Hello and welcome! My name's David Lyford-Smith, although most know me as simply DLS. I've been a Magic player for about fifteen years and a judge for about half that. It's my pleasure to be talking to you today about something that really excites me—a major new initiative that I'm leading on behalf of the Magic Judge Program that's all about empowering you to improve your experience with Organized Play. It's called the Player Experience Sphere, and in this article I'll be introducing ways for you to have a real effect on tournament judging and let us know what you want to see from the judge program. If you've got some opinions about tournaments, read on to find out how you can make them count.
Judging and Judges
If you've ever attended a tournament, you will probably have encountered some judges. They might have looked something like this:
But, more likely, they looked just like any other player in regular clothes there to play Magic.
Judges are Magic players too—Magic players who also help run tournaments in their spare time. Some come to big events like Grand Prix, but like most Magic players, most judges spend their event time at things like Friday Night Magic, helping out their local communities. Wherever they are, judges are involved in a variety of different tasks—like answering rules questions, resolving communication mishaps, and enforcing tournament rules.
The judge group has a strong sense of culture and community. Casual games between judges are what lead to the creation of Commander, after all! But over the years, this culture has meant that sometimes the judge community has felt separate from the players, rather than a part of them. That's what I want to change with the new initiative: the Player Experience Sphere. It's a big project designed to get judges and non-judges alike working on making a judge program that's more oriented around customer service and providing fun play experiences for you, the player, and less around rules enforcement and judge-centric culture.
What We're Doing
The Player Experience Sphere is an initiative all about breaking down the walls between judges and non-judges and improving the experience that you have when you come to Organized Play events. That's also why I'm writing here, on DailyMTG, rather than just on a judge blog—because I think that there's a lot of good work to be done together on this. We see this as an opportunity to build on what's been done in the past few years to improve policy and accountability, and now grow the judge program's strengths in the direction of customer service and player dialogue. It's a large effort, consisting of several different areas of focus—each with their own teams and goals.
Our Areas of Focus
To get started, we have six areas where we're focusing our work:
- Customer service skills training
This project is producing training materials such as articles and videos on customer service skills. We're currently working on a guide for how to be a great Prerelease judge. If you've experienced great customer service from a judge, share it with us!
- "Extra-Mile"-style fun things for judges to share
This project involves coming up with ideas for cool and useful things for judges to share with their local communities, such as wacky FNM format guides or handouts for players at their first draft. If you've got something great that others could try out, send it our way.
- Running surveys
We love data, and this project exists to get us some! We will be running surveys to find out your opinion on the judge program's performance, policy topics, and more. Our blog will link to the first of these soon.
- Producing articles and blog posts
Articles like this one, and the ones that will appear on our blog, will be written by this project. This is also the team that will be directly available for you to voice your ideas and concerns to via our email inbox.
- Organizing judge/player social events
Part of our goal is to bring the judge community closer together with the rest of the player community. As such, we're planning on organizing some socials for the groups to get to know one another. If you'd like to help organize something, get in touch!
- Judges for Diversity
This group will be producing training materials to help teach judges how to support diverse and welcoming environments in their local stores. If you want to share your experiences or your ideas for how we can best make Magic environments that are welcoming to all, please do get in touch.
How you can steer us
All of what we're doing will be driven by your input and needs your help. If you've experienced a memorable judge interaction—whether one that was positive or one with room for improvement—let us know about it. If you've got a crazy idea for a policy change, but don't know who to send it on to, send it in to the address listed further down the page.
We will always be open to your input, and if you want to join one of the projects and collaborate on our goals over the net with other interested Magic players, we'd be delighted to have you help out.
Below are some links that you can use to find out more about what we're doing and how to get involved. Even if you don't think you have something to say, take a moment to reflect on the last memorable experience you had at an Organized Play event. What made it great? What could have been improved? How could a judge you interacted with have acted differently and made a positive impact on your day? Put a few words down and reach out to us at one of the links below.
MTGPlayerExperience@gmail.com—Use this address to contact us with your comments, suggestions, offers of assistance, or anything else you want to communicate to the judge program about judging in general.
blogs.magicjudges.org/PlayerExperience—The blog for what the project's been up to, including a "Welcome" post with more detail for players.
blogs.magicjudges.org/judge-feedback—Use this link to provide feedback (anonymously, if you prefer) on a specific judge, whether positive or negative.
@SaviaWanderer—This is my Twitter account; you're welcome to contact me directly with questions or suggestions.
If you'd just like to post about this effort on social media, use #MTGPlayerExperience to share your stories, suggestions, and experiences.
I am looking forward to hearing your stories and ideas. Let's work together to improve Magic: The Gathering events!