Who is Arthur Chu?
May 22, 2018 3:12 PM   Subscribe

Airing on PBS, new doc explores ups and downs of growing up—and growing in stature—online. The documentary on the polarizing Jeopardy champion airs tonight. And speaking of polarizing, here's Ken Jennings opinion of how Chu played the game: Jennings on Chu
posted by MovableBookLady (41 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Watching Chu was the first time I really became aware of the DD-hunt method. It threw me for a little while, but, once you grok what’s going on, it quickly makes a lot of sense, and, in fact, seems to have become the standard mode of play now.. I never understood the hate-on so many had for Chu.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:36 PM on May 22, 2018 [11 favorites]


From Jennings on Chu: He put the 2011 Tournament of Champions away early with an incredibly ballsy pair of Daily Double bets that still makes my sphincters clench when I watch it today. (emphasis added)

I think Ken Jennings just outed himself as an alien.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:43 PM on May 22, 2018 [11 favorites]


I never understood the hate-on so many had for Chu.

I have no proof that this is what the hate was about but I'd guess it might have to do with him being a visible minority and openly challenging the established wisdom of "we always do things this way on this show" and him just not giving a fuck about that. I remember that run of Jeopardy and I loved it because it was causing such chaos. Can't wait to see this.
posted by Fizz at 3:46 PM on May 22, 2018 [15 favorites]


where one spate of hostile tweets can spawn a million repetitive reaction pieces before the feedback loop dies

Nodding yes until my neck hurts
posted by nikaspark at 3:46 PM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


I had no idea that there were people who hated Arthur Chu, although I guess it makes sense, since I'm basically aware of him as a person who posts smart feminist and anti-racist things on Twitter.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:50 PM on May 22, 2018 [22 favorites]


I love that Arthur is by far the most prominent member of my college class.
posted by rockindata at 4:00 PM on May 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


the more I read the more I want to see this movie.

on edit FTA: (and available via VOD on June 12 across platforms (including iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, and Amazon)
posted by nikaspark at 4:08 PM on May 22, 2018


Wow! I've been following Arthur Chu on twitter for quite some time without ever knowing about his time on Jeopardy. Fascinating the way these games that I always think should be random and relatively ungameable often have real strategies involved.

Smart feminist, anti-racist & anti-capitalist things on Twitter, as far as I can tell.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 4:11 PM on May 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


I never understood the hate-on so many had for Chu.

I have no proof that this is what the hate was about but I'd guess it might have to do with him being a visible minority


Ken Jennings basically says as much in the linked article:

There’s an obvious racial angle as well. Chu, a bespectacled man with rumpled shirts and a bowl cut, plays into every terrible Asian-nerd stereotype you’ve ever seen in an ’80s teen movie. Charmingly, he seems to enjoy the role of the scheming outsider. In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, he pitted his own eccentric genius against me, “the angelic blond boy next door, the central casting ‘nice boy.’ ”

Slate even singles this out as the pull quote.
posted by Borborygmus at 4:13 PM on May 22, 2018 [8 favorites]


Chu's ex-wife tweeted a bunch before their divorce about how gross and unpleasant he was (search, eg: Arthur Chu + ants). I honestly thought this was the primary reason people disliked him?
posted by smokysunday at 4:32 PM on May 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


From Jennings on Chu: He put the 2011 Tournament of Champions away early with an incredibly ballsy pair of Daily Double bets that still makes my sphincters clench when I watch it today. (emphasis added)

I think Ken Jennings just outed himself as an alien.


There's an internal and external anal sphincter. Now you know.

It's nice to have a thread about game shows for pedantic nerds to practice my pedantic nerdery in. I would hate to lose my edge.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:35 PM on May 22, 2018 [33 favorites]


MetaFilter: There's an internal and external anal sphincter. Now you know.
posted by Fizz at 4:39 PM on May 22, 2018 [16 favorites]


According to wikipedia there are over 60 types of sphincters in the human body. They're all over the place.
posted by quaking fajita at 4:41 PM on May 22, 2018 [21 favorites]




search, eg: Arthur Chu + ants
Oh good, there's a new Number 1 on my "things I won't be doing today" list.
posted by neroli at 5:05 PM on May 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


From Jennings on Chu: He put the 2011 Tournament of Champions away early with an incredibly ballsy pair of Daily Double bets that still makes my sphincters clench when I watch it today. (emphasis added)

I think Ken Jennings just outed himself as an alien.


