Why do we judge?

Posted in NEWS on November 25, 2015

By Wizards of the Coast

Michelogiannakis George

Greetings fellow judges! I meant to write this article ever since the "why do we judge?" discussion came up on the judges' list, but I guess I couldn't find the time and I was waiting for someone else (who is a better writer than me) to do so. The experiences and feelings are slightly personal, I cannot speak on behalf of other judges, but I'll try to do my best. Thanks for your time in advance.

Haven't you been asked this simple and yet so difficult to answer question? Personally I was asked right after passing my level 1 exam, at the Greek nationals, by a close friend of mine who had no idea that I would become a judge. I didn't give any answer because all the points discussed by this article are often understood by judges only, players sometimes think in another way.

Michelogiannakis George, Level 1

Let's have a look at the cons first and we will counter them afterwards so we can have a happy ending

1). Judging is time consuming. As a player, one has the freedom to go to any tournament he/she desires, and therefore catch up with other activities one may have, or want to do when not attending a tournament. A judge however does not have this freedom. This is especially true for those of us who live in a city with no other certified judge, and no other trustworthy of judging. You simply have to attend every tournament unless you have a serious reason not to. This means spending 4-5 hours when you could be doing something else, like studying for an exam. This is worst when you have to *pay* to travel to a tournament where they need you.

2). The temptation of playing rather than judging. You are judging at a tournament and you are idle for 5 minutes (because no one happened to call you and you have other duties) and you take a quick look around you. You see people (players) playing the game they love. They are having fun with their opponents, their friends and with spectators. They are winning (and losing, but you concentrate on the ones who are winning), they receive prices and some congratulations from the peers. You can't help it: "why judge and not play?".

3). Judging means responsibility. This can prove a nightmare for easily stressed people. You are at a tournament and how smooth it runs depends on you. One wrong ruling can get a player to a lower rank. You must also be aware of cheaters so they won't get away with it and downgrade the tournament's integrity. You must answer every player's question as soon as possible, you must do deck checks and keep both eyes open for cheaters. In short, you must do your absolutely best, nothing less.

This means that a judge will be under a constant stress and will regret (possibly also apologizing to players at another tournament) any mistake made. Is it worth putting yourself in stress? Wouldn't you rather have fun by playing?

4). Judging has no rewards. Think about it, even with the new rewards system, unless you are a level 3+ (which is a dream for many of us) you get less than a player does. Players get promo cards and token cards directly from the dci but mostly get foils, money, boosters or anything else (including fame) from winning or doing well in tournaments. A judge gets only the foil promo cards from the dci no matter how well he/she performs. So you are not having such a good time as players are, and you get less than them. Is this fair?

5). Receiving players' complaints. Although this is connected to number 3 (responsibility), it is somewhat different because responsibility only applies during a tournament. As a judge, you are regarded as a dci representative and all players' complaints are sent to you. This can be good if the complaints are reasonable, but it is also frustrating because players complain, complain and complain. For example say you want to organize, or are discussing organizing with your local TO, an extended tournament. One day after the announcement you will receive emails from people who would rather have a block constructed than an extended. You say "the complaints are many, the announcement was placed two weeks before the tournament so we can change it, let's have an OBC". Although this is a mistake, you might do it.
The next day you will receive complaints from other people saying that they want something else. You probably won't make the same mistake twice but you might be tempted into canceling the whole idea of organizing a big tournament. Again you receive complaints.

No matter what you do, players will complain about it. This includes doing absolutely nothing rather than doing something, people will complain to you for doing nothing.

6). A judge has to study. Many of us are studying at universities, we are having enough of studying, why would anyone volunteer to study? A judge has to study the rules, study the floor rules and other dci documents, study other judge's reports, try to remember deck checking techniques and anything else that they have learnt and may help. The rules are big and complicated, you have to put in a lot of effort into studying, practicing, then studying some more. This requires time and effort not only for learning but also for preserving the knowledge you have.

By now, I will probably have deterred any uncertified judge willing to become certified and get the role seriously. I think we have all faced these 6 points mentioned above, some may be in a better position that others but still the problem remains, "Why do we judge?".

Numbers speak for themselves in many cases, this is one. There are more than 2000 judges out there, there must be a reason! So let's counter each one of the 6 points mentioned above, and add some more.

1). Judging is indeed time consuming but isn't this true for all hobbies? Yes you do have to spend many hours a week (5 for a single tournament a week, more for more tournaments a week) but if you enjoy judging you will make the time. If you already are making time but think that you are not enjoying judging, think again - you probably are.

Besides, if you can't make it to a tournament you may be pleasantly surprised by how well it was ran or by the performance from an uncertified judge you never thought of in the past. Don't stress yourself more than you have to, people are usually understanding in these cases. Find a person suitable to fill in for you when you are absent and attend tournaments in a reasonable rate. It works for most people, it will work for you.

2). Playing instead of judging is explained in all these points but in this (number 2) I'll simply state that people are different. People have different tastes, they want to do different things and become different things. For example, there are both players and referees in football and in other sports, why aren't there simply players? Why did the referees become referees?

The secret in this is to *have fun*. Judging can be fun and it depends on you if you make it. You must get to know the people, be friendly and in a short period of time you will end up telling jokes, exchanging stories and respect each other, don't be cold and distant.

