My name is Nicolette Apraez, and I am the Judge Program Manager at Judge Academy. For those of you who have not met me, I am a Level 3 Judge, and currently the Regional Coordinator for the USA – Southeast Region. I’ve taken on a ton of roles so far in my time as a Judge, including working everything from Prereleases and old PTQs to Mythic Championships, MagicFests, and SCG Tour Events, as well as serving on the various projects in the community. One of the constants in all of those roles was my desire to make the Global Judge Program, and the events we run, better. Better for players, Judges and TOs. I’m excited to start what will certainly be the most intensive and impactful role I’ve had to-date!
As I’m sure you have read, some things are changing. Before we get into that, I want to thank Wizards of the Coast, and our current Associate Community Manager Sara Mox, for all they’ve done for our program. I’m excited to work with them on Judge Promos, Art Licensing/Judge Gifts, and other initiatives moving forward. I also want to give a huge thank you to all of our current and past Judge Leadership, who have been incredibly integral in shaping the program and community over all these years. This transition would not be possible without their support, hard work, and feedback.
So what does the New Judge Program look like? Well for starters, our mission is to train and certify quality event staff for any company that utilizes organized play, in order to create an inclusive community of recognized tournament experts who lead welcoming, fun, and fair events. We want to continue to foster a community that lets you contribute to it in whatever way makes the most sense for you. Whether that’s building your local community, working events, working on projects, or any combination of the three. We also want to make sure you can get what you want out of the program. We see Judge Certifications as professional certifications, just like programming certifications or the CPA Society does. (That’s the Certified Public Accountant Society in the US for those that are not familiar with it.) That means that if you want to judge as a hobby, we will provide online learning, access to event information, forums, and a community with which to connect. However, if you want to make a career out of judging, we will also provide you with an avenue to do so. Starting with Magic and expanding outward, we will work to set up official certifications for multiple games, helping to create multiple revenue streams for those who want to judge Magic and/or other games full time, while bringing the professionalism, logistic skills, and customer service that Magic Judges are known for to the rest of the gaming industry.
Our website, www.JudgeAcademy.com, has specific information about our Advisory Board, the Judge Academy Core Team, Program/Level Structure, Membership Dues and Benefits, as well as a place to get on the email list to keep up to date with all the latest information. Please check that out! For now, I want to give you all a Big Picture view of what’s changing and what’s not.
Education: Conferences have always been amazing opportunities to build networks and friendships, pool knowledge, and facilitate in-person education. We understand their importance, and they will continue moving forward. Both Mini-Conferences and Larger Regional Conferences will still be supported with Judge Promos. That is not changing. There will be E-Learning software to help facilitate online learning through modules and testing but, as always, if someone needs an in-person exam we will support those as well.
Regional Leadership: Regional Coordinator contracts are through Wizards of the Coast and end Oct. 1. However, there will still be someone overseeing each area. Those will be our Community Managers. They will not be directly dealing with stores or staffing events, which means they can focus on… the Community! They will be overseeing Conferences and Education efforts in their Regions, and will be the eyes and ears of the program in the community, helping us make sure the Judge Program grows and develops in a way that fits everyone involved.
Starting a global company takes time. While we would love to launch worldwide simultaneously, we know that come Oct. 1, the more things that are set in stone, the easier the transition. We adjusted most regions to account for the change in responsibility, and at Launch we will have 10 Regions, each with their own Community Manager. These 10 Regions (made up of about 20 of the 27 current regions) cover more than 75% of all judges worldwide. This is obviously a work in progress, and we will continue to launch into other areas as soon as we can be sure we are in compliance with local laws and regulations. Additionally, we are finalizing efforts to make sure that things like Conferences can continue in those areas until we can get them ported over to our system.
Projects: Project work is not going away. Period. If you want to start a project or a blog, there will be forums where you can request help, and you don’t need anyone’s permission to be awesome. What IS changing, is that responsibility for some of the high workload or sensitive topics (Judge Conduct Committee, Player Investigation Committee, Official Translations, Exams) will now fall to Judge Academy or Wizards to handle. That said, we are a small workforce and we WILL need help. The details aren’t 100% fleshed out yet, but if something is integral to our success (an exam translation or Level 3 Panels, for example) AND we need to ask non-employees for help, we intend to pay people for their effort.
Community: While the joke may be that everything is going to “kill magic”, I’ve learned over the years that nothing can stop the Judge Community. We are an organic and ever changing community, and the fact that we change with the times, adapt to the future, and continue moving forward, is what makes Magic Judges so amazing. We have been through Program Changes, New World Orders, NEW New World Orders, and who knows what else. There will be a transition period, but I am so excited for what the future of judging will bring to this game, and the community of Judges I care so much about.
Again, if you haven’t done so, please take the time to read the other articles or statements linked, as well as the information on our website. If you are reading this, you have a community of people here to support you: Current RCs and PCs, local leadership, future Community Managers, Sara Mox, myself, and everyone at Judge Academy.