. Let it go.
Stacey
June 10, 2004   11:26 AM PDT
 
Um... guys? It's fiction. Let it go.
Nancy Lebovitz
June 10, 2004   05:59 AM PDT
 
In re why Slytherin wasn't disbanded: Maybe the other three houses don't have sufficient power to do so?

Alternatively, maybe Slytherin brings in needed qualities of sneakiness and initiative (note that Harry is a potential Slytherin member) and occasionally Slytherin is worth the cost.
Fred
June 10, 2004   03:11 AM PDT
 
To Bill: What's wrong with Biathlon? I think it's a very nice sport.
_
June 9, 2004   07:17 PM PDT
 
If you read the short book called 'Quidditch Through the Ages' you may find the most likely reason why catching the Snitch is worth 150 points.
Atropos
June 9, 2004   03:36 PM PDT
 
There's a difference between "that's illogical and goofy, but wizards are just goofy enough to do it", which is most of the stuff in the HP books, and "no creature capable of conscious thought who pondered this sport for ten seconds would think it was a good idea", which is what Quidditch is. Okay, wizards are individualistic, they don't think of it as a team sport so much as a mano-a-mano contest. So why the hell are the other six guys even there? If they're so individualistic, why are they content with being the guys that nobody pays attention to and who don't matter at goddamn all? You'd think they'd want EVERYBODY to have a chance at shining glory but noooo, the Seeker is the only one who matters.

It really is stupid, and I can't fathom how Rowling could have thought it worth putting in a book even if she knew nothing of sports. I mean, she wants to say that wizards are illogical. That doesn't mean that everything that is illogical fits in the wizard world. Saying that they don't see anything wrong with Quidditch is like if she put bizarre self-mutilation in there and said "They gouge out their own eyes with salad forks and eat off their own fingers because they're WIZARDS! They don't THINK like you and me do!"
Eric
June 9, 2004   10:14 AM PDT
 
And you know what? Where the heck is this animus against J.K. Rowling coming from? You deduce that the imaginary sport she first made up for a backdrop in a children's fantasy book eight or so years ago is silly, and conclude from that fact with absolute certainty that she is deliberately thumbing her nose at all true sports enthusiasts in general, and apparently in you in particular. What?!

Has Rowling gone off in interviews about how much she hates sports and sports enthusiasts before, or some such? If not, then don't jump to such conclusions. It makes you look frightfully paranoid.
Bill
June 9, 2004   06:36 AM PDT
 
Then there's the Biathlon: A cross country ski race with occasional breaks for target shooting!


Bill
June 9, 2004   06:31 AM PDT
 
Near the end of each half of a game of American football, two games are played simultaneously: one for control over the time left on clock, the other for field position and points.

Nick Simmonds
June 9, 2004   01:26 AM PDT
 
<i> I truly believe that Rowling's cursory approach to designing the game thumbs its nose at all true sports enthusiasts. It trivializes us. It says "well the silly games that you watch don't make any sense, so why should mine?"</i>

Actually, what trivializes you is when you use ten paragraphs of text to deconstruct a game used as a backdrop is a novel about wizards and witches flying around on broomsticks.
Jake
June 8, 2004   04:40 PM PDT
 
To start things off, the 150 pt Snitch has always kinda irked me. But I don't think it's as bad as you're putting it.

The reason the snitch/quaffle relationship is not the same as a chess/basketball one are the variable you left out of your analysis, the bludgers. That's the connection right there. If your aerial enforcers concentrate on trying to stop the seeker than more goals will be let through because you can't be in two places at once (unless you're Hermione of course). An important strategic element comes in to play here whether to concentrate on short term game or the crapshoot of the snitch.