Hole new meaning for Daily Double.
posted by srboisvert at 5:11 PM on May 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


I liked Chu. I'm a traditionalist in general, so I favor "the old way", but Chu was so good that his talent overshadowed his tactical innovations. It's like when football started moving in the direction of the spread offense. I didn't care for it, but you couldn't watch some of old Spurrier Fun-n-Gun or Mike Leach Air Raid teams and not be entertained. Same with Chu. I would have preferred if he played more old-fashioned, but he was so good that he could have won playing any strategy. One of the greats.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:11 PM on May 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


But are the daily doubles not inserted randomly? How can one hunt for them?
posted by sammyo at 5:36 PM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


They're random, but not evenly distributed! They're on row 4 most of the time, and never on row 1. You can see the full stats from last season on The Jeopardy Archive .
posted by persona at 5:42 PM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


But are the daily doubles not inserted randomly? How can one hunt for them?

The article says they're not uniformly random. Higher probability in the fourth row, lower in the second, etc.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:43 PM on May 22, 2018


Ah (read the article dummy) they are not random:

they’re much more likely to be in the fourth row of clues (36 percent of the time, in recent years) than the second row (just 10 percent). Roger Craig even discovered that Daily Doubles are distributed nonrandomly by column as well,
posted by sammyo at 5:45 PM on May 22, 2018


It always seemed to me that assuming you're comfortable with a topic to start at the bottom high numbers first.
posted by sammyo at 5:48 PM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'd seen vague rumours on twitter about Chu having some faults, but nothing concrete. Upon researching your arthur chu + ants line, it just seems like once they had ants in their house? Nothing all that shocking, nothing I've not experienced myself, but its all screenshots with the username and picture obscured purportedly from his wife.

Arthur Chu + wife gets some similar stuff about Chu not being an equal partner in the marriage, letting a lot of the housework go to his wife etc. Sadly, totally believable about pretty much anyone, leftist or otherwise.
Not to discount that potential serious issue about his relationship, if it was so, but his wife's twitter appears to be gone, everything is just identity- obscured screenshots on alt-right and gamergate websites, saying things like his wife supported Trump and couldn't stand being married to a "cuck". Screenshots purporting that their marriage was dissolved.

It's difficult to get a good understanding of this, I don't want to minimise unequal and unfair marriages but its hard to take a bunch of right-wing trolls as sources. Like, its literally coming from twitter accounts called "antisocialjsw" etc. Considering the things gamergaters have tried in the past, I feel like the sentiment is more likely to be based in racism and dislike of leftists than any real empathy for his ex-wife's travails.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 5:53 PM on May 22, 2018 [10 favorites]


The current champion seems to be utilizing the opposite strategy by knocking out all the top row answers before the Daily Double is revealed. I can't tell if he's doing that stop another player from building momentum against him or so that he has some money to bet when he hits the Double.

They're random, but not evenly distributed! They're on row 4 most of the time, and never on row 1. You can see the full stats from last season on The Jeopardy Archive .

They placed one once in the $200 spot in the Double Jeopardy round, perhaps just to mess with the players and/or audience.
posted by dances with hamsters at 5:54 PM on May 22, 2018


One reason for dislike of Chu's strategy is that the fan base and the contestant pool are pretty distinctive groups. Fans, by and large, like to play along at home, but most J! viewers never even try the online test, but definitely have Opinions about contestants. Nerdlingers with high school or college quiz bowl experience and/or other competitive trivia (Word Quizzing, pub trivia leagues, etc) are very overrepresented in the contestant pool. Irrespective of its validity as a strategy, I understand why some may find the show less entertaining when contestants hunt Daily Doubles, even though I appreciate innovation in a seemingly hidebound format.

Other players who had success with variations on Chu's approach - Alex Jacobs and Matt Jackson come to mind - were also complained about as being uncharismatic and weirdly, perhaps pathologically focused. Random people definitely bandying about armchair diagnoses for Matt Jackson.* As though practicing and showing up prepared to win the game were a bad thing - there's a lot of money potentially on the line and you only get one shot!

Also, Julia Collins won 20 games with a more typical clear-the-category approach. It is still possible to win lots of Jeopardy! without Daily Double hunting and category hopping. Potential contestants should try to figure out what manner of play best suits them, practice that mode of play until mastery, work on their buzzer reflexes, and have strategies in mind to counter those who take an alternate approach. This is almost certainly a better use of time than trying to cram the bajillion topics that you don't know anything about on the off-chance they appear during your game.




