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How to Argue and Start Discussion

Discussion in 'BW OU' started by Matthew, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. Matthew

    Matthew I love weather; Sun for days
    is a Site Staff Alumnusis a Forum Moderator Alumnusis a Tiering Contributor Alumnusis a Contributor Alumnusis a Battle Server Moderator Alumnus

    May 26, 2008
    I didn't write any of this, Tangerine did way back in the time of Stark Mountain. I do feel, however, that it is something we should all read; since a lot of arguments in DST in a whole need some minor (or major) fine tuning before they're ready to be posted. I'm not going to name names though. Regardless here it is

    "Considering the recent fiasco involving Wobbuffet and Deoxys, in addition to the many other posts that are regurgitated in Stark Mountain, it becomes clear that many of you, good and bad players alike, fail to present coherent and logical arguments. Considering that there is an ongoing effort involving improving the quality of discussion in Stark Mountain, I believe that such a guide might be needed in order to fuel the revolution.

    Of course, stupidity is to be expected in any community. However, this thread does not address these "stupid" as it is quite likely that their attention would not extend to this thread. It is aimed towards the individuals who make a conscious effort to be a part of the community. This guide, if one can call it that, hopes to guide these users so that they may have a valid voice when such an event happens again. Finally, it hopes that it will indirectly cut down on the sheer amount of effort that drives threads off-topic usually involved within correcting the fallacious arguments, or even at times responding to a valid argument with a fallacious one.

    To put it simply, the thread hopes that the discussions involved in Stark Mountain would be debates regarding the philosophy behind systems and viewpoints, rather than a fistfight involving logical fallacies and incoherent arguments. The thread, then, will explore common fallacies and point out couple points that make certain arguments incoherent.

    To write such a guide is a pompous act - it presumes that the author supposedly knows what is good for the community and that they should follow his example. It should be noted that this guide was read and endorsed by every moderator who had the time to preview the draft. We do not claim to be free of logical fallacies by creating a thread such as this, nor do I believe this thread should be something everyone should be forced to adjust to. I also do not believe that this thread contains all the secrets to being a "good" poster on Smogon. This should be well noted, and thus, criticism or comments should be made so the author is able to amend

    And thus, we begin.

    Back Up Your Arguments!

    A real rule in the forum that most people seem to be unaware of (Maybe they're Bidoofs). The idea is simple - if you make a statement, we want to hear why the statement may be valid. We want you to prove it - and show all of your work. Those math teachers everyone despised because they made you show all of your work have a point - your work proves that your statement is indeed the answer to the problem. We want you to apply this idea to arguments - or else it goes against the purpose of this forum.

    The purpose of this forum is to promote discussion - it is not a place where your opinions are heard simply because you have one. We do not want your opinion if you are not able to back it up. Therefore, when making a claim, make certain that you back it up.

    Complete Your Arguments!

    Some people simply list facts to "back up their argument" - the most common Pokemon this argument applied to regards Garchomp. People simply list its base stats and its movepool and the fact that "it is uncounterable" and then concludes that it is uber. This is a logical leap. A full argument must avoid these leaps and lead users step by step into why the argument holds and how it applies to a definition. This is analogous to assuming that "Well this baseball player hit 60 home runs, he must be on steroids". Not only is there a great measure of uncertainty that looms throughout such a statement, but such a statement does nothing for the discussion.

    A common argument is that "statistics do not show this Pokemon is overcentralizing" without telling the user what the statistics are showing and its significance.

    Know your Definitions!

    People commonly throw around words without understanding the full impact involving that word. Common words used in this way are "uber" "overpowered" "overcentralizing". People also commonly talk about the tiering system without understanding. It should be noted that in order to argue for or against anything, the understandings of the definition and the current systems in place must be solid.

    Yet it is surprising how many people still throw around these words without fully grasping it. Consider the word "overcentralizing", which was discussed indepth in one of my previous threads. I believe TheMaskedNitpicker defined it the best...

