Jr. Writing Contest Tempest Fugit, Photo: Steve Mancini

Published on August 27th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


Tempest Fugit, Photo: Steve Mancini

Roller Derby 6.2.8

By Tempest Fugit

I’ve been skating derby for a little over three years, and in that time I’ve played under three different main rule sets. My league skates under WFTDA, I recently got to skate banked track with my home team, and I’m skating for a USARS team comprised of skaters from several different leagues. Right now, I’m attending practices for both my home league and my USARS team, and switching between rule sets has presented some definite challenges.

When I was thinking about everything that changes between rule sets, I realized that rule sets are a lot like computer operating systems in that they’re the main framework that everything else operates in. All the programs that your computer runs are based on the operating system, and all of your strategies and gameplay in roller derby are built around the rule set you’re playing under. While there’s some overlap between rule sets and operating systems, and thus some overlap between programs and strategies, a lot of things do change switching between them, and they all have different feels to them.

The analogy extend further to individual rule sets and operating systems. WFTDA is the Windows of roller derby. In my experience, it’s the easiest to learn. It’s the most widespread ruleset, and the one where it’s easiest to get support. Most refs are familiar with WFTDA rules, most leagues play by WFTDA rules, and the current main tournaments in roller derby are under WFTDA. Because of it’s common use, Windows is the most common target for computer viruses. The prevalence of WFTDA derby also means it has the most people trying to find loopholes in the rule set. Because of the length of time it takes for WFTDA’s rules to be updated by it’s democratic process, rules that are seen as adversely affecting the game often take a relatively long time to be changed. Computer viruses often slow down computers, and we’ve all seen how slow the game tends to go during power jams in WFTDA recently.

The banked track rule set is the Mac OS X of roller derby. It’s less commonly used than WFTDA. The main downside to banked track is the initial cost of the “hardware:” The cost of setting up a banked track and getting a practice space to keep it in. New flat track teams can rent out skating rinks or hold a practice just about anywhere with a flat surface in a pinch. This isn’t possible for banked track league. However, besides the obvious differences in the track design, gameplay and strategies aren’t that different between WFTDA derby and banked track.

USARS is like Linux. It’s regarded as the weird “other” rule set by most of the derby community. The differences between it and the other rule sets often confuse people trying to transition between them. It’s sometimes seen as less intuitive to learn, but once you do understand the rules, it definitely has its advantages. People that play exclusively by USARS rules tend to be passionate about them, much like Linux enthusiasts, while the majority of people think that the idea of playing under USARS rules is crazy and unnecessarily difficult to adjust to.

While the analogy doesn’t describe everything, like operating systems, each derby rule set has it’s pros and cons. Which one is “best” varies depending on what you want to do. Also like operating systems, I think that it is beneficial to play under different rule sets if you have the opportunity because it requires you to think about strategies in a different way and generally helps you become a more flexible skater.

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