As for the game, you can easily play the game, not simply watch other people doing so. This will not happen in the tournament you are judging of course, but may happen in another tournament. You can rotate with another certified judge so each of you will get to play half of a month's tournaments. If you have no other certified judge near you, you can train another judge certified or not, teach him the basics and trust him to be the judge so you can play. Solutions are there for you to use (unfortunately judges-TOs is another issue).

3). Responsibility is something you will always have but the effects on you (stress) can be greatly reduced. This will come in time, through attaining experience and self confidence. After a certain period of time, you will notice that you are actually doing well! This will lead to less stress, ever lesser with time, until it practically is not there anymore. You can't do anything about it apart from gaining experience and praising yourself for the good work you do.

Don't players have stress as well? They all want to do well and are frustrated if they don't.

4). What is a reward? If you refer to a reward as promo cards, yes indeed judging gives you no rewards. However a reward can be more than that.

After putting a lot of effort into making a premier tournament succeed, you feel proud and satisfied for the tournament. The tournament has ended, all the players have received their prices, there are no complaints and people are leaving happy looking forward to the next tournament. Even if no one congratulates you, you are the one who made it work. Congratulate yourself, you deserve it, and move on. You will become a better individual that way, your self esteem will be boosted and you will feel successful - a great feeling.

This feeling is stronger in cases of judges who have also worked on the community, improved it and made it grow. This means that you have found a home for sanctioned tournaments (or started sanctioned tournaments if they weren't before), you have provided a friendly atmosphere with you as the guarantee of integrity and teacher of the rules. This will bring more people and raise the respect of players to you. What's a promo card compared to this?

5). Complaints will always exist, and can be quite irritating, but your attitude towards them must be correct. If you announce a tournament, you must not change it because of complaints unless practically all the players are complaining. This of course doesn't mean that you must organize tournaments without control, you must get to know the community and its' needs. Then, slowly the complaints will wear down and only the proper ones, the ones you must respond to, will exist. They will help you improve.

Again, this points to self esteem, don't let others influence you too much, more than they should. If you trust yourself and show it, you will eventually get the trust of the community as well.

6). Knowledge is power and although magic rules mean little to the outside world, knowing that you have mastered something (although mastering such complicated rules is a difficult issue) is satisfying. I suppose all of us have read books who had something nice and useful to say, why not study the rules? Besides, magic rules are learnt well by practicing them which means, judging. You do have to study but if you have a good mentor and judge regularly, you will have a high level of knowledge before you know it. Knowing the rules goes without saying if you want to be a judge, but it doesn't require so much effort that would otherwise make you think twice. It's also nice to be recognized for your knowledge.

7). You have the pleasure of educating new players. Don't take this ironically, educating a player is difficult and if the result is good, you get the credit and satisfaction. You will be recognized by them as their mentor and you can make new friends and who knows what more.

Extending this, and as already mentioned, you are helping the community, or better, you are giving back to the community. You are creating something and this is one of the best pleasures a person can have.

8). You get to travel to premier events and meet people from all around the world. Judges are usually (I've never been abroad to judge, I'm simply transferring what other judges have said in their many reports) very close and friendly to each other and meeting people from all around the world in this way, is great. This includes meeting dci officials who would otherwise remain some sort of a myth. Personally I have been treated very well by officials through email (I thank them for that) and I am looking forward to any premier event abroad. Going abroad to judge is well worth it and recommended to all.

9). You get to share you experiences with other judges as they share theirs with you. This is what reports & articles are for. You are part of a big team and you should be proud of it. Work together, help each other and improve each other. It's good to know that you have helped others, have improved by being helped and that you belong to such an "elite" I dare say.

10). Advancement. As a judge you can never say that you have mastered all the skills of a judge, you will always find ways to improve. This will lead to advancing levels, a wonderful feeling. I think the judge levels hierarchy, is challenging and raising a level is rewarding. Reaching a certain level can be your goal for many years and achieving such a high goal can only be something to remember and be recognized of. Making it to the top will boost self esteem knowing that you made it with your powers and only.

This is better if your country has no level 3 judge and you desperately want to make it to level 3 .Imagine how you would feel being the most recognized in your country and achieving the goal you set a few years ago (I'm trying to speculate myself, if possible, how it would be if I ever make it to be the only L3 in Greece).

Sadly, most people I have talked with have no interested in judging because they consider the cons to the more important. That's because the real judge rewards have nothing to do with promo cards or money, it has to do with us as people and how we feel about judging and ourselves. Perhaps they are right, perhaps not. That is up to all of us, each person in unique in this world. However judges are not stupid, they did not choose something which is going to hurt them, this topic is too small for an article to discuss.

As a final note I would like to express my disappointment of L3+ judges (especially L4+) who have written none or only one article for the judge site. A simple article from them, making points and suggestions attained through experience, is invaluable to us, low level judges. A few words from the experienced ones can greatly help L1 - L2 improve in any judging aspect they choose. There are no books saying what they have to say. People who have something to say which is going to be such a help to others, should say it.

So that's it, I hope I didn't make you regret reading this article, (although I am not satisfied from it) and thanks for your time.

Take care,
Michelogiannakis George Level 1