    However, one word that I don't believe should have a strict definition is 'overcentralization'. It's a word I wish we could all stop using, myself included. What it really means is 'more centralized than I want the metagame to be'.
    'Definitions' in Pokemon are currently not definitions at all - they are far too 'vague' for that at this stage and game. Yet how many people throw the words around like they mean something? How many people use them as the crux of their argument? Far too many.

    Of course, since there is no official definition of such terms yet, we hope that each user is able to work with a personal definition that is made clear by an argument. Claims such as "Steelix is a physical wall that isn't OHKO'd by Nasty Plot Persian, it should be OU", for example, show that the user assumes that any "physical wall" that can take a special hit or two is too broken for the UU metagame. This of course, moves onto our next point about using personal definitions.

    Arguing Definitions

    "Garchomp has no counters, it should be uber"
    "But Gengar and Lucario has no counters"
    "Fine, Garchomp has no counters with a single moveset, it should be uber"

    It does not take a genius to realize that something is going horrendously wrong here. These arguments occur because a user wants a certain Pokemon banned regardless of the definition, or is uncertain what the definition is in the first place. The definition will be twisted and twisted again until of course the definition fits the Pokemon so perfectly that it cannot be argued against.

    But of course, every uber has a unique trait that makes it uber, whether it be the combination of Shadow Tag + Encore or massive attack and speed that would assuringly destroy the metagame. It should be noted that there cannot be one definition to what might be uber(or broken) or overcentralizing.

    However, we still want to avoid such arguments that are so limited in scope. It should be noted that when you wish to use a definition to show why a Pokemon might be too powerful, you note the effects of a given Pokemon in the metagame, not some limited argument such as "no counters with a single moveset". People nowadays seem to think that counters are the only way to deal with a threat - this is simply not true in the current metagame involving Diamond and Pearl. If a user has such a limited understanding, then perhaps they need to put more thought into what they are arguing before making a post in Stark Mountain.

    Stretch your Arguments!

    If an argument is made for one Pokemon, it should be applied to all. Arguments such as "Deoxys E is destroyed by paralysis, it shouldn't be uber" or "Garchomp has no counters, it should be uber" or even "The Pokemon has counters, it shouldn't be uber" arguments apply to this. When these arguments are applied to other Pokemon, we see that "Mewtwo is destroyed by paralysis, it shouldn't be uber" or "Gengar has no counters, it should be uber" and even "Kyogre has counters, it shouldn't be uber". One way to test if your argument might be valid is to apply it to other Pokemon and see if it holds true. Essentially, your arguments should not be limited in scope, but it should aim to apply to the entire metagame if possible, or at least key portions of the metagame.

    Many arguments calling for a Pokemon to be "Uber" fall under this category, for obvious reasons.

    Finally, note that examples are not methods of proof. There are no "proofs by examples". Your experiences shouldn't be your only fuel behind your argument. Just because your Jumpluff dealt with someone's Garchomp a few times doesn't mean that Jumpluff is a good way to deal with Garchomp, for example.

    Personal Attacks/Flaming/Trolling

    The blatant personal attacks are usually hit swiftly by an infraction. This involves simply adding "you are an idiot" or something to that effect somewhere in the post when addressing someone's 'argument'. It should be noted that not only are these against the rules of the forum, but it simply adds nothing to the argument of your own. If someone is an idiot, show us why they are an idiot. If they are really idiots, they probably don't realize that fact and need someone to show them the light.

    Discrediting the user in some way does not make the argument any less valid. This includes the "The user does not play the game" arguments. If a given argument, for one reason or another, is wrong, then it should be replied with an argument why the argument is invalid, not why the user is stupid.

    Note the difference between flaming and "ad hominem" attacks, the latter which many users are claiming to see a lot of. This, however, is not true. Suppose that, user X claims the following.

    "Y does not play Pokemon. Therefore his opinion on the Metagame does not matter".

