Matt Crocker is a recently certified Level 1 judge from Bristol. Content note: examples of discriminatory language
In the local M:TG community we’ve had a recent explosion of events thanks primarily to solid efforts by stores and customers to increase their offerings and through the changes to the path to the Pro Tour. However, until a few months ago we were severely lacking in qualified judges. To fix this, a mentorship scheme was set up for judge candidates (spearheaded by a great local L1 Guy Baldwin and assisted by a number of superb judges from the SW), with a Facebook group facilitating discussion and learning. A question and a follow-up were posted and a lot of opinions were aired, a few of which I want to talk about whilst putting over my feelings on the subject.
The basic scenario
Adrian, a long term player at the store is watching a match, when Chris, his friend loses. As he is commiserating his friend, Adrian says” Ah that whip of Erebos, its such a gay card, you’d have had it without him playing that” Chris replies “um, you can’t say that. You’re right though, the card is retarded”
A couple of people on tables near this exchange look visibly uncomfortable, and one comes to get you and relays what’s Happened. What do you do?
As written, speak to each player (would suggest individually) and inform them that Magic tournaments are inclusive events and that their use of language is unacceptable.
At regular REL that’s it; as long as they accept this and make an effort to improve their behaviour there’s no problem. Note that if they slip up again in the same tournament, issue them another warning and inform them that you will be upgrading it to a game loss for a further offence (sidenote: you should generally not be giving game losses except where warnings haven’t helped; you must inform them on the previous offence that a game loss will be the penalty next time, and you must follow through with it).
However, let’s talk about being proactive. As judges, we have a responsibility as per policy to do what we can to ensure a safe and welcoming environment to players irrespective of gender expression, sexuality, age, race etc etc. On top of it being policy, I am firmly of the belief that this is a) something that’s morally right to do and b) something we should all be striving for viagra par 10. I’ll discuss this further in the philosophy section.
We shouldn’t be waiting for player complaints to address these situations. To take a quote from the Annotated IPG that I feel we can apply here:
Actions can be “disruptive” in multiple ways. We can’t write an exhaustive list of everything disruptive because every place in the World where Magic is played has its own rules for civil life. Note that we said “disruptive”, not “offensive”, although offensive statements are almost always disruptive. The IPG makes no effort to determine if a player is “offended” as that leads to inconsistent rulings and opens up the potential for players to “game the system” by pretending to be more offended than they really are.
My interpretation of this passage is that there’s not a requirement for offence to have been caused to other people for there to have been an issue worth addressing. This is reiterated in the IPG itself, “It may affect the comfort level of those around the individual, but determining whether this is the case is not required.” Now, Regular REL doesn’t follow the IPG but we can and arguably should apply the same philosophy; Regular REL events are undoubtedly more casual but we should be actively educating and correcting unwanted behaviours, which these are. The take away from all of that is we should be stepping in when we personally hear this sort of language. To discuss particular comments from our group’s discussion further:
Oh god. I hate stuff like this. My personal opinion here is that words are just words, its all about how your using them. Gay & Retarded are extremely common words people use to convey negativity. I use them myself within my own social group. No harm is ever meant, but we wouldn’t start yelling them out around in public either.
I have two fundamental disagreements with this stance. Firstly, the idea that “words are just words”. I’m not sure this has been true for the history of human existence; words must convey meaning or they are pointless. Secondly, I take great umbrage with this idea that intent is king. It’s a prevalent attitude that I want to address right now. Speech involves the expression of meaning. This is two-part; the meaning intended to be expressed by the speaker and the meaning interpreted by the listener(s). If these differ, this is not the exclusive fault of the listener and the speaker must take responsibility for not communicating clearly. On top of this, I personally feel that there’s a widespread tendency to hide behind intent to avoid correcting one’s own behaviour. The candidate did later say:
On that note, I really need to watch my language in future! As a potential future judge, I need to remember that I represent the Judge Community as a whole and also am upholding the standards Wizards lay out.
Although I agree with the sentiment expressed here, the candidate would do well to improve their use of language irrespective of becoming a judge. This sort of behaviour does run contrary to the Code of Conduct but I’d encourage the candidate to think about what it conveys when they associate homosexuality/learning difficulties with negativity.
If it became a recurring and more serious issue which repeat warnings didn’t solve its likely the store owner who would need to escalate things with them, as it is their loss if players are alienated from attending events or remove their custom.
Remember that you work the event in partnership with any members of store staff. Although it is an area of concern for store staff if players are alienated and have the ultimate right to remove or ban players from their store, we have the ability to take actions listed in the JAR if players are posing a serious problem (read: DQ).