While the wizards-think-differently argument can be overused, I think it's very apt here. Our muggle prejudices make us look at quidditch through the lenses of our games: What's the point of the chasers if the seeker can effectively win the game whatever they do. The riddle is solved if we look at it as wizards would, with the game of quidditch as a contest between seekers trying to grab the snitch (as the game was when in developed, with a prize of 150 galleons to the winner, which is why it's 150/10 instead of 15/1). The other players are basically second-string fiddlers. Rather than think of it as the the seeker being able to nullify the work of the other players, they would see it as the other players being able to nullify the work of the seeker occasionally. Wizards are after all highly individualistic lot (no Department of Magical Social Security) and looking at quidditch as a mano-a-mano duel rather than a conventional team game would help.
Tom
June 8, 2004   04:29 PM PDT
 
"The economics don't seem to make much sense, nor does the whole system of Muggle-wizard interaction, or the widely varying usefullness of magic. For example,"

Yeah, but that's true of almost all fantasy with magic involved. If the supernatural was able to be manipulated by humans, then countering/enhancing that manipulation would be a natural part of human interactions. Cf. witch doctors in South Africa, who are consulted when people believe they've been the subject of sorcery.

The only decent treatment of magic and it's social/economic implications is in Steven Brust's Jhereg novels.
Sean O'Hara
June 8, 2004   04:29 PM PDT
 
Rowling obviously realized the flaw in the game at some point, which is why in the third book she introduced a new aspect to the game -- league rankings are based upon the team's cumulative score.

What that means is that no matter how good the seeker is, the rest of the team needs to score some points to win the championship.

Consider the following quidditch season.

Gryffindor - 150/Ravenclaw - 120
Gryffindor - 150/Hufflepuff - 100
Gryffindor - 150/Slytherin - 140
Slytherin - 180/Ravenclaw - 220
Slytherin - 240/Hufflepuff - 180
Ravenclaw - 240/Hufflepuff - 170

Even though Gryffindor won every game, their total score is only 450, the same as Hufflepuff which didn't catch a single snitch. Ravenclaw would win with 580, and Slytherin would be in second with 560.

Playing a pickup game would be pretty pointless, but league/tournament play makes sense.
Kim Scarborough
June 8, 2004   03:43 PM PDT
 
"1. Scoring is in multiples of 10. Why? Should be 1 pt for a goal and 15 for catching the snitch. "

I agree that this is how it should be, but that part of it, at least, is not unrealistic. Pinball and video games, for instance, almost never have a denomination less than 10 points, so why don't they just divide everything by 10? In boxing, the winner of the round gets 10 points and the loser never more than 7 (or something like that). Why not just make the range 0-4? There are similar problems with gymnastics (if that counts as a sport) and bull riding. And don't even get me started on tennis scoring...
Name
June 8, 2004   03:09 PM PDT
 
Just a few quick comments. "Honey" is the right response to Rowling's condescension to sports fans, and "Soccer Mom" is no different from "Nascar Dad"--it's not sexist in any context.

Second, Quidditch isn't like boxing unless the person who delivers the knockout punch is not the one doing the fighting.
J Mann
June 8, 2004   03:01 PM PDT
 
One other point I wanted to make is that Quidditch is another of Rowling's unnecessary add-ons to make Harry be The Most Special Boy In The World.

The story could probably get by just on Harry's natural qualities, his initial fame, and his connection to Voldemort, but Rowling keeps inventing additional devices to thrust Harry into the center of the story - he's given a series of powerful magic items; he stumbles onto the essential clues of each books plot; Dumbledore is apparently content to guide Harry through annual conflicts with Voldemort rather than intervene more directly; and, last, but not least, he plays a sport in which he is the only person on his team allowed to score the game-winning goal.
JamesT
June 8, 2004   02:38 PM PDT
 
Ummm. Sounds like some people have waaaaay too much time on their hands. The books are mental popcorn. Deconstruction of the elements is not exactly required. *Shrug* But if thats how you enjoy the books, by analyzing the elements, more power to ya'.
tps12
June 8, 2004   02:30 PM PDT
 
I'm sympathetic to this view, and have argued along the same lines before. That said, there is something to the idea that it's sort of reasonable for the official wizarding sport to not make sense to muggles. Wizards also have a currency comprised of mutually prime denominations, which is completely illogical, and many similar examples abound.