* the 13-time winner that I lost to
posted by palindromic at 6:51 PM on May 22, 2018 [14 favorites]


* the 13-time winner that I lost to

like, on the actual show? As in to quote Weird Al, “you lost on Jeopardy”?
posted by nikaspark at 7:05 PM on May 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


like, on the actual show? As in to quote Weird Al, “you lost on Jeopardy”?

Might be time to update the list.
posted by zamboni at 7:17 PM on May 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


like, on the actual show? As in to quote Weird Al, “you lost on Jeopardy”?

Yes! I went to a dive bar right after taping and my partner made it a point to play that song on the jukebox
posted by palindromic at 7:21 PM on May 22, 2018 [12 favorites]


Arthur Chu + wife gets some similar stuff about Chu not being an equal partner in the marriage, letting a lot of the housework go to his wife etc. Sadly, totally believable about pretty much anyone, leftist or otherwise.

I didn't realize he was a controversial dude at all, aside from taking on Gamergate, and I found this interview with the filmmakers that talks in more detail about his marriage when trying to figure out why he was a lightening rod or w/e:
We were not afraid of making Arthur seem like a hypocrite. When you see the footage, it’s obvious that he is hypocritical. I think in some ways it’s not just him. I don’t know if that makes it better, but it’s very typical in the sense of why certain men understand what it means to theoretically talk about great relationships with women or gender equality, but in practice, don’t know how to handle that.

We live in a patriarchal society. It’s a normal thing, and it’s hard to break out of that in your own everyday life. It’s almost easier to talk about it theoretically in front of crowds. We were not trying to shy away from showing that at all.
It sounds like his difficulty putting his principles into practice is actually a focus of the film. No one has ever accused me of being a good housekeeper or reliable interpersonal partner, and I thought the filmmakers sounded, in this interview, genuinely fond of Chu and interested in his well-being. I'm way more interested in the film now.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:24 PM on May 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


Arthur Chu blocked me on twitter years ago so I guess he doesn’t want me to watch this documentary.
posted by larrybob at 7:39 PM on May 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Snarl Furillo's link makes it sound like he might not want you to watch it no matter what. It sounds like it's not a wholly flattering portrayal.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:43 PM on May 22, 2018


Weird Al played that song on his current tour and I took it as a shout out. (Catch me on July 10.)
posted by rewil at 8:40 PM on May 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


like, on the actual show? As in to quote Weird Al, “you lost on Jeopardy”?

I did the math in an earlier thread, Metafilter users are much more likely to have been on Jeopardy than the general population. (If it wasn't obvious...)
posted by jcreigh at 10:27 PM on May 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


I feel like playing Jeopardy in a degenerate way is exactly what Jeopardy deserves. Everything about it seems like it needed a big revision decades ago but they didn't, and now its jankiness is a tradition so if they change it people will hate it, but it's so weird. Even things like having to answer with "a question", which means you give an answer but you say "What is" in front of it, despite the question and answer not making any goddamn sense if you read them as question and then answer. Or things like the game encouraging you to answer questions from top to bottom despite that being sub-optimal play.

(In general I don't trust any game format from before about 1990 any more. Video game design turbocharged the entire discipline to the point where basically any half-decent game made now is going to be leagues better than the best games made before that time.)
posted by Merus at 12:28 AM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Video game design turbocharged the entire discipline to the point where basically any half-decent game made now is going to be leagues better than the best games made before that time.

Have you actually seen any of the new games made today? If video game design did anything, it's been to devolve game shows to the intellectual level of CandyCrush meets Buzzfeed.

Sure, the "answer in the form of a question" part is kind of wonky, but, it's a simple, effective hook. It definitelymade a lot more sense wayyy back at the beginning of the show, when the "answers" were worded more as actual answers to the "question" the player had to come up with. If there has been anything Jeopardy has done to hurt itself, it's been the inclusion of clues within the revealed "answer".
posted by Thorzdad at 6:52 AM on May 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


If there has been anything Jeopardy has done to hurt itself, it's been the inclusion of clues within the revealed "answer".

Actually this is the best part of how their question writers work, it gives the player and audience something to make a leap of logic from and deduce what the real answer is, which is more intellectually satisfying than just knowing the answer straight up. When I write pub quiz questions I try to do this as much as I can because I can hear teams deliberating and coming to the answer and I love the satisfied cheers when they figure it out.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:55 AM on May 23, 2018


Have you actually seen any of the new games made today?
Odd question. Let me think... yes, I have, actually. Though not all of them, of course. And in future...
posted by inconstant at 8:55 AM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


If video game design did anything, it's been to devolve game shows to the intellectual level of CandyCrush meets Buzzfeed.

