Why Do I Judge?
Happy New Year to everybody!
In some cultures and countries, the start of the New Year is a moment of rebirth, a moment when the year that has just ended is officially made a thing of the past (symbolized by burning a rag doll) and when people find their own resolutions for the next year.
The first article of the year is a moment when we can call into question what we are doing; specifically, why have I been judging for more than twelve years of my life?
Why do we practice our favorite sport? Why do we play our favorite game? Why do we listen to our favorite music? The short answer is incredibly simple: “because we like it”.
Then, if we look into our mind, we can find a good number of reasons for our choice; the deeper we think, the more detailed reasons we can find.
I found many reasons for liking what I do in the world of Magic, and I believe that there isn’t a reason that is more fundamental than the rest of the others; thinking about how my role as a judge evolved during all these years, I believe that each period had a different “most important reason”. Here you have all the reasons I could think of.
I have a scientific mind and I chose scientific studies at university (material engineering and papermaking engineering). Magic is a very complex game, whose comprehensive rulebook has more than a hundred pages without pictures, and with a low number of examples; it’s dense; it’s complicated; it’s comprehensive; if you know all of it, you can master any real and hypothetical situation. I sometimes said that the level three test (which is the highest level of a rules test) is more difficult than an exam at university; if I consider single exams I passed at university or single exams I helped my students prepare for, I still believe that scoring 100% at the level three Magic test is equivalent or even harder than getting the highest score in an exam at university. I’ve always liked scientific/numeric challenges, and mastering the rules of Magic has been fascinating to me.
Two people can play a single match, multiple matches form a tournament and the whole of tournaments is part of the organized play structure. How tournaments are tied one to another, how points are calculated, how invitations are issued, how tournaments are scheduled and assigned is interesting. Becoming part of the group of people who have influence (at the national level) is fascinating and also gives you the opportunity to be creative and to shape a new system, which is a fascinating challenge.
Big tournaments, some with the amazing number of two-thousand people, are a great logistical challenge; all tournament procedures are to be planned in advance to the smallest detail to make sure that there are no big delays; fifty to one-hundred staff people have to work together in a synchronized way to make sure that all the necessary materials are delivered at the correct time and in the correct order. One of the specific aspects that intrigues me the most is the flow of people in the tournament room; it is useful to be aware of the traffic needs so that the start of each round is as smooth as possible: optimal position of pairing boards, correct orientation of tables, no bottlenecks, reduced walked distances for everybody, faster distribution of pairings and faster beginning of the next round. What usually is a minor issue in small tournaments may become a significant cause of delays and annoyance when numbers increase by some order of magnitude (if you want an important application in real life, you can think about traffic lights in a crowded city; the traffic lights must be well synchronized and the traffic lanes must be well planned, right?). In short, my approach about logistics is “Anticipate needs”.
I am fond of foreign languages, to the point that I chose to study abroad (in France, where I lived for a year and a half, to get my second master degree thanks to their “special year” system that allows people with a master degree to get a second one in just a year). Living in a different country is to me the best way to learn a new language, as it forces you to listen to and speak for the entire day in a foreign language, it gives you the opportunity to discover a new culture and new habits by dealing with many different people in their daily life. Judging international events still allows me to get a glimpse of a foreign country and to almost switch off my Italian for a weekend. Then, almost all the activities outside of tournaments (including this article) are in English. In 2014 I plan on going three times to a Chinese speaking country and twice to Japan; I’ve just borrowed some basic books from friends who studied Chinese and Japanese at university; ask me in autumn if I succeeded at learning the basics at home and practicing at tournaments ^__^
After learning the rules, practicing tournament logistics, improving my English, the scope of my activity as a judge increased and covered a quite wide spectrum: managing logistical resources, managing people resources, leading and stimulating teams of people, leading technical projects with teams of people from all continents, public communication at events and in videos or articles, acting as strategic consultant about the development of the judge system, acting as logistics and people consultant for Grand Prix organizers, dealing with people from different continents and cultures, solving problems and managing expectations and communication with people from different continents and cultures … All these activities are hugely enriching for me as a person and can have a significant added value for my Curriculum Vitae. In addition to the lessons learned for my professional career, I also had a high number of opportunities for personal growth: I’m rarely a reserved person, I often tend to put myself in the spotlight, I very often tend to express my opinions and emotions and I am very clear when expressing my values and my opinions (this is the best way I found to say that “I’m not at all the best example of a calm and diplomatic person” ^__^). Such a personality makes me come into close contact and passionate conversations and relationships with other people and allows me to find many opportunities for personal growth.
Let’s put it this way: I believe that I am a very lucky person, because I have a series of jobs that I like. In addition to owning a games store, translating engineering manuals from English to Italian and teaching math, physics and chemistry, one of my jobs (“job” = “source of resources to pay the rent and the bills…. and all the hobbies and holidays!”) is indeed being a Magic judge.
Sometimes I think about my grandparents, who never travelled abroad (and they lived next to Turin, which is in the upper left corner of Italy (next to France and Switzerland) and probably never went to the center of Italy. Then I think about my parents; my mum visited some European capitals, as she’s fond of art and museums; my dad had a more adventurous attitude, visited several European countries and even went to Russia thirty years ago. Then I think about a great number of my friends, who took a flight longer than three hours only once in their lifetime, for their honeymoon. Finally, I think about the cities I travelled to in just 2013: Singapore, Bilbao, London, Montreal, Yokohama and Tokyo, Verona (ok, this one is close to my place and I took the train), Beijing, Bangkok, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Kytakyushu, Hiroshima and Osaka, Prague, Dublin, Hong Kong, Vienna, Shizuoka. Really??? In a single year, I am sure that I went to more places than 90% of my friends at home will go to in an entire life. And this is just about being a tourist. The most interesting part about all these travels is that they allow me to come into contact with people with a different culture, a different religion, a different way of thinking about life, different moral values, and different society rules. Dealing with them is a tremendous life experience, which started when I was at university in France (in my residence I could meet students from all the different continents) and is continuing now, after fifteen years.
Judges are very passionate in their activity and are very proud of being part of a system that they can contribute to; I can clearly say that I am much more proud of the Magic judges system than of any political system (well, maybe the Italian political system is not the best example ^__^); when you meet people who have the same passion and you start working with them and dedicating your free time to your common activities, you find people you get along with and you discover that they are becoming a part of your life; you start organizing parties and weekends, you play games, you have serious conversations, you rely on them in times of pain and need. There is a word that summarizes all this: FRIENDSHIP.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and I’m looking forward to reading your comments.