But please drop the condescension and sexism ("honey," "soccer mom") next time. It does nothing to further your argument and merely reflects poorly on you.
Luagha
June 8, 2004   01:35 PM PDT
 
First, in likening the sport to soccer/football/rugby/hockey, you're missing the traditional sport it really comes from: Hurley. Hurley, a gaelic game played on a grassy field, teams each have sticks with which to hit a ball to the other side of the field and in through a goal; is a classic faerie game and plenty of Irish folktales abound involves innocent humans who get caught up into a game of the fey's Hurley.
Next, even from the beginning Rowling makes it clear that wizards don't think like normal people, which is why Hermione's ability to think like a Muggle stands her in powerful stead. For instance, when all the studens are singing the school hymn, each one sings it any way they want and none of them have to be in time or in tune with the others. Quidditch follows from this 'sing your own song' rule more than our classical set-down of sport.
Finally; think of boxing. You never know when you sit down to a boxing match if it's going to go the distance, or if it'll be a thirty-second match with one opponent caught off his guard and outclassed. It's the same with catching the snitch.
Eric
June 8, 2004   12:55 PM PDT
 
I adore the books myself, but admittedly there are plenty of "wha-- why?!" moments throughout them. My favorite being in book four (spoilers), how Harry is put through the whole process of being entered into and winning a series of complicated trials, all so that he can win a trophy at the end that has been enchanted to send him somewhere as soon as he touches it. Why didn't the mystery person manipulating Harry simply hand or send him an object similarly enchanted, rather than wait through several months of complicated maneuvering? Derrrr.

As to Quidditch: hey, YOU try making up a new sport ;)
Name
June 8, 2004   12:55 PM PDT
 
You know, there's no such thing as a Mock Turtle either. And don't get me started on the frumious bandersnatch.

http://sluggy.com/daily.php?date=020915
al
June 8, 2004   12:26 PM PDT
 
I don't even have a clue about sports myself, but it was obvious to me that the game was ridiculous. I think it should've been clear to Rowling as well that her game was poorly conceived, if she had given it any serious thought.

I wouldn't chalk this up to her being a "soccer mom" with no clue about sports. In my view it falls into a more general pattern of imaginative laziness in the Potter books. Rowling seems to care very little about the coherence and believability of her universe: in the Potter books, everything is subordinate to drama and plot. Need a monster? Why bother with inventing something new when a cliched old dragon or troll is just as good as far as the narrative is concerned. Need a sport? Don't concern yourself with making it plausible in itself, just make sure that it gives you a way for your hero to make dramatic turnarounds. As a result of this focus, I found the Potter novels extremely compelling as far as narrative and plot twists are concerned, but disappointingly weak almost everywhere else.
J Mann
June 8, 2004   12:25 PM PDT
 
Agreed that (1) many many details of the wizard world are absurd (or, alternately, wizards just think differently from Muggles) and (2) Quiddich is a good example of #1.

The economics don't seem to make much sense, nor does the whole system of Muggle-wizard interaction, or the widely varying usefullness of magic. For example,

- There's exactly one Marauder's Map in the world, a device sophisticated enough that Snape can't beat it, but it was designed and constructed by 4 (talented) high school students in their spare time. Still, when we meet 3 of these students decades later, none of them seems to have any unique magic gadgets at all.

- When confronted with an attack by the most evil force alive, Dumbledore decides to deal with the threat by setting up three 10-year-olds to fight it, apparently as an educational exercise. The rest of the students are forced to struggle on without this "education."
Brendan
June 8, 2004   12:20 PM PDT
 
Quick, off-the-top-of-my-head improvements to the game:

1) The golden snitch is only worth 35 points. Catching it still ends the game.

2) The golden snitch is not released until one team is 40 points ahead.

This would make the quaffle scoring more relevant, and would put one seeker in an initially defensive position, trying to prevent the other seeker from catching the snitch while not catching it himself until his teammates can score another goal; also keeps games from ending too quickly.
Joshua
June 8, 2004   10:59 AM PDT
 
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I've been a fan of the series all along, but the Quidditch inconsistencies have irked me from the beginning. Too bad Rowling didn't have some kind of sports consultant to turn to in designing the game...
Rene
June 8, 2004   10:45 AM PDT
 
I suppose the capture of the snitch is a great come from behind to win the game device.

