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Subject: Puerto Rico versus Netrunner: Rigging the ratings? rss

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Vincent Streuner
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Early in this month of September, 2013, I noticed that Netrunner overtook Puerto Rico in the rankings here on BGG. Since then, I've observed a pitched struggle between some of the more, shall we say, "enthusiastic" fans of the two games, viz., giving their favored game a rating of 10, and the other a rating of 1. This has sparked my anthropological interests and resulted in the composition of this post.

How much of an emotional investment do we have in how others perceive the games that we enjoy? Enough to try to sabotage other peoples' perceptions by the perpetuation of misinformation? Here I present the comment left by a user who, this month, gave Netrunner a rating of 1:

"I like [Netrunner] but I can't accept the fact that [Netrunner] has a higher rank than [Puerto Rico]."

Think about that for a moment and let it sink in. They took a game that they "like," at gave it a rating of 1. And for what? Eleven other users have also given Netrunner a rating of 1 so far this month. Worse yet, the situation hit a new low on the 24th when a user manifestly created a second BGG account for the express and sole purpose of giving Puerto Rico another 10 rating and Netrunner another 1 rating. For shame.

The Netrunner fans' hands are not clean in this matter, either. So far this month, eight users gave Puerto Rico a rating of 1, all of whom rated Netrunner at 10. One such user gave the following illuminating comment:

"Why such a low rating? Because I'm petty and I've seen Netrunner get about 20 '1s' that it didn't deserve. Enjoy! Also, the collector's edition [of Puerto Rico] is actually quite nice (I own it) . . . . (I told you I was petty)"

The hard truth of the matter is that Netrunner still has an average rating of 8.45 with less than 7,000 votes, whereas Puerto Rico has an average rating of 8.21 with well over 30,000 votes. With numbers like that, Netrunner will inevitably overtake Puerto Rico in the rankings. Therefore, rigging the votes against Puerto Rico is overzealous, and rigging them against Netrunner is futile, and all are being quite silly.

Can't we all just get along? Here are my recommendations to those involved in the fray:

If you've rated either game at a 1 without having played it, then just be honest and delete your vote.

If you've rated either game lower than what you actually think of it, then just be honest, correct your vote accordingly, and let the cards fall where they may.

Be respectful of those who disagree with your game preferences. There's room enough in the top ten for both strategy and thematic.

If you identify yourself as either a Eurogamer or an Ameritrash fan, make an effort to find at least a few games from the other group that you enjoy and can add to your collection so as not to alienate other gamers. For example, I may have purchased the Ameritrash micro-badge, but I still have Takenoko, Mission: Red Planet, Ark of the Covenant, and Settlers of Canaan, all of which I rank highly and retain in my collection so that when Eurogamers come to my house hopefully at least one of those games will appeal to their particular tastes. Give it a try.
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The net result of this type of rigging is negative to any games involved. What you have is fans of a game adjusting their rating of that game upwards maybe a point (from 9 to 10), while the responding 1's garnered by fans of "that other game" do far more damage to the rating. This has been going on for a while now and has affected Through The Ages, Agricola and Puerto Rico. Netrunner is just the most recent to get hit by this bus.

All that said, I think BGG is savy enough to see what is going on and I imagine that have some method of discounting all these 1's.

Edit: In complete transparency, I am a big fan of Puerto Rico (and Agricola and Through the Ages) but I do dislike Netrunner quite a bit. My rating of it is a 5, but it was a 3 earlier. I agree that my rating may have been unfair, so I adjusted it upwards. I don't think I was trying to be malicious.
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The rankings are a novelty and should not be taken as gospel, for the ratings they're calculated from are subjective. In other words, human beings are involved and humans are notoriously irrational at times, so the resultant rating data is useless. There's no correlation between where a game ranks and how inclined each one of us are likely to enjoy it.
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I don't even look at the rankings any more, but they are of some value for people who don't have any experience in board games. Since most of the games in the top 500 have thousands of votes for their rankings, a few people trying to sabotage the rankings won't have much effect anyway, and that is before considering the fact that BGG has software to find and discount shill rankings.
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I remember the pitch battle between Caylis and Puerto Rico and then Agricola and Puerto Rico. Both extremely silly endeavours. Amazing how history repeats itself.
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The real problem is that BGG users (1) feel free to rate games according to whatever system they damn well please, and then (2) expect the aggregate ratings to follow the same system, but (3) get sad and teary when the aggregate rankings don't match their own personal rankings.

