“PG BATTLE 2020” will be held online on Saturday, October 24, 2020. PG BATTLE is a programming contest for companies and schools sponsored by System Integrator Co., Ltd., and is characterized by a team competition of 3 people per team.
Three members of the team are divided into “Marshmallow”, “Senbei” and “Katsuobushi”, and write four programs to solve the questions in 90 minutes and submit them online. At a later date, a serious game will be held in which the results will be announced online. The number of participants continues to increase year by year, with no participation fee and numerous prizes such as the “sponsor prize (flying prize)”.
We asked Mr. Hiroyuki Umeda, President, and CEO of System Integrator Co., Ltd., the organizer, about the background of the holding of this “programming team competition”, which is rare in the world, and the highlights of the competition.
Those who talked this time
- Hiroyuki Umeda
President of System Integrator Co., Ltd.
After graduating from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Shizuoka University joined Toshiba Corporation. In 1989, he moved to Sumisho Information Systems Corporation (currently SCSK Corporation), planned and developed Japan’s first ERP software “Pro-Active”, and established System Integrator Co., Ltd. in 1995. He has developed several packaged software. Since 2018, he has been hosting the “PG BATTLE” programming battle against companies and schools and is focusing on improving programming skills in the Japanese IT industry.
What is “PG BATTLE”, a programming battle against companies and schools?
──Please tell us the background behind the holding of “PG BATTLE”.
I think the Japanese IT industry has a fairly low reputation among programmers. The trend is that system engineers and upstream consultants are more valuable. The industry itself has a pyramid structure, and there are few in-house programmers in the so-called upper-level companies, and the cooperating companies have programming skills. It is said that the age of DX is now, but I think it will be difficult to realize DX with this.
Japan is ahead of the United States in IT technology, and one of the reasons is that programmers are properly evaluated overseas. With that in mind, I strongly felt four years ago that I should be able to evaluate Japan’s programming skills more. Therefore, I created “TOPIC”, a judgment service that visualizes programming skills so that English conversation ability can be visualized with TOEIC.
Using this TOPIC, we hold an in-house programming contest three times a year. Then, people who joined the company mid-career tried to get a perfect score, and the accounting staff won a prize at the top, and it became a hot topic in the company, and the atmosphere of the company changed as I thought “programming is fun and important”. At the same time, I wanted to change the trend of the world, and the idea of a programming battle tournament using TOPIC is the background of “PG BATTLE”.
─Why did you decide to make it like a sports competition?
The origin of the idea of PG BATTLE is the shogi tournament. Two years ago, the shogi club of our company asked me, “Would you like to participate in the tournament because there are not enough members?” Fight against the company with 5 to 5 people, the first, the second, the lieutenant general, the deputy general, and the general. Participating in it made me feel “interesting”, and even though there are many competitions against companies such as baseball and futsal other than shogi, I thought that there was no programming competition against companies. Therefore, with the desire to spread the trend that programming is fun and important to the world, I decided to hold a programming battle tournament against groups using TOPIC.
Since it is a team competition of 3 people, I often get asked “Can I talk with 3 people?”, But I don’t have any consultation because I got a hint from the shogi tournament. The difficulty level of the problem will be changed little by little, such as “Marshmallow”, “Senbei”, and “Katsuobushi”. Did.
At first, I was thinking about how to divide the difficulty level into beginner, intermediate, and advanced, but since it was a festival event for programmers, I wanted to add some fun. Therefore, I decided to express the difficulty level by “hardness” and “softness”. The hardest food in the world, “Katsuobushi,” and the soft “Marshmallow,” which has marshmallows in the movies, were decided immediately, but the middle “senbei” was difficult.
──What is the appeal of “PG BATTLE”?
The most attractive thing is that you can have a fun experience where you can compete with your programming skills, which you can’t normally do. In addition, you can enjoy the fun of team battles between groups, where people belonging to groups fight against each other, and you can enjoy solving problems. If there are three members, you can participate online for free, and it seems that many participants are attracted to the fact that not only the top prize-winning teams but also the “flying prizes” will give out luxurious prizes.
I think one of the attractions is that you can easily participate online. Since the tournament is Saturday at noon (held on October 24, 2020), each of the three can participate separately from home, and the results will be announced online at a later date. It seems that there are quite a few people who gather somewhere to participate together and see the results.
There are many cases where the team that came out once and was hit by Kotenpan will apply again the following year, and I think that PG BATTLE is attractive regardless of the level.
──Are there any ideas to make it easier for corporate / school teams to participate?
Every year, we devise little by little. In the first year, we made the result presentation online to make it easier to participate. In the second year, we gave a “flying prize” by sponsor system, but since more sponsors who agreed with the purpose of PG BATTLE gathered more than expected, we can prepare 20 “flying prizes” * under the sponsor name. I did. Everyone seemed to be excited to see the announcement of the flying prize.
I don’t think that the teamwork called PG BATTLE is 100% the same as the teamwork in normal development, but I hope everyone will enjoy the fun of the teamwork.
Therefore, this year, which is the third year, as a new attempt, we will create a special frame (https://bosyu.me/d/pgbattle2020) on the site called “Easy recruitment service body” so that we can recruit friends to participate in PG BATTLE. I made it. In some cases, the purpose is to participate, and in some cases, three talented programmers can aim for the top ranks, so I think that boys will encourage participation in 2020. I think it would be interesting to see a top-ranking team of boys.
