Judges, welcome back to another edition of Judge of the Week! This time around, we have a dynamic mentor who has been outspoken on subjects ranging from her personal struggles to bias in the Magic community. Crack open a refreshing fruity soda and get to know a little more about Tasha Jamison!
Name: Tasha Jamison
Location: Portland, OR
Judge start date: November 2009
Why did you become a Judge? I’d been working at a game store in my hometown of Duluth, MN for a few years, where I’d been organizing all the Magic events. Our events were getting pretty large and folks would drive in from an hour or two away just to play, and some were interested in competitive events like GPTs. (This was way before PPTQs…) Plus, I found as our events grew, I’d encounter really challenging conflicts. I relied a lot on the Tournament Organizer forum on the old Wizards community site, where Bernd Buldt (of Fort Wayne, Indiana) and Jeremie Granat (of Bern, Switzerland) were very active. Bernd was extremely knowledgeable and his signature identified him as a judge. Jeremie got certified during that time and was also very knowledgeable, so I decided to look into it. I tested at GP Minneapolis 2009 after reaching out to Chris Richter, which was also where I first met a certified judge in person.
Occupation: Software Developer in the automotive industry
Favourite card: Heartwood Storyteller… or maybe All Hallow’s Eve 🙂
Least favourite card: Counterbalance
Favourite format: Two-pack Mini-Master!
Commander General: Rhys, the Redeemed is my original general, but I love my Karona “arms dealer” deck the most.
Favourite non-Magic Game: I have to choose just one?! Pokemon GO just came out. But Pandemic: Legacy is really good, and I will always play Codenames, and…
Best tournament result: Uhhh… this is kind of embarrassing… my best tournament result (both in PWP earned and in sheer story value) was the time I brought the “Into the Breach” event deck (you know, the signal pest one?) to Grand Prix Dallas 2011. It was a Standard GP, I wrote my name and DCI number on the insert and turned it in as my decklist, sleeved it up during the player meeting, and then went 3-3 with it.
Random fact about yourself: I could totally present you with a Poisson model for the probability that you’ll catch a fish during a fishing trip of a particular length. (Also, sometimes I take things far too literally.)
How has being a Judge influenced your non-Magic life?
It might be easier to answer how has it not! I’ve done a lot of travel, met a lot of people, and developed a ton of skills as a result of judging. I’ve worked for premier TOs on the East and West Coasts, and as I decided to shift my career away from Magic, every single one of my interviews featured examples of challenging situations I faced or skills I developed through judging.
One of your hallmarks has been fighting for inclusiveness, diversity and social justice in Magic. What do you consider some of your successes and what are some of the areas that you are focusing on?
Oh gosh. Okay, so I used to hear from players in various forums about really unfortunate situations that would come up: store owners making really sexist or homophobic or transphobic remarks (never just once, always a pattern), judges being demeaning or dismissing players’ reports of “my opponent did [inappropriate thing]” by saying “well… I wasn’t there, so there’s nothing I can do” or “well… don’t do it again,” and so on and so forth. A lot of these things were coming up in closed or tight-knit circles, like PMs or small groups, definitely in part because of things like the harassing remarks that would come up in chats on Magic streams, including live coverage, and also really misogynistic attitudes that would come out any time a “women in Magic” article would get published. And all of the other women I knew in judging were equally aware of these things, and I think we all felt equally powerless to actually see change. (Plus, many of us were aware of, or knew personally, women who were involved in judging or Magic previously and were essentially forced out due to encountering these same attitudes.) I became this go-to person for people in the community to have an outlet, and often HJs or TOs on the floor would reach out to me to follow up when a player reported an incident on the floor.