BGG states that the game ratings are supposed to be a reflection of how badly/frequently you want to play a game. BGG offers explicit guidance on how to tell a 7 from an 8, a 3 from a 4. Instead most people use the ratings as a big ol' internet love-fest. If they used them as BGG advises, they would not have an emotional investment in learning that other people play Netrunner more often than Puerto Rico, or Puerto Rico more often than Netrunner. But if you tell them that one game is better-loved than another - that's hard for them to accept. It's easier for them to think other people are lying and manipulating, so they need to resort to their own methods.
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This is a little disturbing. First, why would anyone care so much as to make another account just to give a game a rating of a 1. That's the definition of petty. Second, there are a fair amount, if not most, users who utilize the rating system to help them when making purchases on games they may not know a lot about. I do that. When I'm shopping for a new game or for a game as a gift, if I don't have a particular title in mind I'll go to the geek to see what I can find out about the games. My first stop is the ratings. Then I'll head to the comments section (which is always an adventure in and of itself).

I understand the rating system isn't gospel, as mentioned above, but it seems we should be able to trust the ratings.

Fortunately this seems like a pretty isolated occurrence, usually just affecting the top games. Nobody is hopping on to give Huggermugger Junior a 10 rating to get it up the charts.

To be fair and honest I gave Twilight Imperium a 1 but that's because I truly despise the game. No sand-bagging on my part. Again, to be honest, it was probably because of the way it was taught to me. I may have to play it at the con this year with some legit players and reassess. But I digress.
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Enjoying the repetition

markaaronmassey wrote:
This is a little disturbing. First, why would anyone care so much as to make another account just to give a game a rating of a 1. That's the definition of petty. Second, there are a fair amount, if not most, users who utilize the rating system to help them when making purchases on games they may not know a lot about. I do that. When I'm shopping for a new game or for a game as a gift, if I don't have a particular title in mind I'll go to the geek to see what I can find out about the games. My first stop is the ratings. Then I'll head to the comments section (which is always an adventure in and of itself).


Don't rankings is just an arbitary average of peoples game taste. Seriously it don't work like that. I am sure my taste differs from yours etc, the people that ranks game are not one big similarity of taste. (An example for me personally is the fact that agricola is anywhere close to a top-10)

markaaronmassey wrote:

I understand the rating system isn't gospel, as mentioned above, but it seems we should be able to trust the ratings.


So the music a majority of people think is good, should be the music you think is good? Or perhaps only chart toppers is good music?

markaaronmassey wrote:

Fortunately this seems like a pretty isolated occurrence, usually just affecting the top games. Nobody is hopping on to give Huggermugger Junior a 10 rating to get it up the charts.


They might be trying but there is some anti-shilling devices in place if you look.

markaaronmassey wrote:

To be fair and honest I gave Twilight Imperium a 1 but that's because I truly despise the game. No sand-bagging on my part. Again, to be honest, it was probably because of the way it was taught to me. I may have to play it at the con this year with some legit players and reassess. But I digress.

'
So you think it is not a game? Because thats the definition of 1, while a 2 is 'an extremly annoying game'. Which sounds what your view of it is.

(Yeah I have a 1, but the mechanics of True or False makes it not a game in my eyes)
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In my experience with Twilight Imperium I found the game to be far too long with too much down time. With 8 players I would have 45 minutes between moves. I even had enough time to go grab some lunch between turns. I thought the mechanics of the game were clunky and could use some updates. I thought the battle mechanic above all else was the worst aspect of the game. So yes, in my opinion it was the worst experience of my gaming life. And if it "weren't a game" as you suggest a 1 indicates it wouldn't be on the Geek to begin with. I rate games based on my opinion of them and my opinion of TI is VERY low. If I give it a 1 I have a reason.

Again it could have been the group that "taught" me the game, but it was literally 8 hours of my life I wish I had back and it turned me off from really ever trying it again. I would be willing to give it another play if, and only if, I had a group who knew what they were doing and who played efficiently.

Other than that I really don't understand your gripe with me. Why the reference to music? My argument had nothing to do with taste. It has to do with trusting the rating system which is harder to do when you have people purposefully sand-bagging a game's rating in the hopes they can raise another game that's been around longer.

And yes I'm aware there are "anti-shilling" aspects in place. Still seems people are successfully making an effort to change ratings.

And based on the description of ratings within the BGG wiki, here is the definition of a 1:

1 - Defies description of a game. You won't catch me dead playing this. Clearly broken.

To me TI fits the description. You probably won't catch me playing this game again, dead or alive, and it defies description to me. To me it is clearly broken. So this seems to fit my needs more than your suggestion of a 2.
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markaaronmassey wrote:

Other than that I really don't understand your gripe with me. Why the reference to music? My argument had nothing to do with taste. It has to do with trusting the rating system which is harder to do when you have people purposefully sand-bagging a game's rating in the hopes they can raise another game that's been around longer.