As a judge, you are not the arbiter of taste and decency. You cannot just confront someone for a suspect sentence – you are not god.
However, it has made people uncomfortable, whether they say anything or not, and this is wrong. Thats where I would personally draw the line.
In fact, we are the arbiters of what is disruptive. After all, arbiter is a synonym of judge! 😉
As discussed earlier, it shouldn’t be necessary for anyone in the room to be made uncomfortable for us to take action. This is unwanted behaviour that we should correct.
Extended scenario – stubborn players
You’re having your quiet word and Adrian won’t accept that this use of the word gay is wrong.
Next round he uses it again.
If you begin (or continue!) to address these sorts of unwanted behaviours you’re going to come across resistance. Many, many years of internet have taught me that people will often do anything other than accept that they’re causing an issue and improve their behaviour. What we do here is largely dependant on how serious a problem you feel this player is posing. Nathan Hughes (L1, Bristol) and I had a lengthy discussion on our perspectives on the best way to handle this and I’ll go into these in a second.
First off, however, let’s identify that we’ve not handled this situation correctly up to this point. Adrian has challenged our authority on the matter. Although there’s a need to handle player interactions with diplomacy, there is little point in having a judge at an event if their rulings are not respected and don’t hold any authoritative weight. Inform Adrian politely but sternly that the acceptability of his language isn’t up for debate and that you expect him to improve his behaviour. You may wish to add repercussions for further slip ups, depending on your philosophy.
I believe that the JAR offers us three options for further infractions in this situation and all of them have merit. Firstly, we could warn the player a second time. My personal belief is that with the stubbornness of the player this is quite lenient but certainly a respectable option. I would definitely suggest that judges taking this route leave themselves the avenue of an upgrade to Game Loss for any further infractions.
The second option is to consider the repeated unwanted behaviour of the player to be a serious problem and to Disqualify them. I have plenty of respect for this option and can definitely see the line of thinking (the player has refused to accept that their behaviour is unsatisfactory and is continuing to be disruptive). However, I have concerns that we’re perhaps being heavy-handed; with these sorts of behaviours it can often be easy to do it without thinking and judging philosophy tends towards giving players the benefit of the doubt. With that said, if at any point we feel the player is being deliberately disruptive this should be a snap-DQ.
The final option is to warn the player before the second occurrence that future infractions will carry a Game Loss. I’m torn on this option; it feels “right” from a severity perspective but I’m not sure that this is the correct use of the Game Loss upgrade path at Regular REL. The philosophy behind this is that a warning is clearly not having the required effect; the player has outright rejected modifying their behaviour. A penalty as substantial as a Game Loss may impose some weight behind it and rectify their behaviour. As with the original scenario, it is imperative that a Game Loss threatened is a Game Loss delivered.
By now, you’ve probably got an awful lot to think about. This area of judging is wooly – there’s a lot of gut feeling involved and some of it may involve correcting players’ behaviours that you yourself engage in on a casual basis. With all of this around, why should we bother?
I claimed earlier that this was both something morally right to do and something that we should actively strive for.
My personal view is that we live in a society that is historically pretty terrible for treating people with particular characteristics poorly. There tends to be a definition of “normal” and anyone who doesn’t fit this vision of normality faces ostracisation and oppression. Heck, I’m sure many of us have had grief in the past for our hobby and that’s something we’ve chosen to get involved with; there’s plenty of people who have problems based just on who they are.
We, both as judges and a community, do not need to strive to match society. We can and must do better. We can, through our actions and words, create a community that doesn’t allow or reflect the unwanted behaviours that we currently have in society. Why not? It means that every player that comes to our events can engage wholly in the great hobby that we all share without having to worry that other players will make it a miserable experience for them. This is the moral imperative and one that extends beyond language to the concept of creating a safe and inclusive atmosphere. Challenge and address unwanted behaviours in whatever form they take.
This should also be something we strive for. I think, as judges, we all want the game to grow and reach a greater audience. What better way is there to do this than to make tournament Magic somewhere players want to keep coming back to? What better way is there to do this than to remove the social barriers that dissuade some players from coming in the first place? The more the community shows acceptance and tolerance, the more this community will grow.
Thank you for reading what became a bit of an essay. I hope this post has been of real use to you; if you have things you’d like to talk about coming out from reading it I’ll happily chat about them in the comments (or, if you’re a candidate in my group, chat about it on Facebook and I’m always reachable by IM).