In a previous Black and White from last year, I wrote about how to act as a professional judge at events, which you can read here if you like. I touched on how to act professionally in order to have the tournament run smoothly and without incident. What I didn't talk about was how to act outside of the event. How you present yourself when you're not wearing the shirt is just as important as how you present yourself when the shirt is on during game day.

This week on Black and White: The Professional Judge Part 2! What it means to be a professional judge outside of the tournament. Electric Boogaloo.

The Judge Shirt Doesn't Come Off
It's a phrase that I've said before that I borrowed from another veteran judge, but it's a completely true statement whether you like it or not. If you consider yourself a judge, and you're a judge at regular events, players will constantly look to you as an example. Your behavior when you're not judging at your local game store, and even your behavior outside of the store, can have far-reaching effects on what happens at your events.

Firstly, whether you're aware of it or not, as a judge you represent the game to the players. You're a face of Organized Play, of Konami, and of other judges as well. As such, how you act and how you speak to players affects how players see you and Organized Play, as well as Konami and other judges too.

Is that fair? Probably not, no. When most people initially volunteer to be a judge, it's usually for a number of reasons like "someone's got to run this thing", or "I heard you get packs and things," or "judging at a YCS is a great honor and I want to do that (and get the shirt)." None of those reasons include "I want to be a representative voice of a whole bunch of people." But it's part of the role; judges are leaders of the community, and that extra responsibility is just part of the package.

So how far does that responsibility reach? Good question.

At The Event
Of course, things you say and do at the event will reflect on how you and your peers will come across. Everything you say needs to be accurate, because any player can take anything you say and turn it into "a judge said this" and then that innocuous statement you made becomes a wave of questions the Head Judge and Assistant Head Judge (and the rest of the staff, really) need to squash for the rest of the day. If there are card interactions or game mechanics you're not sure of when asked between rounds, don't be afraid to ask for help from another judge, because giving wrong information is crippling - especially when you don't have an appeals system to back you up in case you're wrong.

Judges have access to information that players generally don't or can't have access to. Hate to break it to the players reading this, but there are reasons for that. Disqualification investigations are kept private for the sake of the players involved and to ensure the proper facts are brought to light with as little interference as possible. But being in a judge position gives the impression that any judge has the information about any penalty, any DQ and any goings-on that players will want to know. And straight-up, that's simply not the case.

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As a random example, me being one of three Team Leads on the floor has absolutely no bearing on a DQ investigation for a deck check. The Judge Staff doesn't have a single giant hivemind, so asking any judge about the latest gossip is not a good idea since any random judge probably doesn't have any idea of what's actually going on, and any judge worth his or her salt isn't going to give up the details even if they did know. Talking about DQ's and penalties is, as you probably guessed by now, unprofessional. Judges, don't do it.

This is all implied in the previous Professional Judge article, but what I didn't touch on is that even when the day is over, you're still a judge. Picking up your product and being let go for the day is not a free pass to crack open packs in the event space, getting in a game, or otherwise loitering. Likewise, doing anything that looks unbecoming of a responsible adult is frowned upon even after the day or the event is over. If you're a judge, you're a judge the entire time.

… wait. That's statement's a little inaccurate too. You're actually a judge the entire time plus some.

After The Event
When you get back home, your local players may ask you what judging was like, or if you had to answer silly questions or what you got appealed on. And for the most part, these questions are ok to answer. But there are a few subjects you'll probably want to decline commenting about.

Penalties and Other Misbehavings: Just like at the event, talking about specific instances of players performing tournament infractions is not ok even after the event concludes. It's not constructive and can frequently lead to rampant rumors that can morph into wholly unbelievable accounts of what actually transpired. And as much as you think dispelling rumors and being the voice of truth is the way to go, it's not. One voice is just a drop in the bucket. The real story doesn't make it very far before getting twisted (intentionally or otherwise) into something it isn't. The most responsible course of action is not to participate in the gossip at all, despite having "inside info."

And not only for gossiping purposes, judges shouldn't talk about "the other side" of the DQ because it could potentially harm the investigation process that takes place long after the event is over. A player is not automatically suspended from Organized Play when they're Disqualified from a tournament. All the forms that the Head Judge and Tournament Organizer have to fill out get mailed to Konami where a committee of people look them over, get all the facts from all the information submitted, and then render a decision about whether the DQ'd player needs to be suspended. Since this occurs way after the fact, it's important that whatever the judges find out in their on-site investigation stay confidential so that Konami can properly evaluate the situation.

Dissemination of New Card Interactions: Sometimes at YCS events, the Head Judge will rule that a card works in a way that many wouldn't expect, or maybe the Head Judge will make such announcements at the beginning of Round 1. And, just like the previous scenario, players will want to know what exactly was ruled at the event you were at. Well, just like with the previous example with player penalties, talking about rulings made at an event just invites more questions and the story getting jumbled. And as much as you'd think that you're in a good position to clarify what actually went down, it never plays out that way.

While there's a definite need for the dissemination of information, that's not your responsibility as a judge. And while you may think you're helping, it's not entirely helpful if the information doesn't reach people unaltered (which it won't). Players who have questions on card interactions should e-mail us-ygorules@konami.com for a few reasons. One, responses you get there are the real deal. Two, if they don't answer your question, it's probably because whatever you're asking about may not have a definite answer just yet; a lot of aspects of this game are unfortunately like that. But people at Konami do read all those e-mails and they need to know what players and judges alike don't understand about the game so that they can develop long-term resources towards fixing those issues (*cough* Damage Step *cough* Prohibition *cough*)… sorry, terrible cough! Had it for a few years now…

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Anyway! My craving for Damage Step resources aside, spreading information without an official source to back it up is not the right way to go. "It happened at this YCS" is sadly not the rulebook, the official site, the Strategy Site or rules inserts from products. Anecdotes from events, even those you personally witnessed, aren't official and shouldn't be treated as such. As frustrating as that may seem it's the best course of action going forward; we want players and judges alike to use the official resources available to us. If something needs to be clarified, Konami has a contact page with the proper e-mail for all your Yu-Gi-Oh! related issues. In the long term, reaching out to Konami is better than taking to social media for answers.

Other Inappropriate Social Media Use: And, of course, if you're a judge, getting on social media and running your mouth in a derogatory fashion towards Konami, the players, or other judges isn't considered professional either. As such, it's usually not a good idea to vent. I'm not saying to completely abstain from all social media use, but do keep in mind that social media is public by nature and there may be eyes seeing what you're putting down. Be responsible with what you say to the internet. (This is probably a good general-use life lesson in any context.)

The moral of the story is that both at the event and outside of it, professionalism's a very important part of being a judge. Don't forget: if you have questions about this, card interactions, game mechanics or tournament policy, kick me an e-mail (one question per e-mail please!) to askjudgejoe@gmail.com and your question could be answered in a future edition of Court of Appeals!

-Joe Frankino