“Welcome to your L2 advancement interview! You’ve put in the legwork at a local PPTQ, written your reviews, found an L2 willing to sing your praises, attended multiple investigations seminars at nearby conferences, and written the exam with flying colours. You’re a shoo-in for levelling up! So before I click submit on your advancement review, I’d like you to tell me a little about your involvement in your regional judge community.”
Some L1s might be surprised to learn that there’s more to becoming L2 than a simple test. Many understand the other prerequisites—like working events and showing some degree of customer service and investigational skills—but still might be surprised to encounter another interview question prior to being upgraded: Regional Community Involvement. What is it, why is it encouraged, and how do you do it?
The History of Community Involvement
I’ll admit it: when I advanced to L2, I wasn’t asked any such question in my interview. I basically had to work some events, get my local L2’s approval, and pass the test. Back then, the programme was tautologically smaller and there was less emphasis on community. But I remember being told one thing in particular during that interview:
“Make sure to look for opportunities to mentor in your local community.”
Mentoring other judges has long been an important part of the judge programme, and that’s really where this whole “community involvement” thing got started. After all, there can’t be a community of judges without judges, and without judges begetting judges (figuratively speaking), you won’t grow the community. In fact, mentorship is how we got to where we are now, where we are able to place a stronger emphasis on community; all that mentoring over the last decade has grown our community by leaps and bounds, and now we are able to support a giant swath of globally-minded projects.
And that brings us to what community involvement is now: doing things to improve the judge programme as a whole. It used to be that the only practical thing for a new L1 or L2 to do was to recruit and train more judges; but as we now have more human resources available to us, we can work on other things, like creating training materials (for use by anyone, not just individual judges you happen to be mentoring), gathering player insights (for the improvement of customer service by all judges), organising conferences (where previously it was hard to get the numbers to justify the effort), and dozens of other worthwhile projects.
What does this mean? It means that community involvement no longer equates solely with mentorship. Sure, it makes up a large part of it, but it isn’t the only important goal anymore. Maybe mentoring isn’t really something that you’re comfortable with, or that you feel confident doing? Through the judge community at large, you now have a whole slew of different ways you can contribute.
Of course, one of those ways is still via mentoring. But there are multiple ways to mentor! There’s traditional one-on-one mentorship, the kind you might get working together with another judge at an event. But there’s also online mentorship—checking in with a candidate’s progress and rules knowledge, testing key concepts with them on a regular basis, and giving them a reliable ear for any issues or questions they may have.
And then there’s one-on-many mentorship, where you can talk about a particular topic focusing on your strengths for the benefit of multiple judges. This can occur at conferences, or it could be online through a written article. If you think your thoughts on a subject could be helpful to other judges, they probably are. Talk to some other judges to gauge interest and test theories, and ask to present at the next conference near you!
Judge projects are great places to get involved with the larger community. There are several excellent initiatives within Canada where a myriad of talents can be used:
Canada Conferences – Put your skills toward streamlining and improving the running of judge conferences across the country.
Canadian Hype Team – Always wanted a Canadian flag on something judge-related, but didn’t have the forces to make it happen on your own? You should talk to these people.
New Blood – welcoming new judges and level ups in Canada – Want to recognise local judges reaching new levels? Like interviewing and writing? This could be for you.
There are also projects that reach the global judge community. Many of them are always happy to have more people on board to help!
JudgeApps Exam Content Squad – An eye for detail and a willingness to work particularly when Rules and Policy documents are updated will make you very useful here.
Translations (search for “translat”) – Everything needs translating from English into other languages: exam questions, judge articles, official documents…
Judge Booth – A more informal way to test knowledge that anyone (especially non-judges and judge-hopefuls) can be introduced to.
Even without formal involvement with a project, you can engage the community via various online forums: Judge Apps, Discord, Facebook, Reddit. Many a rules-guru has made their presence known via Ask-A-Judge groups, or inclusivity advocates via articles on social media. With the glories of the internet, no longer do you have to have a degree in acting or attend Toastmasters International to be courageous enough to address a group of strangers—now you can type pseudo-anonymously, but still have people remember your name when they see you doing awesome things.
A Familiar Face
It seems a little strange to say this, but all this community involvement stuff often comes down to whether or not other people recognise you as a judge.
If players recognise you as a judge, it means you’re judging regularly in your community, or you’ve done (hopefully good) things as a judge in your community to make you stand out. This means that you’re having a positive effect on your community of Magic players—they know who they can trust with rules questions, they know who to go to if they’re interested in being a judge, and they know they are safe when they play in events you are judging. If you’re more of a faceless entity, you’re still contributing, but it’s more of a status quo contribution, rather than a growing one.
If judges recognise you for your judging, then you’ve done something more than “just judge”. And that’s going to benefit the judge programme as a whole. “Status quo” judging maintains the existing quality of events, but “more than just judging” sustains it for years to come.
Being involved with your judge community is usually tantamount to being recognised. There are cases where some judges work more “behind-the-scenes” than usual—but even those judges are recognised by the people that work on the same project as them.
And the projects themselves are generally known, even if the individual judges are not. Are people happy to have practise exams on Judge Apps? Then every member of every project related to exams has been involved with growing the judge community. Are players reading articles aimed at improving the player experience? All the judges that wrote, published, and shared those articles have a big “involved in the community” stamp on their foreheads. Can judges in Estonia read the IPG in their native tongue? The judges involved in translating that document have clearly shown their involvement in the judge community, even if only the Estonians know about them—and even if only indirectly!
With so many judges and so many ways to improve the state of judging, the Magic programme, and everything in between, we really want to encourage L2s and future L2s to jump in with both feet and get involved.
So what are you waiting for?