* Jump prize: As an example, a prize (prize) is awarded in the order corresponding to a multiple of 0 or 5 at the end.
History of “PG BATTLE”
──Please tell us the steps up to the 3rd time.
Participants gathered for the first time, partly because we wanted to contribute to the IT industry with PG BATTLE and make it more exciting, and there were 169 companies, 91 schools, and a total of about 800 people. ..
In the second session, we asked for sponsors to continue the tournament for a long time, and more than expected, 20 companies gave their names as sponsors. I felt that there were more companies than I expected to sympathize with the purpose of PG BATTLE. The second round will be attended by 1332 people, and the third round in October 2020 is targeted at 2,000 participants.
──What kind of teams have left an impression on you in the past tournaments?
The top of the 1st “Corporate Division” was a perfect score, but the top of the “Student Division” was 290 points for the Waseda University team. The 290 points probably mean that the “marshmallow” person missed the simplest of the four questions, but I wonder what happened to this person … I was curious (laughs). For that reason, the following year, we interviewed the winner on our “TOPIC” blog and received comments.
This Waseda University team was in a different grade. It was interesting to see my face when I was interviewed. When such students enter a company, that company can also aim for higher ranks. I am looking forward to seeing more such cases as we continue PG BATTLE from now on.
Even in shogi, there are usually high-ranking regular companies in the team battle, but in the “corporate section” of PG BATTLE, the Recruit Communications team has won the championship in a row in the past, and another team is also in 3rd place. .. I think that strong teams will continue to appear in the future.
What I find interesting is the team name. For example, the first winning team of the 1st PG BATTLE 2018 “Corporate Division” that I talked about earlier is “Let’s talk about how to remove that person later” from Recruit Communications. The PG BATTLE site has a four-frame manga that I thought of, and it’s the line of the punch line (laughs). If I take the first place with such a team name, it seems that the next team to enter will have to give a more interesting name, and I am looking forward to seeing it escalating more and more.
What is the future society that “PG BATTLE” aims for?
──Is there a “winning equation” in PG BATTLE?
I agree. There is a personal competitive programming competition run by AtCoder, co-sponsored by PG BATTLE, which you can enter for free. There are quite a few teams who practice there and then come to the team competition PG BATTLE. I think that the number of teams who will solve problems with AtCoder etc. before the tournament for practice will continue to increase. AtCoder people called this kind of training “1000 knocks”.
The rule that you will be aware of during actual battles is that if there is a tie, the shorter the time, the better. It can be said that productivity is high if it can be done in a short time, and it becomes difficult to decide what to do with the review here. In competitive programming, there are times when you can fix the results you get, but in programming at our company, no one will tell you the mistakes, and bugs may occur after production and cause trouble. .. I feel that it is sweet to be able to correct it because I live in such a world, so at PG BATTLE I will confirm it myself before submitting it. That is, no modification.
It’s not like working people, it’s not that sweet in the world (laughs). Some companies, like Baltes, specialize in software testing and quality checking, so PG BATTLE places great importance on the quality of the program. Productivity is an important factor, so the speed of development is important, but it doesn’t make sense if there are bugs in terms of quality. In the real world, programmers work with that balance, so even in a world where it’s only an hour and a half, I think we have to think about the balance between time and quality.
In the case of PG BATTLE, it’s not a lot of testing, it’s just a little checking. It is the same as writing a sentence and then elaborating it later to reduce typographical errors. However, there is also a conflict of feelings that I am afraid to lose by the difference of seconds of the submission time, so there may be a choice to go out at once to get the first place, but if it is 15 seconds, it is a careless mistake. There is a good chance that you will notice, so I think it’s probably better to not rush for 15 seconds.
──Are offline events held?
In 2020, we started the event “CODE-RAVE” to convey the coolness of programmers, but it stopped due to the influence of the world situation. However, it will finally be back online on September 14th.
We would like to have the winners of PG BATTLE and famous programming people come to this event to deepen the bonds of those who participated outside the battle. I would like to hold various events and make the cycle of excitement at PG BATTLE about 10 laps and 10 years so that a considerable amount of energy is poured into Japanese programmers.
──Please tell us if you have any plans in the future.
The first was the “school department” and the “corporate department”, but the second time the “school department” was divided into the university and the high school and lower departments.
By creating a department below high school, the participation of people programming in that generation is gradually increasing. In the future, the participation of schools with organizations such as programming clubs will increase, and I think that it will be an event that will surely come out every year. As PG BATTLE grows, I would like to divide it into high school, junior high school, and elementary school.
In shogi and go, elementary school masters’ games do not always win in 6th and 5th grades, but some children win in 4th grade and become professionals 10 years later. I hope that PG BATTLE will do so and that the programming skills of the younger generation will improve.
PG BATTLE is aiming for 10,000 participants in the future. In that case, I think we will have more sponsors. It is important to continue for a long time, so I will put my passion into it. I hope that the media will take up the matter by doing something like close coverage before the tournament or by featuring it on TV.
──Please give a message to the programmers who will participate at the end.
After all, many sharp companies are ranked high in the “Corporate Division” of PG BATTLE. However, even in companies that do not, there are many young and excellent employees, so it is ideal for such people to gather and participate in PG BATTLE and rank high, thereby steadily changing the awareness of the company and the world. ..
Of course, I would like those who participate to get good scores, but first of all, I would like them to participate in PG BATTLE and CODE-RAVE and have fun. There is no doubt that it will be more enjoyable if you have programming training, so please prepare well.
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