Your team is down 140 to 0 but if you catch the snitch, you win 150-140.
Crazy
June 8, 2004   10:27 AM PDT
 
"mature" sports-watching reader?

what an oxy-maroon!
zoannon
June 8, 2004   10:21 AM PDT
 
For a really interesting look at the game dynamis of Quidditch, check out Raphel Crawford Mark's webpage 'Virtual Witches and Warlocks". It details his AI experiments in creating teams that played Quidditch using neural networks and genetic programming.

http://hamp.hampshire.edu/~rpc01/vww.html
Mark
June 8, 2004   09:40 AM PDT
 
I'm guessing every mature, sports-watching reader caught these same errors. As Ernest points out, the series concept somewhat mollifies the problem, but doesn't really get at the underlying complaint: individual games would be intensely disappointing. Moreover, the series scoring only affects the intramural league, and does not, as best I can tell, affect the "Quidditch World Cup."

What's interesting is that the only real saving grace I can think of would be to make the golden snitch a non-game ending event: it's simply 150 "bonus" points out there to be taken, if they are acquired before the game runs its time-limited course. That would require a much less invasive change in the rule system, I think.

Regarding the EA adaptation, which I haven't played, it seems like at least one other reason for the major change is that players cannot handle two different games in tandem very well. To some extent, this has been manifest in the goal-keeping while defending gameplay challenge (see, e.g., Ice Hockey for the NES as an early example). Having the AI handle one task is either boring or frustrating.

All that said, there are also major economic problems with Harry Potter (the wizards' currency system is extremely dubious), and the underlying question of why House Slytherin was not disbanded is never really addressed. (A bit like leaving the Nazis in power in Germany, if only Hitler would agree to go into exile. . .) Quidditch, while more visible, is no more central to the plot than these other gaffes.

And she's still richer than the queen, so go figure.

Myria
June 8, 2004   08:53 AM PDT
 
The scary thing is that I know next to nothing about sports, literally, and even I could see that Quidditch made no sense whatsoever. Why bother with the Quaffle when catching the golden snitch gets 15 times as many points and ends the game instantly?

Myria
Ernest Miller
June 8, 2004   08:46 AM PDT
 
Given that the game of Quidditch was in the first Harry Potter book, long before it was obvious the series would be so successful, I doubt Rowling created the game for its marketing potential.

Second, if the game is so obviously absurd, so are many of the other aspects of the books. It is a fantasy world, after all. Why not complain about a postal system run by owls when magical transport is available?

Also, if you read the books the games are not only important in and of themselves, but as part of a series. Beating one team by 170 points and losing to another team by 120 points may put you over the top overall. It is not perfect by any means, but it isn't supposed to be. See above.
amr
June 8, 2004   08:43 AM PDT
 
Thanks for saying that. I was reading book 5 last night (while watching the stanley cup) and agree with you that quiddich is a non-sports-person's attempt at creating a sport. There could be an easy solution to merging the quaffling, bulgering, and snitching, though: making positions fluid like basketball. If the snitch was nowhere to be found, the seeker could be defending the goal or trying to score himself. Likewise, once the snitch had been spotted, the other players could try for the snitch, which would open up the goals for scoring on the other team, making calculated trade-offs necessary.

A couple of other things that stood out to me:

1. Scoring is in multiples of 10. Why? Should be 1 pt for a goal and 15 for catching the snitch.

2. No backups, or even player rotation. Not even a practice squad. The team is seven players and all seven are on the field the whole time. So integrating a new player (as what happened with Ron in book 5) is a difficult transition. If they could have a 14 person team with seven starters, subs could be put in, even if like soccer, you're only allowed one or two subs a game and there's no re-substitution.
But that would require a coach rather than a captain.

Despite all this, I still enjoy the books and just have to ratchet up the "suspense of disbelief" hard in the quiddich parts of the story.

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