I do not have a gripe with you, I have a gripe with the idea that the bgg top-list is some subjective list of good games. It is an average of taste in game, you just described your own rateing based on how your taste and want in a game is, at the same time you arguee others use of it the same way. Well to part, and I just say that the top-list is moore like a music chart then anything else. Trying to use it as something else, and espacally seeing it as a recomendation tool is problematic because of that.
 
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What exactly is the difference between a subjective list of good games and an average of taste in games? Isn't taste in a game an opinion of that game? And isn't that subjective?

And I certainly don't find using the ranking system as a recommendation tool to be problematic at all. If I agree with the rankings of a majority of the games on the geek why would I not use it to help me figure out a new purchase. Or at the very least use it as a first stop along the lines of figuring out whether or not I would even like the game. Then onto the comments and forums section.

Anyway, I think we've gotten away from the point of this thread since you decided what I had to say was an issue for you.

The fact that there are those who would try to subvert the rankings of one game for the betterment of another seems shady at best. Even going so far as to open new accounts to rank that game again!!!
Rank games the way you feel, based on your experiences with those games, and let the chips fall where they may.
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markaaronmassey wrote:
In my experience with Twilight Imperium I found the game to be far too long with too much down time. With 8 players I would have 45 minutes between moves.


Did you play 3rd edition or something older? The way TI 3rd edition works is that each player takes one quick action and then it keeps rotating around. I find 8-player games too big and too long, but I have played them and they run 8-12 hours, or about 1 hour per game turn. I'd say that the average number of actions per game turn is around 4, which comes out to about 2 minutes per action, or 14 minutes between each action, but typically much less. Sounds like you played with a really slow group.
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Oh yeah it was slow. Not sure which edition we played. I found myself at the beginning of the game, for the first 3 hours or so, planning and replanning my strategy. After a while I got tired of that and pulled out my iPad and just passed the time until it was my turn again.

Like I said, I would try the game again if I was playing with a group of people who knew exactly what they were doing and who played as efficiently as the game allowed. The funny thing is I'm all for an epic game. We've played some VERY long games in my group, but that one took the cake for too much down time.
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I'm happy to hear a voice of reason in an issue like this!

If we start being dishonest for making a game over another, it's a real quick way to make the ranking completely useless. And if statistics here start being misleading or useless, what the point of having this space at all? It's one of the most useful place for all of us, we should protect that before any fanaticism ruin BGG.
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SebasKO wrote:
I'm happy to hear a voice of reason in an issue like this!

If we start being dishonest for making a game over another, it's a real quick way to make the ranking completely useless. And if statistics here start being misleading or useless, what the point of having this space at all? It's one of the most useful place for all of us, we should protect that before any fanaticism ruin BGG.


The statistics have always been useless. Too many confounding variables involved. I get why people want the ratings and rankings to mean something, but seriously, the ratings and rankings are way too imprecise for it to be anything more than a novelty. Fanaticism need not bother, the system is flawed from the get-go.
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markaaronmassey wrote:
1 - Defies description of a game. You won't catch me dead playing this. Clearly broken.

To me TI fits the description. You probably won't catch me playing this game again, dead or alive, and it defies description to me. To me it is clearly broken.


markaaronmassey wrote:
Like I said, I would try the game again if I was playing with a group of people who knew exactly what they were doing and who played as efficiently as the game allowed. The funny thing is I'm all for an epic game.


One of these things is not like the other... FWIW it sounds to me (as an outside observer, i.e. I don't play TI and don't have any stake in what its rating is) like you probably shouldn't be rating TI a 1...

It sounds like your bad experience was about the group (which you waid was playing too slowly and explained the rules badly), not about the specific game being played.
 
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Reread my posts, my bad experience had a little to do with the slowness and bad teaching of the group but there are things that I despised about the game. These things lead me to feel the game is broken. I outlined them above.

And as I mentioned, my one caveat to replay the game, would be that it is played with extremely experienced players who don't waste time. Other than that I will NEVER play the game again.

Take that for what its worth. I still rate it a 1.
 
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ZomBub wrote:
How much of an emotional investment do we have in how others perceive the games that we enjoy? Enough to try to sabotage other peoples' perceptions by the perpetuation of misinformation?


You act like you've never heard of a downvoter before.

"downvote

To vote as negatively as possible on something simply to offset its vote average."

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=downvote

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=downvoter


Quote:

The hard truth of the matter is that Netrunner still has an average rating of 8.45 with less than 7,000 votes, whereas Puerto Rico has an average rating of 8.21 with well over 30,000 votes. With numbers like that, Netrunner will inevitably overtake Puerto Rico in the rankings.


