I think some people are getting bogged down in the fine points and missing the broad picture.
IPMS doesn't want us all to become "elite modeling snobs", they just want us to build better models.
While we all should be building for our own pleasure (duhh), the contest rules, whether at the NATS or a local club meeting are only there to provide some guidance as to what a "good model" is.
I can put a model together in 2 days,,,,,,and it will look just exactly as if I did it in two days. But, if I address the issues spelled out in IPMS judging guidelines, I might not build a NATS first place model, but, I will have a chance at a local first place. This is NOT because I am super-competitive, it is only because I have a guide to go by that shows me what "good construction" consists of.
Those exact same rules apply, even if you don't have them written down, for all of our "shelf sitters." We still try to glue it together well, fill seams, not get fingerprints on it, use just the right amount of putty, trim parts without making them worse, glue things on straight, get a nice paint finish, apply decals without silvering them, get a good top clear coat without bubbles, orange peel or frosting.
So, those rules already apply in our heads, but, then if you go and compete, you see them spelled out, not as "rules to follow or you vill be shot", but, they HAVE to be written out so that each competitor knows what he is going to be judged by. Just imagine the yelling if the rules were all made up on the spot, lol.
The skill classifications are to sort out the better builders, and to give us something to strive for, if we so choose.
You don't have to build to IPMS standards if you choose not to,,,,,,but, if you even say you build the best you can and try to learn more as you go,,,,,,then you really are already trying to follow those same build rules.
Me?,,,simple,,,,,,after years of not competing, and then years of spectating,,,,I am going to dive in and find out how my building stacks up against my peers,,,,,just to find out.
win, lose or draw,,,,I will still win, because I will learn something,,,,,or teach someone something, at those shows
(to all the "just have fun" people,,,,,,,I am sorry, but, building that way is NOT fun for me,,,,,,I enjoy the search for details, shapes, dimensions, and paint schemes and markings that goes with each of my builds, simple builds are what I did 40 years ago, and they bore me)