Outsiders Looking In: Creating a Good Impression

Posted in NEWS on December 8, 2015

By Wizards of the Coast

John Carter

As an authority figure at events people ask judges all sorts of questions. Several times in one's judging career these questions will come from non-Magic playing people. This is a natural consequence of someone who wants to talk to the most knowledgeable person at a given venue whether it is a PTQ player or a patient at the doctor's office. In the case of Magic, what you say and how you say it can mean a world of difference in the impression that person develops about the game. Generating the best impression is often accomplished by speaking to the questioner's sensibilities.

Here are a few short descriptions of personality types with dialogue that can be effective when addressing that person:

The Inquisitive Parent:
"Person -- Inquisitive-Parent" is usually casually interested in what their child is doing at these Magic events they go to. Usually all this person needs is a mild reassurance that their child is staying having a good time and getting some lasting benefit.

For example:
Name is your son (daughter, as appropriate, of course), right? Today is a Junior Super Series event, and if name does well, he'll get prizes in cards and possibly a scholarship for first place. In the meantime, my staff and myself will watch over him. If you want, you could even compare the $15 plus maybe $5 for lunch for six or so hours of supervised intellectual play with likeminded kids versus whatever the going rate is for a two-hour movie and snacks. On a dollar per hour basis, the comparison is simple, and you and your spouse have longer to shop or take an afternoon off when he's here with us.

Parents at the JSS Championship want to be kept informed

The Concerned Parent:
If there is ever a sensitive situation with non-Magic people, it's dealing with "Person -- Concerned-Parent". Concerned parents usually have the same worry that has improperly harried Magic since Alpha-- "is Magic evil?" Care should be taken to not be abrupt with someone who is voicing a concern that they feel is legitimate, and we cannot pretend that Demonic Tutor and Unholy Strength don't exist. Instead, tackle this slippery beast with simple and straightforward examples of how Magic is a good game both on paper and in reality. Parallels can even be drawn to other influences.

For example:
I can understand your concern because I've thought about the very same things. But looking closer I saw black cards such as Unholy Strength had a white counterpart in the form of Holy Strength. There are also Swords to Plowshares, all sorts of angels, and even Wrath of God. Nonetheless, the game designers realized that some people mistook what is essentially a math game with fantasy art for something sinister and while cards like the Wrath and Serra Angel are still being played often, the older unfortunately named cards are not. In any story of one side versus another, it is the presence of the dark that helps emphasize the light.

The Engineer:
A "Person -- Engineer" is usually concerned with game mechanics and large-scale numbers. The best approach to communicating Magic to an engineer is by emphasizing the structure of the game on a personal and worldwide scale.

For example:
Magic: the Gathering is a turn-based strategy game of resource management. Opposing players use a system of priority to act upon and react towards his or her opponent. Social play occurs frequently among the more than 6 million players in 52 countries, and a system of Pro Tour and Qualifying events let players compete at more than 85,000 events a year for prizes and ranking in a global environment administered by the DCI.

The Competitor:
"Person -- Competitor" strives to excel against an array of opponents. Special attention should be paid to the consistency and opportunities the DCI provides for a serious Magic player. To a competitor, little is more attractive than dollar signs based on success.

For example:
In 2001, Wizards of the Coast gave out millions of dollars in prize money at six Pro Tour events and nearly three dozen Grand Prix. Pro Tours are open to player who qualify for the event and give away approximately $30,000 for first place and more than $200,000 total. Grand Prix are open to all players and offer approximately $2,400 for first place and total about $25,000 for top finishers and amateur prizes.

The Teacher:
The typical "Person -- Teacher" wants to know how Magic can help children learn mental and social skills. A short review of basic Magic information and how the game works goes a long way in opening doors for a teacher.

For example:
Richard Garfield Ph.D. introduced Magic to the world in August 1993. Under the hood, Magic is actually a game built on numbers and priorities. Two key elements to success in the game are being able to process numbers in a changing environment and clearly communicating your intentions while also reading the agenda of your opponent.

The Nobel Laureate:
A "Person -- Nobel-Laureate" isn't concerned which victory so much as recognition. While the millions given away at the Pro Tour may mean nothing to someone like this, knowing how Magic has been accepted around the world may pique their interest.

For example:
Since it's debut in the Fall of 1993, Magic has created a new idea in gaming. Wizards of the Coast holds a patent for the mechanics of trading card games, and both the game designer and CEO that piloted Magic have been recognized repeatedly for their contributions to games and gaming. The game itself has won major annual "Game of the Year" type awards in the US, France, Germany, and Italy. Within it's first year of release Magic was named "Top Five Mind Games" by Mensa, the International High IQ Society. And in 1998 the Chinese government officially recognized Magic on their list of "Exhibition Mindsports" (a list with fewer than two dozen entries).

The Accountant:
"Person -- Accountant" is a number-cruncher at heart. Similar to the Engineer, Teacher, and parents that enjoy the intellectual development Magic stimulates, the Accountant is most impressed by the detailed flow of a good game. Winning isn't so important as watching the pieces fit together logically.

For example:
Magic: the Gathering is like playing a mix of poker and chess with about 1,500 different pieces (in Standard). Essentially, the whole game is about numbers and probability-- "I have four of these in sixty cards, and I've drawn one in the first 27 cards, so this play is going to be based on whether I think I can survive two more draws with a 3 in 33 chance and then 3 in 32 chance of getting the card I need." Anyone can learn how to play Magic in a few days or less, but getting good at it-- people have been playing for eight and a half years and still improving.

In Conclusion

In any case, Magic gets these people together to play and have fun. In the meantime they learn that there are rules that everyone has to follow (in tournaments as well as in life). Here these players have to learn how to think on their feet to do the right thing, and that's a much better pastime than sitting at home and numbly absorbing what the TV tells them.

Every great game has a history to it. And every great game draws people to it for different reasons. While handling events is the foremost duty for judges, one of their best privileges is being an ambassador to curious onlookers at a well-run event. Learning the different ways Magic appeals to people, and learning how to express those aspects to them will go a long way into making curious onlookers into impressed observers or perhaps new tournament players.

Questions and comments can be directed to John Carter, sagency@yahoo.com.