When, if ever, should a Tournament Official check video when making a ruling?

I think there are going to be some strong opinions on this one, but (gulp) here goes…

Many pinball competitions are now being streamed. Although a few years ago, this was uncommon except for the very largest events, nowadays, every little tournament and league night gets streamed. It’s fun for players and fun for spectators. It’s a great way to cheer on your friend or to learn about the latest new game. So, it adds a lot to the hobby/sport.

But it also raises a question. When, if ever, should a Tournament Official check video when making a ruling?

Some people will say “Never” and others will say “In Limited Circumstances”. I doubt many people will say “Often”.

Many might agree, for example, that you should check the video when a game resets and you need to recover the last known score. Others might go further and say it makes sense when the facts required for a ruling are in dispute: What did the ball do? What did the player do?

Some considerations…

  • TDs aren’t used to making rulings based on video (yet). How can they be trained on common pitfalls of relying on video for a ruling?
  • How do you take into account that only viewing the playfield may lead to a different ruling than seeing the game in person, including the player’s body movement?
  • How might rulings change when instead of two fallible human eyes watching, an unblinking camera is beaming the game into a thousand eyes?
  • What changes will video-based rulings have on the evolution of the IFPA/PAPA ruleset? (More technicality? More precision? Less discretion?)
  • Will players lobby for / against video on their game if they know it can be used for a ruling?
  • What about the delays involved with reviewing video? Many tournaments already battle significant time constraints.
  • With spectators rooting for certain players (and being able to communicate with them via text, DM, etc.) will TDs be inundated with challenges?
  • Does the size of the tournament (Circuit event vs. league night) make a difference?

It’s a topic worthy of thoughtful discussion, so I’m interested in people’s opinions. (And, it’s ok if you want to take a deep breath first.)


Everytime it is available.

One of my biggest concerns at a tournament is getting a call right. So if I have great video evidence to help me make that call and it doesn’t take up a ton of time, I’m going to use it to make the best ruling possible.

So far I can only think of one or two situations where video has helped make me a ruling. Both times the stream commentator came to me with the info as I was addressing the situation at the game. Both times all players agreed as to what happened, and the commentator had the pertinent info I needed to make the correct ruling and keep the tournament moving.

All other rulings I have had to make at tournaments where I stream have been standard, cut and dry stuff.

I think it’s totally fine to use video whenever the TD sees fit.


I think the TD should make a ruling, but each player gets 2 challenge flags they can use to send the TD to video. If both of their challenges are successful, then they can get a 3rd.


I can only see video review being helpful. It also gives some transparency where people can go back and review after the fact if a ruling seemed incorrect. Totally up to TD discretion, depending on if it’s a) helpful, b) possible, and c) within a reasonable time frame.

The reason you don’t see it more often is simply technical – it’s a little difficult to see previous stream footage quickly. Twitch clips or commentator descriptions can help, but sometimes these aren’t available. Ideally it’s easy to replay footage from a minute+ earlier.

OBS does have the “Replay Buffer” feature, but most people aren’t set up to use it, and it only records the past minute or so (this is configurable).

If you’re recording a stream locally, you can sometimes open the video file while it’s recording, but it’s picky based on various things (i.e. you can not view an MP4 while it’s being written to, but other formats would allow this).

Another example of a video review here: https://www.twitch.tv/iepinball/clip/EnchantingArborealNostrilTriHard
But if someone wasn’t able to make a Twitch clip in time, this would be problematic.


I think reviewing video is good for checking if there was a major machine malfunction or some scoring discrepancy, but I’m not sure if it’s desirable/feasible to review video for every instance of “I think player 2 may have made an extra shot while a ball was stuck during multiball and should be given a warning or DQ’d.” I could certainly see this being abused if the policy was to review something whenever possible if asked by a player.

Doesn’t tennis have something in place whereby the player can only use a video appeal a certain number of times? I’d be inclined to put something like that in place.

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Remember that old ruling of T2 at IFPA14 where they added the value of a super jackpot to Josh’s score? I think they used video evidence to back this up. As we all know, that was an incorrect ruling and I feel that the video swayed that ruling to be made that way. Sometimes video evidence can make things murkier when making rulings. If there was no video evidence for that T2 game it probably would have been ruled as a minor malfunction.

I remember this. Was the ruling wrong because there was no animation for the super?

I think you never want to add or subtract points from a player’s score.

Yeah to me the problem in this situation was the ruling, not the video.

Very common with EMs right? If he got the animation he gets the points imo.

Plus it’s a set value. No need to even see the video.

The other reason you don’t see it more often is because it leads to uneven treatment of games from a TD’s standpoint. If you’re the lucky group that happens to be featured you can get to use this feature, but everyone else has to deal with just the human element.

Until we can simultaneously record 4-6 different groups, I don’t want to see this as a feature from a partiality standpoint. Replay on everyone in every round or don’t replay at all.


He didn’t get the animation.

Fortunately Josh won the game by more than 50 million…

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Right so in this case he got the points added right? I’m just curious as to why he got the points.

And it was later determined the call was wrong right? Why?

Sorry for the derail.

It’s funny, we’ve come a long way since then. I’ve talked to PAPA TD’s who 100% wouldn’t rule this way today. I think it is interesting that the broadcast makes it seem like the ruling was right. Maybe at the time, that’s how things were done. As far as the 50m points not mattering I disagree. If Josh was chasing on ball 3 instead of being ahead, I don’t know if he switches gears and goes with Payback Time down 50m. At that point he was looking for low hanging fruit to get separation on Jim, not run down Andrei.

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You raise an important issue Eric.

As a pinball official, you are making rulings to situations that you yourself have not seen, in the overwhelming majority of cases. Contrast that to say basketball, where the ref sees a situation and reacts to it. In the NBA for example, video is used a lot. Sometimes it is to determine situations where the refs could not see what happened first hand. (Typically physical interactions between players.)

I would say that because the nature of pinball officiating is that of relying on second hand information, more information (like video) would be a welcome tool in the official’s arsenal, to get the call right.

It has been my experience that even though most players are honest about what has happened, sometimes certain players will tell a story that has little truth to it. If these players knew that there was video that would contradict their story, they would be incentivized to be truthful.

In short, I support the use of video in order to make better rulings.

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