So along with this frustration, I was really closely watching a lot of other online conversations that were happening around feminism, and women at conferences (tech conferences especially), and cosplay, and how some organizers of these spaces were taking steps to address harassment and promote safety. (And, equally, how some organizers weren’t.) I got impatient with conversations happening only in closed circles, and started having conversations with as many people as I could in the Magic community about what was happening and what we could do to address it — I talked to other L3s, I sent emails to the L4s and L5s, I had conversations with folks from Wizards OP, I talked to Premier Tournament Organizers — basically, every opportunity I could find to say, “This is a problem and we need to address it,” I took it. I remember sitting down with a couple of GP HJs whose attitude was basically, “We’re listening, but how much of a problem is this really? I don’t hear about it often,” which was such a radical change from talking to other women, who almost always had the attitude, “Yes, of course, and I can rattle off half a dozen instances that I have personally experienced or witnessed.”
Those conversations led to a lot more conversations, and I participated in discussions and revisions to the Unsporting Conduct–Major policy and the introduction of the Magic Judge Code. (I certainly can’t claim sole credit for either.) I’m seeing less venting and powerlessness around these sorts of incidents and at the same time I’m seeing more women participating in Magic and more people experiencing it as a supportive community.
As for what I’m focusing on? Mostly taking care of myself. I’m not making it to as many Magic events as I used to, but judging is still close to my heart. I write a lot on social media about mental health and my life and I try to adopt this attitude of “radical vulnerability,” which is something that I find really valuable and that seems to resonate with a lot of people in the judging community.
Another one of your strengths is your ability to analyze a problem and come up with solutions. What are some examples of this that you are most proud of?
My last answer was really long so I’ll make this short(er): developing the plan for Grand Prix Las Vegas 2015, including the floor plan, the sides events plan, scorekeeping requirements, and overall staffing requirements. I was a judge at GP Las Vegas 2013, where I scorekept grinders on Friday, led a paper team on Saturday, and led the logistics team on day 2 (at the time, it was the largest called draft ever). I worked with a great team at Cascade Games, where we worked closely with ChannelFireball and Wizards of the Coast throughout the planning process, and I took the many, many conversations and crafted them into concrete proposals, staffing numbers, a plan for the physical space, and processes and tools for specific areas like Mini-Masters and grinders. There were still points of friction at the event, but I heard from many people, players and judges alike, that it was one of their best tournament experiences ever, and I helped build that.
What motivates you to continue being a Judge?
Sometimes I ask myself that, especially when it seems like I never have enough time to do everything I want to! A big motivator are the relationships I’ve developed through judging. Like any other human relationship, they’re not all permanent, and some of them have definitely been healthier than others, but I have people in my life who I will unashamedly say that I love and cherish that I would not have met if I hadn’t been judging. I don’t need to keep judging to keep those people in my life, but I really enjoy meeting new people (especially when people I respect are excited to introduce me to someone, or when I get the opportunity to introduce two people I respect who have very different life paths). I also really enjoy the problem-solving aspect of working a tournament, whether that’s resolving a rules question or managing logistics or de-escalating a conflict. And not to put too fine a point on it: recognition for my work is gratifying.
What are some tips you have for other Judges?
Get to know people. Magic brings together this really fascinating mix, so ask questions and listen. And take good care of yourself: it’s easy to fall into some really unhealthy habits, like eating a lot of junk food or not resting properly at events, or habits that are bad for your mental health. I’m not a gung-ho health nut (I definitely enjoy beer and bacon too much), but taking good care of your physical and mental health really does pay off in the long run. But mostly, get to know people. (And remember: you are people, too.)
What’s the best part about your local Magic community?
I’m not constantly at a game store like I used to be, so my primary experiences are with a biweekly kitchen table Magic group and quarterly with prereleases. I really love the friendship and camaraderie of the kitchen table group, and I love going to prereleases because I get to meet and chat with people that I don’t get to see otherwise — I know Ethan Brown (GP LA finalist) and his dad through prereleases at Guardian Games. For a few prereleases running, I always played against his dad, and I really treasure the conversations we’ve had about work and homeschooling. I love getting these little glimpses into people’s stories.