Huh? Just the opposite. Due to regression towards the mean, the more votes something has, the more it will slide toward the average rating. Those numbers tell me Netrunner will inevitably sink below Puerto Rico. It is a lot easier to fly high with one vote, or ten, or a hundred, than with 30,000.

But since you bring it up, excuse me while I go give Netrunner, whatever that is, a 1.
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chuft wrote:
You act like you've never heard of a downvoter before.

"downvote

To vote as negatively as possible on something simply to offset its vote average."

Which brings us right back to one's motivations compromising their honesty, as I already touched on in the opening post.

chuft wrote:
Huh? Just the opposite. Due to regression towards the mean, the more votes something has, the more it will slide toward the average rating. Those numbers tell me Netrunner will inevitably sink below Puerto Rico. It is a lot easier to fly high with one vote, or ten, or a hundred, than with 30,000.

As a matter of fact, today's ratings have vindicated my prediction; Netrunner having a comfortable lead with a Geek Rating of 8.137 over Puerto Rico's 8.122. Indeed, I would further predict that Netrunner will overtake Through the Ages, which also has a 8.137, but a notably lower Average Rating.

I made no predictions concerning long-term ratings, and while it is possible that Netrunner may drop back below Puerto Rico when all votes are ultimately accounted for, there is no basis to assume that Netrunner's Average Rating will necessarily fall below that of Puerto Rico. Only time will tell, and in the meantime, there is much fuss and silliness in attempting to influence said ratings.
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chuft wrote:
ZomBub wrote:

The hard truth of the matter is that Netrunner still has an average rating of 8.45 with less than 7,000 votes, whereas Puerto Rico has an average rating of 8.21 with well over 30,000 votes. With numbers like that, Netrunner will inevitably overtake Puerto Rico in the rankings.


Huh? Just the opposite. Due to regression towards the mean, the more votes something has, the more it will slide toward the average rating. Those numbers tell me Netrunner will inevitably sink below Puerto Rico. It is a lot easier to fly high with one vote, or ten, or a hundred, than with 30,000.


7,000 is hardly statistically insignificant. In fact, at that number, I would expect precious little regression as the data set increases. It would have been more helpful if you had data on Puerto Rico's avg rating when it was 7,000 deep.

And if you factor in the geek rating artificial weight, avg rating is a decent predictor over large samples of the limit of that rating. OP doesn't act as though he's never heard of one; he simply wonders, completely justifiably, why people can be such dickheads. Because that is exactly what such people are.
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JJRR_Esq wrote:
OP doesn't act as though he's never heard of one;


Yeah he does.


Quote:
he simply wonders, completely justifiably, why people can be such dickheads. Because that is exactly what such people are.


That kind of strong emotional reaction to something as meaningless as free anonymous internet voting is exactly what downvoting trolls feed on.
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JJRR_Esq wrote:
chuft wrote:
ZomBub wrote:

The hard truth of the matter is that Netrunner still has an average rating of 8.45 with less than 7,000 votes, whereas Puerto Rico has an average rating of 8.21 with well over 30,000 votes. With numbers like that, Netrunner will inevitably overtake Puerto Rico in the rankings.


Huh? Just the opposite. Due to regression towards the mean, the more votes something has, the more it will slide toward the average rating. Those numbers tell me Netrunner will inevitably sink below Puerto Rico. It is a lot easier to fly high with one vote, or ten, or a hundred, than with 30,000.


7,000 is hardly statistically insignificant. In fact, at that number, I would expect precious little regression as the data set increases. It would have been more helpful if you had data on Puerto Rico's avg rating when it was 7,000 deep.

And if you factor in the geek rating artificial weight, avg rating is a decent predictor over large samples of the limit of that rating. OP doesn't act as though he's never heard of one; he simply wonders, completely justifiably, why people can be such dickheads. Because that is exactly what such people are.


I think you're using "regression to the mean" in two slightly different senses. With respect to the central limit theorem, an unbiased sample of 7,000 should be indistinguishable from an unbiased sample of 30,000. But with respect to the life-cycle of a game, there is no reason to expect that the first 7,000 players will be an unbiased sample; if the first 7,000 players give an unusually high rating, that provides some evidence for the hypothesis that it's a good game, and some evidence for the hypothesis that the first 7,000 players have been more enthusiastic about the game then the next 23,000 players will be.
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chuft wrote:
JJRR_Esq wrote:
OP doesn't act as though he's never heard of one;

Yeah he does.

No, in fact, he doesn't. It is not the existence of "downvoters" that is wondered at, but rather their motivation. At least JJRR_Esq ventured an answer to the quandary.
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