The past few weeks have been mighty grueling with the compilation of duties and responsibilities of the truncated summer school class (finally completed!), work, broadcasting and commentating for the United We Stand tournament held by Cassandra Dragonheart, unraveling some miscommunication, relaxing up on a fantastic community-focused game called Fiesta Online (which Thomas Lionblood and Amber Rosepetal have openly sponsored in the past), initiating a new personal PVP-based project (which is secret for the time being, for the sake of my -- and others' -- sanity), guest-judging an official fansite contest, and preparation and execution of the Petnome Project contests.
While operating and administering the events for Petnome over the past year (along with other activities where I've guest-judged), I found myself surprised, concerned, and contemplative with the overall culture of contests within an online community. In other words, I saw (or heard) things I couldn't believe I was seeing (or hearing)...and this goes beyond just erroneous or incorrect entries. So, here are some contestant guidelines and personal advice from yours truly for enhancing your chances of winning contests from any event, from blogs' to fansites' to the official company's:
After Day 2 of the Petnome Birthday Week, I lost count on how many entries were direct requests for the prizes. Examples of this include "I want the 5,000 Crowns...now!" "Give me the Black Cat!" "Can I please win this? I need it really, really bad!" While begging may not disqualify entrants from winning (unless the rules specifically state that it does), it does become a nuisance for the contest holders.
Imagine if you were holding up $20 in cash in your hand and proclaimed you would give it to the person who painted the best portrait of you. Then, along comes someone without any artistic skills, asking you for the prize. You were trying to narrow your pool of players down to someone with creativity -- not someone who goes up to you and begs. So, keep in mind that when you're in a contest, you're in a competition. You have to show some work that follows the requirements to be eligible for the goodies.
Follow All Directions (FAD)
Read everything...literally! While it may be advantageous in the sense of time to skim for keywords such as dates, rules, times, and any second-party applications or programs, not reading everything thoroughly can hurt your entry via disqualification.
For small-pool contests (contests with few seats available for contestants), paying attention to details is important, since the rules will be enforced strongly when the judges are allotted enough time to be picky with their selections or ruling. If a contestant, for example, has the wrong version of an item required by the rules, it may not transition to the next judging phase, no matter how similar or "close" it is.
For large-pool contests (contests available to over hundreds of people), judges may not be as lenient when there is a factor with at least 3/4 of the contestants following the directions correctly. Chances are, the other 1/4 of entries aren't even looked at; entries could be manually OR automatically screened. For example, failure to include a key piece of your information could count as disqualification, like omitting a word; automatic screening may delete any emails with the wrong subject line or message!
Sometimes, judges or contest holders may allow for re-dos when a mistake has occurred that you've caught (truly, it depends on the format of the contest; i.e. trivia vs. riddles vs. feedback vs. media production, etc.). If you happened to omit something, like forgetting to add your Wizard name, try to send the exact same entry (with the missing piece of information included) so that it has uniformity, AND matches exactly what the contest holder asks for. In other words, treat it like a second-chance entry, rather than a follow-up message!
So, hand-in-hand, ALWAYS double-check your information and submissions.
While this concept may seem intuitive, it's both a surprise and an expectation when some contestants don't understand "no trolling." The simple truth is that there is always at least one threat (or worse) or a profane remark thrown at contest holders when the results don't turn out in the violator's favor. Here's another fact: this community is very tight-knit and cohesive, and no contest holder will tolerate malicious contestants within their own contest OR another's. The same goes for those who try to cheat with multiple entries or submissions -- once discovered and marked, violators will have trouble finding eligibility or success with future or other contests. There aren't simpler rules than (1) no harassment and (2) no cheating.
Too Much Information (TMI)
Believe it or not, sometimes contestants will provide more information than we ever need to know...like a phone number or home address. NEVER send any personal information other than an email address that will help the contest holders contact you. Though Official Fansites may be trusted entities, you never know if someone's correspondence email may become hacked (or is already hacked) or keylogged. Also, you never know who someone really is behind the computer screen or keyboard, no matter how nice or considerate they are. NEVER tell someone where you live, or where to call you, or what your real name is, or (Frost Giant forbid) anything that shows up on your birth certificate. True, sometimes birthdays are required for age verification, but other than MMO-based sites like Massively or Beckett's, that information isn't relevant for Wizard101-based contests held by Wizard101 players. And, to reiterate something that seemingly hasn't gotten to all players, yet: NEVER tell anyone your Wizard101 password. The only time you should be using it is if it's at http://wizard101.com or the Game Client. Also, keep in mind that Official Fansites are not KingsIsle. Then again, even THEY ask you never to send your password, even in emails to them!
This isn't redundant, is it? Contests, in my interpretation, are merely windows of opportunity -- privileges, if you will (not rights!) -- to attain some tangible or intangible commodity or benefit for the exchange of minimal (or competitive) work! Know that there will always be contests flowing out of this wonderful community, and that you're hardly missing out if you aren't a winner! "Oh well, Susie got the 5,000 Crowns." That doesn't mean that Susie will also take the 10,000 Crowns that you may win in another contest.
The important fact is that you tried in a contest, and that you didn't have a 0% chance of winning -- not participating is the only way to guarantee a loss. Sometimes the die (or Random.org) doesn't roll in our favor, just like when cards don't come up the way we'd like them to. As long as you didn't troll the contest or contest holders, you'll always have a chance to win!
Cheer on and congratulate the winners -- I'm sure you'd like to be cheered and congratulated yourself when you're a winner someday. Look at it this way: thanks to the contest, your Wizard101 community is populated and full of energy and action. Someone's interest in Wizard101 was enhanced with the prize, and most likely, they'll continue to play and contribute their presence to the game. I haven't seen a barren MMO that's fun to play...heck, it contradicts the concept of it being "massive," "multiplayer," and "online." When you see other wizards running around, you know that there's someone behind another keyboard enjoying the same game you're playing. That makes us feel less isolating, less alone. And heck, at least there will be other players to show-off to when you win a prize in future contests.
(to be continued in Part 2: For the Maker)