What scripting evidence would look like

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One of FUTfacts’ main purposes is to be the community resource for neutral reviews of alleged evidence in support of scripting, handicapping and momentum. As I write this, I count more than twenty individual posts, each of them dealing with a separate piece of – alleged – evidence.

The truth about all this “evidence” is that none of it supports the assertion that scripting, handicapping or momentum exists. Walk into any scientific institution in the world and you will get the same reaction: None of this is evidence!

Yet, a lot of people clearly think this is evidence.

Before proving it, you need to realize what you are trying to prove

A widespread problem with the evidence put in front of us is that it basically proves something else than scripting. The reason why this happens is perhaps primarily that scripting / momentum / handicapping isn’t a fully articulated belief. Scripting as a term is used to describe both an effect (that strange things happen) and a cause (that they happen because EA made them happen on purpose).

We have seen a lot of evidence which did a pretty good job in demonstrating that the game influences the outcome of matches, but fails miserably on demonstrating that EA does this on purpose. As an example, take the massive load of YouTube videos allegedly proving that scripting exists. It ought to be clear that the mere fact that something weird has happen in itself doesn’t suffice to conclude anything about why it happened.

No one, not even EA, denies that the game sometimes influences part of the events. This was never in dispute, and there is no reason to prove it. The dispute is solely around the claim that this happens on purpose because EA has some sort of interest in the match results.

Failure to rule out other interpretations

Another recurring issue with the evidence put forward is that it fits equally well with the assertion that scripting exists and – doesn’t exist. In other words, people fail to rule out other options, even when they are bleeding obvious.

I could point to all sorts of examples including the YouTube videos already mentioned, but I will pick the match intensity table. While it is possible (somewhat…) that this table is used to control events in the game, it is easy to point to other potential purposes such as controlling crowd behavior.

Not disproved doesn’t mean it can exist

Another classic failure made over and over again in the scripting debate is the presumption that since scripting neither has been proved nor disproved, it’s just as valid to assume that it exists as the opposite. This is a very normal fallacy in relation to belief systems including religious beliefs and conspiracy theories in general, but it’s nevertheless complete and utter hogwash.

You can’t prove gravity, photosynthesis or evolution either, but that doesn’t imply that the antitheses of these theories are equally valid or plausible. Scientists consider theories like evolution, photosynthesis and gravity fact because they are supported by solid evidence and have been known to make valid predictions. Scripting, for its part, fails on both dimensions.

Coincidental versus systematic versus intended

Another recurring issue in the stream of evidence presented in favor of scripting is the inability to grasp the concept of coincidence.

“You can say ‘coincidence’ all you want, but the fact that i can replicate it over and over”
(– ScHoolboy_Stu on Reddit.com)

“this may be all a coincidence, but feel it has happened so many times that it starts to feel like a little AI “cheating”… if you catch my drift”
(– Anonymous af fifa13scripting.blogspot.com)

If you want to argue that something isn’t a coincidence, you need to do more than simply presenting your feelings about it. The human mind has a natural bias in favor of interpretations, which imply the presence of a pattern. Hence, we are far more likely to see non-existing patterns than to miss an existing pattern. Due to that reason, we have developed tools to help us determine whether deviations from the expected in fact are coincidental. My article on losing streaks demonstrates how this works.

However, even if we somehow were to establish that something wasn’t coincidental, that still wouldn’t suffice to demonstrate that it happened for a particular reason. ScHoolboy_Stu above is absolutely convinced that since he can replicate (something) over and over, it has to be caused by scripting. But the fact is that all software bugs are reproducible. If you know how to trigger them, and yet I haven’t seen anyone claim that all software bugs are put in on purpose. The fact that something happens systematically doesn’t prove that it’s intended. Software bugs usually aren’t.

When added up, weak evidence could form a strong case

On multiple occasions, I have come across the perception that the alleged evidence in favor of scripting, when put together, forms a strong case:

“Whenever I see someone saying “I don’t think there is scripting” it makes me laugh my ass off… Is this supposed to be football? The topic ain’t banned on the FIFA and NHL boards for nothing you know. You know I shouldn’t have to post this but I’ll post it anyway… Here goes…

1. We have this at a developers conference back on 2007… [link1, link2]
2. We have this momentum guide mistake from 2009… [link]
3. We have this FIFA 13 description… [link]
4. We have Cliver101 showing us what your emotional/scripted/rubberbanded goal might look like with commentary… [link]
5. And we have David Rutter… [link]
(– Anon on Ultimateteam.co.uk)

Adding weak evidence together may indeed help to form a strong case in some cases, but this presupposes that the alleged evidence actually is evidence. Looking at the evidence listed above piece by piece, none of it raises the probability that the game is manipulated. In two cases (1 and 4), the information in question even contradicts the claim rather than supporting it! For a more thorough explanation, please read [1], [2], [4] and [5]. I have left out item 3, because it quite obviously doesn’t contain any notions related to scripting or handicapping (the link was deleted in the meantime).

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