Comments on Category Definitions and Rules
NOTE: These are the personal comments and opinions of the author and are not to be taken as the official IPMS position or interpretation of any contest rules or category definitions.
One of the problems (and advantages) with the IPMS contest system is that it is based on a large number of narrowly defined categories. This prevents armored vehicles from being judged against F-16 aircraft or Gemini capsules. Unfortunately, in the area of factual spacecraft, there are often vague boundaries between the definitions of aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, real, and hypothetical. Over the past few years, as a member of the IPMS National Contest Committee, I have used the trends noted in national contests and the needs of space modelers to try and clarify and expand the categories in which space modelers have an interest.
In the Fall of 1998, I proposed a series of changes to the IPMS contest categories and their definitions. The main goal was to separate entries that were obviously "real space" from items that were a bit more removed from the core of this category. One specific model that has caused a lot of consternation was the V-2 rocket, which many "real space" modelers would like to see in a category other than Real Space. My proposed changes dealt with that subject as well as similar military rockets.
Instead of droning on about it here, take a look at a (web version) of the letter at this link. Then come back and note the response (below).
Resultant Rule and Category Changes for 1999
The IPMS/USA National Contest Committee meets every year at the Region 2 convention, usually held in early October in the Northeast US. This timing gives the committee members a few months to review the results and trends noted at the just completed National Convention. Additionally, most of the committee members live near the East Coast and are generally able to attend this meeting. I keep in touch with the group via regular and electronic mail and have had no trouble in providing my inputs when required. That is how I transmitted my category proposal in 1998.
The notes from the meeting are mailed in mid-November and a summary was published in a column by Walt Fink in the Jan/Feb 1999 issue of the IPMS Journal. Basically they accepted a large portion of my proposal. But there were some significant revisions made.
The specific changes accepted included:
The biggest difference between what I proposed and what the committee actually implemented was actually the crux of the original concern from space modelers that instigated the entire process. It was the "V-2" issue, and the changes did nothing to resolve that concern. V-2s would still fall in category 600, Real Spacecraft. The new category would accept only unmanned (winged) missiles, not military rockets. I had proposed a new category that included markings as a discriminator, but that aspect was not accepted. This is one of my frustrations with the IPMS system of categories. Some categories are based on markings, some are based on morphology, some are based on other discriminators. The system is not very consistent and can appear to be very arbitrary. But it seems to be successful in offering the maximum opportunity for a modeler to win an award. I can deal with the arbitrary aspects ("markings" versus "shape"), as I recognize there are valid arguments for both approaches.
Nevertheless, the changes were very welcome. Winged missiles, hypothetical rockets, and (most) X-planes are gone from Real Spacecraft. The results from the 1999 contest made the V-2 issue somewhat moot, since no V-2s showed up. The biggest problem seemed to be the hypothetical subjects. There were lots of entries, and weird hypothetical Nazi aircraft were competing against Kraft Ehricke rockets and F-16s in Navy markings. We'll have to see how that category develops in the future before we try to further subdivide it.
Meanwhile, I will continue to listen to modelers suggestions concerning the space and science fiction categories in the IPMS National Contest. While the IPMS contest philosophy certainly has its idiosyncrasies, alternative contest approaches also have drawbacks. While the IPMS approach can make for a lot of work for judges at the contest, it is the result of many years of experience and constant tweaking. Most folks who enter the contest come away pleased with the system, but there is always room for improvement.
One of the things I did for the 1999 Orlando contest was to come up with a list of recommended categories for space-related various models based on the new rules and category changes. The intent was to figure out where to place borderline entries. I'll keep this up to date as new kits come available.
I'm fairly open-minded when it comes to rules and categories. I like to lean to the side that makes the modeler/entrant happy. So feel free to contact me with any ideas or comments.
Nov. 28, 1999