    It is clear why this is an ad hominem fallacy. They are attempting to say that because of some objectionable characteristic of Y, Y's argument fails to hold. This is the example of ad homnem fallacy. On the other hand, flaming would be

    "Y, you're an idiot"

    There is a fine line between flaming, and ad hominem. Ad hominem uses the flame as an argument of why the argument does not hold. Consider

    "You're an idiot. Your argument does not hold because of reason X"

    Assuming reason X is valid, the above statement is NOT an ad hominem. Of course, you shouldn't be calling people idiots anyway, but that's not the point here.


    Sadly arguments that are based on ignorance is something that is impossible to avoid. People will make ignorant statements no matter what we as a community might do. (maybe not responding to them is a good idea!) Most arguments that are ignorant will lead to a strawman argument.

    Strawman Arguments

    This perhaps the most common logical "fallacy" committed in the forums , if one can call it that. This is simply a (intentional or unintentional) misinterpretation of the opponent's argument that is then countered. We can stretch this to apply when a user chooses only to answer the weak arguments and ignore all other arguments and then show that because he was able to counter the weak arguments that their point must be true and their opposition must be wrong. Another case is to use a point with very little significance (like a glitch of little consequence) and show that this made a Pokemon "more powerful than it should have been" and thus it should not be uber.

    When arguing that a Pokemon is "not uber", one must be particularly careful to avoid strawman arguments. While it is up to the "uber" camp to indeed prove that a Pokemon is uber, it is the job of the "not uber" camp to disprove the evidence brought up by the "uber" camp. Any "not uber" argument that fails to consider the biggest "uber" arguments then can fall under the strawman fallacy - something users need to watch out for.


    People commonly make comparisons when talking about a specific Pokemon. This is an argument that should be completely avoided unless you are talking ONLY about a specific trait of a Pokemon - but not the Pokemon as a whole. An argument such as "Blissey centralizes the metagame more than Garchomp" is a valid argument (assuming of course it is backed up properly), however an argument such as "Darkrai is like Gengar with a better sleep move and less immunities" is an argument that should never be made, not that the comparison would mean much to start with. Furthermore, comments such as "If Garchomp isn't uber, then Deoxys E isn't uber" fall under the category for obvious reasons.

    In the end, it does not matter if Pokemon such as Mew has less SpA and Speed than Azelf, or if it does not have that Grass type like Celebi, etc. Comparing a Pokemon undermines the uniqueness of each Pokemon - while a Pokemon may have less raw power than Azelf, perhaps there are other factors that one needs to consider. These are then arguments that should be avoided - unless you have a very specific and good reason for it - and in most cases - you don't.

    A Few Mental Blocks

    1) Counters are not the only way to play the game. Note that there is so much more to the game than using "counters" to deal with a Pokemon. There are other ways to switch in safely and be an immediate threat to the opposing Pokemon without carrying a counter to a specific Pokemon. There are other ways to deal with a threat without switching in. If Pokemon is supposedly build around "predictions" then I do recommend that people free themselves from this mentality where everything must have counters and presumably act like it is the only way to play the game. Attempting to counter everything is a silly task in itself in this metagame anyway as previously mentioned in many threads, including stickies.

    http://www.smogon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=45565 <<< Reading this thread might help you.

    2) Roles. The old fashioned roles such as "physical wall" "special wall" and the like seems to still plague the minds of new users. While we use these terms in discussion, it should be noted clearly that these are general terms used to ease discussion, and that is it. Roles are now used in team building because one needs it, not because it is a requirement for a team. For example, not every team needs to have a rapid spinner, nor does every team need a Spike user. There is no six role system for the "best team ever".

    3) A 6 vs 6 or 6 1 vs 1 matches? Many arguments still seem to boil down to this weird idea that Pokemon is a series of 6 1 vs 1 matches and that every Pokemon must find a way to beat its counters (an attitude prevalent in WiFi, especially with its fetish for useless Hidden Powers). Many good players talk of synergy - but where is this "synergy" when they are discussing bans and specific Pokemon? Many times people argue that this Pokemon being used in a certain way is "too much" for one reason or another - but how does that matter in a team match? Many people fail to "complete" the argument, so to speak.