What is your favourite non-Magic hobby?
I think the non-work activity I’m spending the most time on these days is poetry. I’ve gotten really involved in the slam poetry community in Portland. It’s kind of a trip to see the parallels between communities, and to contrast the (sometimes stark) differences. And I think I’ve become the token poetry personality for a lot of judges, which I enjoy.
What has been your favourite Magic event that you’ve judged?
I have to pick just one?! There have been so many good and important and significant ones, but I guess for just sheer joy of the event, I would have to go with GP Minneapolis 2009 — Chris Richter took a chance on staffing me for the event, despite being L0 and never having met me, and it really changed the shape of my life. For “this event has paid off with many, many stories,” hmm… I’m torn between GP Rio de Janeiro 2013 and Magic Weekend Paris 2011.
What positive aspects has the Judge Program contributed to your everyday life?
A lot of people who are happy to offer cute animal pictures on request. 😉
If you could chat with one person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Again, a “just one?!” moment. My #1 pick right now is bell hooks — her writing is so powerful and so important. But since I am apparently constitutionally incapable of sticking to “just one” (on this or any other topic), I try when I’m able to bring this sort of reverence for communication and respect for the other person to every conversation. (I don’t always succeed. But it’s a nice aspiration.)
How do you have fun during events?
Talking to people. Trying to find Pineapple Fanta in the convention center. If I’m in Columbus, Jeni’s ice cream. 😉
If you were a Planeswalker, what would be your ultimate?
Ooooh. Oh that’s really good. HMM. I think I’m going to go with this: “You get an emblem with ‘Creatures you control have Bolster 1.'” I have no idea what a fair loyalty cost on that would be, but if I were a planeswalker, you’d definitely have to do a little work before you got that reward.
If you were a creature, what would be your creature type?
Elf Werewolf, maybe? I dunno. I am super Selesnya and I love Elf decks, but I also really love werewolves.
What was the proudest moment of your Judge life?
Making L3 at GP Columbus 2012, and going out to dinner with much of the judge staff, and just being surrounded by all these people who’d presented me with opportunities to learn so much – older judges, newer judges, judges I’d just met that weekend, judges I’d known for years…
What character in Magic (real or fictional) represents you the best, and why?
I’m not sure that there are any who do currently. I don’t know of any openly bisexual characters in Magic, and while that’s not the only aspect of my identity that matters, it’s a really important one that I’ve been quiet about for a long time. I’ve become a lot more open about it this year, in part because I’ve become more aware of how much more likely bisexual folks are to be victims of sexual violence, especially bisexual women. At the same time, there’s a serious shortage of quality research on health risks for bisexual folks because there’s been this assumption that bisexual folks experience discrimination only to the degree that they experience homophobia or transphobia, but more recent research indicates that’s just not the case. So it’s important for me to be outspoken about being bisexual, and I would want a Magic character to represent that, too.
All that said, I really love Arlinn Kord. In my headcanon, she’s totally bi.
What are some of the challenges you have had to overcome as part of the judge program?
Besides misogyny and toxic masculinity, you mean? Participating in the judge program has really made me confront my experience of depression and come to terms with it. It’s also given me outlets to speak out about it. I internalized a lot of stigma about depression throughout my life, and that really made it more difficult for me to seek treatment or to keep up with it. At one judge conference, I decided to give a talk about disabilities, where I disclosed my own diagnoses. That was really difficult, and I definitely cried in front of a group of friends and colleagues and strangers, but it also marked a turning point for me in terms of being able to honor my own experience and care for myself, and that has had payoffs in my personal life and my judging career and my professional life.
Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!
- In high school, I rebuilt a Steck upright piano.
- At 16, I was a finalist for the Princess Kay of the Milky Way competition and had my likeness carved in butter at the Minnesota State Fair.
- I started writing poetry about two years ago and soon I will be competing to represent Portland at the Individual World Poetry Slam competition.
If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!