Meet the new RC: Niels Viaene

Since the beginning of October, the BeNeLux region has a new Regional Coordinator: Niels Viaene. We took a moment to ask him some questions about himself and the region. 

For the people who don’t know you very well, let’s start off with the basics. Describe yourself in a couple of sentences.

I am a level 3 judge that currently lives in Ghent, in Belgium. I have lived in Germany and the Netherlands when I was young. I became a judge in 2007, played competitively in 2009 and 2010, then started taking judging seriously when I became an L2 judge in 2012. Since then, I have been increasingly entrenched with the judge program and Magic. In 2015, I became L3 and started working with tournamentcenter, one of the companies that organised GP’s at the time, as a freelancer. In 2016 I became an independent contractor, in 2017 I gave up my job at the University to do this fulltime. 2018 marks the year I struck a deal with CFBEvents and tournamentcenter which has me working every European event as long as I do build-up and break-down. And finally, on October first I became RC of the BeNeLux.

What do you do when you are not RC-ing or judging Magic events?

Hmmm, well, my activities with tournamentcenter include managing their warehouse, so I do that for a non-insignificant amount of time. Outside of the aforementioned activities I also organise 68 events per year centred around the League of new and beginning Magic: the Gathering players (a playgroup in Ghent) and Gentry (a budget format based on standard that we started playing in Ghent).
But that is all work, in my free time I game, currently my go-to games are Warframe (space ninja free to play shooter looter) and Player unknown’s Battleground (one map, 100 players, last man standing shooter). Of course, there are plenty of other games as well.
And then there is real life as well, with renovating a new-bought house, taking care of cats and having a girlfriend fills the rest of my time. I have to admit though, that we are in a point in time where the girlfriend is doing most of the cat and house care, though.

Things are constantly moving and changing in the judge universe. What do you believe are the biggest challenges for the Benelux region in the coming years?

The rework of the Qualifying circuit will likely have the biggest impact on the region as we were already looking at having overworked L2’s as the most prominent issue before the announcement.
Currently, there is very little known about the rework as we are about to start our last season of PPTQ’s (judge them while you can!).

On a more personal level, I feel like the cohesion of the region and inter-judge relationships outside of the Two-day Conference can use a lot more support as it is currently run on the back of two very active mini-conference organisers. I have a lot of ideas surrounding this that involve a more identified and supported leadership in the region that will break free from level definitions. That all sounds very vague right now, but you will get a first taste as soon as the applications and definitions for Area Captains are published.

The Benelux is known for its fantastic weekend conference. How do you see our Judge Conference changing or evolving in the future?

The two-day Conference is one of, if not THE, flagship attributes of our region and I am a firm believer of not changing a winning team, that means, most of the current set-up will remain unchanged. That is the time window, duration, focus on free time in the evenings, double presentations track and low cost. What I will try to address are some minor issues, mostly for food and venue, as those are a recurring point of constructive feedback at previous events. I am currently still learning about the full financial picture and what I am and am not allowed to do as an RC, which will define the scope of the changes I would like to implement. For now, let’s just say there are lofty goals among the more attainable concerning this topic. I am always interested in suggestions and further feedback surrounding this.

For the people reading this who aren’t judges (yet): how would you convince them to become judges?

There are many reasons someone might want to become a judge. The personal reasons are often overlooked but are important. A sense of accomplishment or a way to give back to a community that means a lot to you can be strong motivators to become a judge. As a judge, you are introduced to an entire support network of people that want to help you improve yourself, or help you improve the community around you. It can teach you valuable skills that are relevant both in your personal and professional life in a setting that is very open and forgiving. It is also a great way to experience the little game that could, Magic, in a completely different way and, let’s not forget, it can be plain fun to judge.

There are so many reasons people might want to become judges, that it becomes hard to give a general explanation for to-be judges. Truthfully, if you are interested in becoming a judge, talk to judges. And, if you are a judge and you see someone you could see as a good judge, talk to them and find out what makes them happy, what makes them tick, you’ll find out soon enough whether or not they should and could be a judge.

What is the best way for people to contact you?

You can contact me through judge apps, which will lead you to my e-mail inbox that you can also contact directly, is the address. Additionally, you can find me on Facebook, which is the best channel to contact me if you need a short and quick answer. I might look into a more mobile-friendly community app in the future and will be active there as well.
I also intend to visit every area in the region to give every judge a chance to have a talk with me in person and to learn about local issues that might get drowned out currently.