A few weeks ago, this appeared in my inbox, and I thought about responding then; but then more serious priorities came up and I was unable to follow up on what I had wanted to say.
That said, IPMS uses an unweighted system that is frequently unworkable at the local level. National judging criteria has been online forever; but my experiences been that nobody actually ever reads the national rules, and put them into practice. I have been a member of IPMS since February 1967, I have been to a lot of contests; I have judged many of them, including a Nationals a decade or so ago. As president of the Sacramento IPMS Silverwings Chapter for 10 years, I have done my share of running contests. I have also taken home my share of awards over the years.
IPMS is one of the few competitive organizations that I am aware of that absolutely refuses to use some form of numerical standard for evaluation of competitor performance. Think of it, everybody else uses a point system to evaluate performance in various categories of competition, whether as professional sports, Olympic competition, such as figure skating, or whatever, they all use a point system. We do not. We use a system that is inherently arbitrary, inefficient, inconsistent, and mostly focuses on inconsequentials.
Go to any collection of models in a contest, and it is an absolute guarantee that 95 percent of them will have obvious flaws, whether it is in alignments, sloppy painting, flawed construction technique; you name it. In many contests, models of differing scales are lumped together for no other reason that the number of entrants in any standard scale are likely to be insufficient to generate effective competition. All biplanes together; all airliners together, sci-fi, automobiles; whatever. Actual accomplishment is rarely considered. I would be the first to agree that modelers often attempt projects for which they all too often have insufficient skill, commitment, or patience to do the job properly. On the other hand, there are modeling venues, especially among older modelers, where some models might take years to complete, such as model shipbuilding, where built up hulls are laboriously constructed from hand cut frames; plank-on-frame exterior, rigging, and all the other features and accouterments of old-time men-'o-war take years of study and practice to do the job properly. Needless to say, we do not see much of that in our contests.
In the contest itself, getting people to judge can be like pulling teeth. I can remember occasions where I personally judged nine categories of models in a single afternoon, often with one another judge. That makes for a long afternoon. It also makes it tough to get the awards announced, and getting people on their way back home before late afternoon. And Sacramento has long had the reputation of running the better-attended contests in Northern California.
This next month, we will be hosting a judging clinic at our monthly meetings in order to get potential judges primed and ready to go, both at our contest, and elsewhere in our area. This is long overdue.
If I could put one finger on where things go wrong, it would be that judges get hyper-focused on one aspect of model judging, typically looking for flaws rather than looking for quality of work. And by quality work, I am talking about balance. I have seen judges looking inside jet air intakes looking for scratch marks that no one can see without a penlight, looking way in the back, just to be able to find something on which to hang his hat in order to make a decision. At the same time, sloppy detailing in paintwork and decaling often go unnoticed. Environmental effects such as weathering are overdone or are inappropriate to the era and circumstances that the model is supposed to represent (paint chipping on a sea-borne, carrier-based aircraft? Really?) That is absurd! And it is also unfair. I see three or four so-called 'experts' hyper focused on trying to decide which is Number One, and which will be Number Two, when there are still several other categories of models that need to be judged, and judged efficiently.
There are ways to do that, and do it efficiently; but it does require the judging cadre to be able to separate out the important from the accidental or inconsequential. Regrettably, this penchant for 'finding the flaw' has been baked into their consciousness to the extent that they cannot imagine any other consideration. At the same time, the meter is running, and people are getting impatient to pack up and go home!
At the national level, we do have judges who know what they are doing; at the local level, not so much.
After doing this stuff for more than 50 years, I have come to the conclusion that things will not get any better, because the untrained new guys are taught to ignore the bigger picture of what the model actually represents, and instead, they are told to get down into the weeds and add up the perceived mistakes and flaws in execution. Pretty sad, when you come to think of it. And that is one of the reasons why it is so hard to get people to judge contests.
That may also be the reason why over the past decade or so, model contests have become progressively fewer in number, and have fewer attendees. Those modelers who attend contests tend to be older. Model making as a pastime tends to attract older men generally nowadays, even as the quality of model kits has never been better. But, with better and more detailed kits now available, expectations have also risen over what modelers expect of themselves by way of accomplishment. Nitpicking and flies pecking is not the way to grow the hobby.
Whether the Gold-Silver-Bronze is a better one from the one that we have now I could not say for sure; but the one thing I can be sure of is that the existing system is not worth a damn, not the way it is being done now! At least with the GSB system, there is the hope and expectation that quality standards would predominate, or at least get a fair hearing. I do not see that happening with the existing IPMS system.
Art Silen IPMS No. 1708