    4) Tiering. The most common reasoning I have seen nowadays is "Uber X has some flaw. It should be tested." However, many of these arguments are senseless - paritcularly because the user commonly fails to grasp the full consequences of the tiering system."
    Original thread
  2. Cherub Agent

    Cherub Agent
    is a Forum Moderator Alumnusis a Community Contributor Alumnusis a Tiering Contributor Alumnusis a Contributor Alumnusis a Smogon Media Contributor Alumnus

    Jul 6, 2009
    Lol, I remember Tangerine being the bane of all idiots back in 4th gen...
    Nice work (Gen/Matthew) on finding this again, and obviously Tangerine for writing it up in the first place. Some quite interesting points that I admit I have often failed to make clear in my posts.
  3. Arcticblast

    Arcticblast Never did anything about Swagger
    is a Smogon Social Media Contributor Alumnusis a Super Moderator Alumnusis a Community Contributor Alumnusis a Tiering Contributor Alumnusis a Battle Server Moderator Alumnusis a Past SPL Champion

    Nov 29, 2008
    This should be stickied. Or even an announcement.
  4. kd24

    is a Site Staff Alumnusis a Forum Moderator Alumnusis a Live Chat Contributor Alumnusis a Researcher Alumnusis a Tiering Contributor Alumnusis a Contributor Alumnusis a Smogon Media Contributor Alumnusis a Battle Server Moderator Alumnus

    Dec 21, 2007
    or common sense >___>
  5. Lucario_Guy


    Apr 9, 2009
    If only it were so!

    But, yes, this needs sticky and/or announcement. If someone would transpose the post to contain 5th Gen references rather than 4th Gen, that'd be great, too, if only to solidify its relevance for the less profound minds.
  6. Princess Bubblegum

    Princess Bubblegum

    Mar 2, 2011
    A very interesting read Mathew, especially to the long series of other thread that this was based off of. I often times find myself falling into several of these problems when debating, most notably the straw man one, I actually did not know it was a problem. I will do my best to improve upon my arguments in the future.
  7. StealthX


    Apr 4, 2010
    This part is apparently from the old version x/

    otherwise, Good job! pretty informative =)
  8. BattleStar


    Aug 29, 2010
    This is a great read. I myself only really post in the lower tiers where I know what I am talking about. But with this latest read I will think twice on my post and use this as a checklist. I definely hope this helps DST!
  9. boredomisbliss


    Jan 15, 2009
    Great read, logic is a very good thing

    There is one thing that I have never quite understood though. I understand why comments such as "you're an idiot" are ad hominem, but not quite why comments such as "you don't play/have no experience, thus your arguments are invalid" are necessarily invalid

    For example I have been pretty inactive over the last year (this is my first post in a while). Suppose I jumped into an argument and made some statements that were true a year ago, but for whatever reason are invalid today.
    Or suppose some random person who had no experience but read all the "Garchomp OP" comments on the forums just decided to post that, rehashing basically everything he ever saw. He has "backed up" arguments, but due to his lack of experience does this argument actually carry substance? not really.
  10. Matthew

    Matthew I love weather; Sun for days
    is a Site Staff Alumnusis a Forum Moderator Alumnusis a Tiering Contributor Alumnusis a Contributor Alumnusis a Battle Server Moderator Alumnus

    May 26, 2008
    Not playing in itself doesn't mean you cannot make an argument for the banishment of one thing or another. The original author of this thread didn't play pokemon in the slightest (or very rarely maybe); but that didn't mean his arguments had invalid points. Quite the opposite if anything was true. Playing the metagame might give you more in-depth knowledge to use in an argument, but it isn't something you necessarily need to have.

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