In the judge program, feedback takes on many forms – Flash Feedback, face to face feedback, self reviews, etc,. However, these forms of feedback typically come from your judge peers, whereas there’s another valuable source of feedback – your players. Your players are the mirror in which you can see whether everything you’ve spent time working on is actually working to make the event better for them. To that end, let’s look deeper at the feedback we receive from players.
First off, player feedback takes on a lot of forms. From audible complaining and venting of emotions to uneasy and confounded looks, players are CONSTANTLY giving us feedback. Verbal feedback is important, and that’s what we’re typically very good at responding to, but nonverbal feedback is another area where you can make a positive impact in a meaningful way. It’s our job to interpret all the feedback we’re receiving and make decisions to improve the event.
One visible method of feedback which may go unnoticed is the uneasy player, the one who has just received a ruling, but is unsure whether it’s correct. Confusion is demonstrated by a puzzled look on the face, along with hesitant speech and possibly the “uh, yeah, I guess” response. What they’re attempting to communicate to you is that they don’t understand your ruling, or that they are surprised because they are convinced that it worked another way.
Feedback is essential to providing the best customer service possible. Identifying when a player is unsure or not getting your ruling means that your job isn’t done. Here are some common scenarios you may encounter, and some methods that you can try to make sure you’re clear and your rulings are understood.
- Rules Clarifications: Elaborate as much as you can about the rule and why it works the way it does. “Your Vesuva enters the battlefield tapped as a copy of Stomping Ground even if you pay 2 life, because it’s the Vesuva ability that’s instructing the card to come in tapped. While the Stomping Ground ability gives you the option to pay 2 life to have it enter untapped, Vesuva’s own ability will still cause it to enter tapped.”
- Philosophy Clarifications: If a player has an issue with a ruling and can’t understand why we have to enforce it, help them consider a viewpoint that’s not about their specific circumstance to help them better understand. Something like “I understand that you don’t believe you were playing slowly, but how would you feel if your opponent spent a minute deciding how to tap their mana to cast a Kitchen Finks, and then another 2 minutes to just pass the turn back to you? Time is valuable to each player and we have to make sure that everyone gets a fair chance to use an appropriate amount of time to play the game.”
- Comprehension Clarifications: If a player just doesn’t understand how something works, make an analogy that may help them better understand the concept. Something like “First strike is like a soldier who is better trained and fast enough to get a hit in on their opponent before they can get hit.”
Ultimately, your goal should be to clarify the reasoning behind your ruling so that they can process what’s going on. It’s only after players can grasp why something exists the way it does that they can accept it. Most importantly – don’t leave until you get feedback from the player that they understand the ruling.
Players will also provide verbal feedback about the event. Often a player will pull a judge aside and offer their observations on something that they noticed. In this case, you’re being given direct feedback from your customer about your success at making their experience a good one. If there’s negative feedback, address it as best you can. If you can’t resolve the issue immediately, get the player to the person who can. At the very least, offer to pass that feedback along to the appropriate person. Most importantly, don’t ever let a player talk at you and then do nothing with what they’re telling you.
Receiving feedback from players is an active process that requires you to be engaged in your observations. To really get the most from your players, I recommend talking with players and outright asking them for feedback from their perspective. Be open and engaging by talking to them between rounds, creating a fun atmosphere, and welcoming them to come to you with feedback are all strategies where you can empower a player to reach out to you. Don’t be the judge who hides behind the counter talking about other things with the staff. Instead, make yourself available!
A great new tool for us is the Judge Feedback Form cards that were announced last year. These cards provide an opportunity for players to be heard if they’re concerned about any interaction they have with a judge in a method that’s safe and non-confrontational. Beyond that, it gives us the opportunity to demonstrate confidence in our abilities. If you believe that you’ve done the right thing, and the player still disagrees, offer them a card. Write out your name and the event on the back, and encourage them to share their feedback with the leaders of the Judge Program. You can even do so if you’re doing a great job and want to hear more from a player who said they really liked what you did during an event.
While getting feedback from your peers is important, it’s not the full picture of what you bring to an event. A judge can tell you how a tone or approach you took to a call could impact a player, but the player can tell you how it actually affected them in real time. They can show you things about your event that you may not have considered, and bring a new perspective to help you do your best. Keep your eyes and ears open for feedback from players, as you can’t actually have a complete picture about how you’re growing without it.