I've just recently become a level 2 judge, and so far all of my experience can be summed up into two sections: First, the stuff I ran myself before I was officially a judge. For four years I ran little tourneys for the people who played at the University of Chicago, since there was no store near us. Second is the experience I've gained since I've come to Texas A&M, working under Tim Weissman at Event Horizons in Houston.
While both sets of experience have been instructive and helped me become a better judge, I didn't realize that I'd become sort of set in my ways. I was used to doing things one way with Tim, and just figured that was the only way to do things.
Then I mis-scheduled my plane tickets. I got a flight out of Texas two days before the Apocalypse pre-release. As a side-note here, let me just say that I *always* work pre-releases. They are my favorite events, both to judge and to play. So, panicking, I searched around NY state for another pre-release to work at, and found the one at Neutral Ground, being run by Steve and Glen. I contacted them about 2 weeks before the pre-release, and arranged to work it there.
Well, to be plain, things were very different. Maybe everyone else realizes this, but I hadn't thought about how much the personality of the organizer is reflected in the events they run. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not criticizing either organizer. I think they both do fabulous jobs. But they both do them in their own way.
For example, Event Horizons uses a microphone system that they connect to a speaker at the Head Judge's table, and Neutral Ground has a megaphone that a judge can carry around. While the latter is nice, because you can do the announcements in the section where they are relevant, the former has the advantage of always knowing where it is.
Event Horizons, Texas runs well-organized events
EH gives everyone who has paid a receipt (letter paper cut into thirds) marked with the flight they are in, and when time comes to hand out cards, we collect the receipt before we give them the cards. Then we count the receipts and make sure the number is correct. At NG, they have a list of names, and they do attendance before the flight starts. While the receipts can get annoying sometimes, and occasionally the count doesn't match, it is a much faster system, and doesn't require the attendance session. The attendance system has the benefit of accuracy, as well as being able to fill spots that were vacated between registration and first round, instead of running the flight short.
As a last example, at NG, when time comes to swap sealed decks, they have the players take the cards, minus the basic lands, and put them into their box, with the deck reg sheet. Then the staff swap them around, and hand them back. At EH, they include the basic land in the swap.
Some things didn't change, however. It's very important to have someone manning the computer who knows DCI reporter very well. More judges are always better. Good TO's and HJ's inspire excellence among the judges working with them. And great amounts of organization don't prevent chaos, they simply lower the amount of it.
After I got over my surprise at how things were different, I started learning things. I started comparing what each site did, and how it worked for them, and for the players and judges they had. I think that I learned almost as much in that one day as I did in a year of doing stuff on my own at the U of C.
I think that this is similar to the reason most schools don't accept their undergrads back as grad students: familiarity not only breeds contempt, but stagnation. If you are only ever exposed to one style of judging and organizing, you will become set in your thinking, and be less flexible, as well as losing sight of the range of options and methods to choose from.
So, I just have this to say to my fellow judges: Try judging under other TO's and with new people, or in new locations some time. The best is if you can take an event you're familiar with in one location, and do the same type of event in another, because then you can directly compare the differences in style, as opposed to differences in the two events. Try it. I think that you'll learn a lot. I know I did.
Level 2 DCI Judge