I think the first part of your retort has been adeptly handled (although I'd add that the best ten board games ever made are Chess, Go, and eight released in the last 30 years - honestly throw out your Monopoly set and go buy Catan, you'll thank me). So let's go for the second part: game show design in the 60s relied on quiz questions because game design in the 60s had like three tools and quiz questions was one of them. There weren't a lot of options for strategic play: chess, Risk, Diplomacy, and various fiddly wargames. Nothing like the elegant designs we see these days, and nothing that would work well televised.

Regurgitation of facts is a specialised skill (and one which isn't actually aligned with intelligence), and while that's fun at the pub quiz level, when you're televising it, you're going to get people who optimise for that, and that's boring to watch if they're just answering the kind of questions the home audience can answer. It's like watching high-level snooker. (Degenerate play at high levels is something designers now are much much better at correcting for.) So game show producers in the 70s, once this became clear, had two choices: more obscure questions and becoming the premier destination for these kinds of contestants (the Jeopardy route), or asking questions that only the producers could know the answer to (the Family Feud route).

There's a certain kind of fun in watching experts be good at something, which is why Jeopardy survives and games like Countdown in the UK survive. The problem is that the home audience doesn't sympathise with these people like they do with people who seem more ordinary. For this reason, asking questions only the producers can know the answers to is more popular - for instance Pointless, one of the big quiz show successes of the last few years, puts an intellectual sheen on this design space by asking how many other people know an obscure fact. Most of the big game show successes of the last few decades, well before the 90s, have been this style, with a few major exceptions.

The biggest exception is Survivor. This is a very successful game show with one game per season, that is primarily strategic. It can keep things fresh by introducing physical and intellectual minigames, but success at Survivor is rooted in building an alliance that's able to last. Unfortunately, this is sort of a genre of game show design and it's hard to innovate out of. Most people ripping off the Survivor format try and replicate the game design without understanding how the game design supports an entire season of episodes. TV executives, who by and large don't know anything about game design, are reluctant to support new, untested designs. That basically means that, even if the show doesn't benefit from it, new season-long game shows tend to have an elimination format. Even then, though, there's room to build other shows on top of it, like The Amazing Race, which is much less cut-throat and takes advantage of its format to showcase the wonders of the world.

Yes, these are game shows. I will fight you.
posted by Merus at 1:27 AM on May 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


So the episode of Jeopardy that aired last night had a theme for the first round that seemed to be a tongue-in-cheek way of addressing the Daily-Double-hunting tactic - the first category on the left was called something like "Play this category in order" and the remaining titles comprised a sentence exhorting the players to do that. It turned out that the first category had answers in which each one was related to the previous one, like one answer was "pepper mill" and then the one below it was "Miller beer". For whatever reason, the players did not play that category straight down, but instead played across the rows, lowest value clues first. So the theme of the first column appeared to go unnoticed, and the category wasn't even finished at the end of the round.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:39 AM on May 24, 2018


I've always wondered why people tended to just munch down one column at a time in order. I'd always be hinting for the video clues or daily fun stuff if I were there. At the very least, there's something mundanely annoying about whittling down a board like that column by column. Bounce around, peg out some random bits, you don't play Jenga by only attack the one layer.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:51 PM on May 24, 2018


In Jeopardy!, it makes strategic sense to play one column at a time from smallest to largest, because the columns are separate categories. Almost all trivia players have strengths and weaknesses, so the expected value (value of question * probability of correct answer) of a $200 clue in a strong category is frequently higher than that of a $1000 clue in a weak category. And since the clues get progressively more difficult from top to bottom in a column, the expected value of a $200 clue in a weak category will very often be higher than that of a $1000 clue in the same category. Moreover, J! writes a lot of trick clues, so if you try a couple easy clues in a hard category and get the trick, you can then move up the category.

Hunting Daily Doubles is fun, but remember, a Daily Double doesn't do you much good if you don't know the answer.

For superior players like Chu and Matt Jackson, though, these considerations are pointless because, relative to their opponents, Chu, Jackson, Julia Collins, Alex Jacob, et al have very few weaknesses. Chu was better than his opponents even in his weakest categories. The only ways someone like Chu loses is because either he plays another Tournament of Champions-level opponent, or an inferior opponent hits the Daily Doubles and accumulates more cash despite answering fewer questions correctly. For an elite player, hunting Daily Doubles is less about maximizing your own cash and more about denying that opportunity to your opponents. Theoretically, less competent players could do it, but it likely means sacrificing some value, since you're no longer playing to your strengths. It's usually more sensible to play the traditional way.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:20 PM on May 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


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