Two-Halves Snitching: A Postmortem

By Nathan Ross

Quidditch games have always ended when the snitch has been caught, but will that always be the way the game is played? The inaugural Vancouver Winter Fantasy tournament made history earlier this month by being the first tournament to ever test out a potential “two halves rule” where only one team’s seeker is active per half.

What started out as just a nice fantasy tournament to help get folks in shape after the holiday break ended up having eyes from around the quidditch world on it. Testing out rules as first suggested by Christos Kaldis of Valhalla Quidditch, teams would play two 12-minute halves, with only one seeker allowed per half. The opposing team would supply a snitch from its roster, eliminating any third-party and neutral snitches. The seeker would be released at the eight-minute mark, and should they catch the snitch, they would have the chance to end the half or let the clock run out. A quick halftime breaks up the action.

Screenshot of live footage as the snitch from the blue team defends while his team does the same | Photo Credit: Vancouver Winter Fantasy

For a summary of the new rules, click here for a quick understanding. For the full proposal from Kaldis, click here.

With three teams at the indoor Vancouver Winter Fantasy (organized by Calvin Ng and his team of volunteers), each team got to play two “standard” games of quidditch before taking a lunch break and trying out two games each with the new rules.

I will fully admit myself that I was skeptical about these rules and still do not fully throw my weight behind them, and that my bias should be recognized when talking about these rules. I would not identify myself as a quidditch purist (or give any credence to that term because those words in that order are hilarious), but I have come to love the drama with two seekers on the pitch and the end of game looming near.

As a captain of one of these fantasy teams (albeit one where a third of our team did not show and we failed to win a game), it forced us to consider a lot of questions. Did we want to seek in the first or second half, assuming we won the coin toss? Who did we want to assign to snitch, knowing we had to respect the gender rule with the snitch as our seventh player? Did we bother putting beaters on the seeker or just let them go one-on-one with our snitch if it was only going to be four minutes? At one point, another team’s snitch pinned our seeker to the ground as if this were full-out wrestling. What were we supposed to do then?

To answer those questions: our seeker (Edmonton Aurors’ Indiana Nikel) wanted us to seek first. He caught the snitch, which gave us a lead, and we chose to end play because we did not want to play the rest of the half with Nikel being forced to sit. We tried out two different snitches, to give them both a bit of a break. Our first (Emerald City Admirals’ Nicholas Ryder) was able to last the full four minutes. With that, we decided to give our second snitch (notable snitch in Western Canada, Jared Martin) no beater support, figuring he could last four minutes on his own. This was our own hubris coming back to bite us, as he was caught within seconds.

As for our snitch, they were also faced with a new list of concerns. For one, they were limited to only the opposing half of the field. Secondly, they were still a part of our team, meaning they could take penalties. Those penalties would now affect the rest of the team, as they could not make the snitch sit in the box. There was a lot to figure out, and we did our best given what we could.

The games also just did not feel as enjoyable. One of the things I like about quidditch is that it has that high-intensity sport feel, without the traditional sports world that accompanies it. Trying to make quidditch more like regular sports feels like an unnecessary conversion to me, and one I did not care for.

A survey of the participants from the tournament found that there was no strong sway either way. Of the 28 answers, 10 of them were neutral to the change in gameplay. There were seven votes each for those who either liked it or disliked it, and only the last four had strong feelings about it with three answering they heavily disliked it with only one person voting that they strongly liked it.

The results of the survey clearly indicated that most people had no strong feelings either way about the two halves rules | Photo Credit: Vancouver Winter Fantasy

After each round, a small crew (including, but not limited to, team Canada seeker Austin Wallace and American snitch Marcus Toomey) discussed what was going right and what needed to be improved. Wallace seemed to be very much in favour of the new rule, while Toomey protested, saying this style was only building “one style of snitch,” though it should be noted that their opinions may change as the kinks in testing out this style of quidditch are smoothed out.

Among the responses, the addition of a halftime was very popular. Other positive opinions expressed were “it makes it more sport-y, more similar to hockey/soccer/etc. Limits the game time so hypothetically it could make a tournament run more smoothly. It makes the game less dependent on snitch catches, which sometimes can be a bit of chance”; and, “halves are limited in time; don’t go on forever.” As indicated by the graph above, about half the responses were generally positive.

However, this also meant that a lot of responses indicated that many participants did not care for the new rules system, with answers even going as far as saying they disliked “pretty much everything else” besides halftime and that “the snitch basically became a side task rather than the main one. We didn’t even have to put a beater on the seeker because quaffle was more important. The mayhem caused by the snitch being on the field in regular games was missing, and it was very noticeable.”

This likely won’t be the last time these rules are tested out, and it would be better to test these outdoors, as the games on an indoor pitch had the boards come into play in a less-than-desirable fashion. While I personally believe this style of quidditch could be adapted into a great way to play the game, it feels like an unnecessary overhaul of quidditch which is not something that I can fully endorse.