Black and White: Judges and Social Media

Joe Frankino

9/29/2016 11:00:00 AM

While the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG's been around for 15 years now, there are certain aspects that have changed over the years. Obviously, the game itself has changed with the addition of more monsters and more ways to Summon, and Organized Play has changed over the years with Regional Qualifiers, YCS's and the bi-annual Ultimate Duelist Series Invitational alongside local level OP – stuff like Official Tournament Store Championships, Yu-Gi-Oh! Day and UDS Qualifiers.

But here in 2016 there's an aspect of everyday life that a lot of us take for granted, and it wasn't as ubiquitous in 2002: social media. For better or worse, social media has changed how we live, and how you conduct yourself on social media has a huge bearing on how others perceive you. That's true for everyone, but for judges, it's an especially important point that I've mentioned in passing but never addressed in detail.

This week on Black and White: how judges should conduct themselves on social media.

Social Media (n.)
While Konami's policy documents don't specify what counts as social media, I'll be using my personal definition for the remainder of this article.

Social media is any network-based service in which an individual can create content for the purposes of being viewed by other users. Popular examples include Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube and Twitch but could also include any type of online forum or message board.

While some forms of social media may allow for anonymous or handle-based posts to mask your identity, that protection isn't the shield you envision it to be, and that's especially true for judges.

Don't Do This
For instance, if you post on a message board that you were judging at whatever Regional Qualifier and you saw Adam and Bob roll dice to determine who won the match, you're doing a whole bunch of things wrong here.

First, by identifying yourself as a judge, you're narrowing down who you are since the number of judges on staff is very limited and everyone's name is known to the Tournament Organizer and the Head Judge. If it came down to figure out who said what, it would be pretty easy for the right people.

Second, by identifying yourself as a judge, you're giving an authority and weight to your voice that maybe you're intending to do good with, but take it from experience that saying “I am a Judge” before your statement means your words are going to be scrutinized and very likely misinterpreted as a result if you're not careful. (My words are still misinterpreted on occasion and I've had three and a half years of practice in addressing a large audience through this site. Imagine how easy it is to be misinterpreted when you're shooting from the hip on a message board where tone of voice and other verbal nuances just don't exist.)

Thirdly, you're naming two players and talking about them performing an activity that would normally result in a steep infraction; randomly determining the result of a game or match outside of game mechanics is Unsporting Conduct – Cheating, the penalty for which is Disqualification without Prize. Even if Adam and Bob weren't actually DQ'd, mentioning it online means you're damaging the reputation of both players amongst other players.

 Pot of Desires
Pot of Desires121323
Set The Dark Illusion
Number TDIL-EN066
Type Spell Card
Attribute SPELL 
Rarity Secret Rare
Card Text

Banish 10 cards from the top of your Deck, face-down; draw 2 cards. You can only activate 1 "Pot of Desires" per turn.

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Your position as a judge is reinforcing your statement whether you intend it to or not. That's highly unprofessional and improper, and it abuses the trust and integrity that a judge earns from the community. That's the primary reason why judges don't discuss specific infractions from tournaments; while it may seem like education and dissemination of information is good for the community – and may be requested by members of the community – there's no way to talk about specific penalties without throwing one or more players under the bus, and from a responsible judge's standpoint, that's simply unacceptable.

Even if other players are adding misinformation to the discussion, it's still improper to contribute your thoughts or what you saw happen at an event. Because once you clarify one thing, you've now invited an endless string of follow-up questions that you can't answer or shouldn't answer and if you answered one question but not another, it brings up cries of “what are the judges hiding?!” and “That judge knows things, let's PM them” and other nonsense that could've been avoided entirely.

The best play when dealing with social media discussions about infractions and penalties that took place is to simply ignore them.

While Working
Any time you're judging an event you shouldn't be on social media at all. Your phone should not be out while you're on the floor taking judge calls. If you have a smart phone with internet access and need it as a resource during a judge call to reference the official card database, that's pretty much the only time your phone should be out of your pocket.

Even if you're on break, posting on social media is a no-go. That's primarily because your audience doesn't know that you're on break, they're going to immediately assume you're working and you're posting while you're doing it, which looks as unprofessional as it is. Posts can be made after you're dismissed for the day.

If a TO is using social media, those needs should not be handled by judges because judges need to do judge work. Judges, stay on the floor and take judge calls. Leave coverage to people dedicated to coverage.

And once the event's finished, try and remember that when you're a judge, you represent all judges. Maybe you didn't ask for that, but it's the player perception that the opinions and actions of one judge is indicative of all of them. I agree that's not a fair conclusion, but that's the perception and it's important to know that going forward. Because if you consider yourself a judge first and a player second when you're talking smack to some other player at your local, other players won't see this as “James going off on Timmy”, they'll see it as “The judge is going off on Timmy.”

A friend of mine often said that that “the judge shirt doesn't come off.” Once you're seen as a judge, you're a judge even when you're not working an event. And that includes any posts on social media.

Judges As Players
As I do play this game as well, I'll often post things during an event to Facebook or Twitter as I feel the need. Most of the time, those updates are results of a previous match and my current record, or complaining about a bad beat or an improbable play like “Activate Maiden with Eyes of Blue – chain Skill Drain – chain Mystical Space Typhoon on Skill Drain – chain another Skill Drain,” back when you could play more than one Skill Drain.

But when I'm posting about tournaments and things, I'm never openly critical about the staff or other players. If I have complaints about staff, I would go to the Head Judge or the Tournament Organizer so they could address the issue properly and work towards fixing any problems. For the few times I've had issues with other players, putting them on blast on social media doesn't effectively solve any problems.

Even if you think everyone on your friends list needs to know how you got cheated by so-and-so, it's not doing you any favors and it just looks bad. Even if you're 100% in the right, going off on Facebook about how your opponent low-key changed Life Points incorrectly doesn't make the situation any better. It sucks that it happened, but posting about it is going to come back to bite you.

And if you're a player aspiring to be a judge, there's an old adage that comes to mind: “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” If you want to judge big events in the future, you have to take everything above into account before you even pass your RC-1 exam. Judges are on social media and we do notice good names and bad when certain threads come up.

For example, if I'm Head Judging a Regional Qualifier and the TO tasks me with picking a certain number of judges to place on staff, and the list includes names that I've seen online that get into it with other players, I'm less likely to pick them even if they come with previous Regional experience. I'd rather take my chances on unknown judges that may or may not be good than take a known risk by allowing an unprofessional-acting player to judge at a Regional I'm responsible for.

 Blue-Eyes Alternative White Dragon
Blue-Eyes Alternative White Dragon120948
Set The Dark Side of Dimensions Movie Pack
Number MVP1-EN046
Level 8
Type Effect Monster
Monster Dragon
Attribute LIGHT 
A / D 3000 / 2500
Rarity Ultra Rare
Card Text

Cannot be Normal Summoned/Set. Must first be Special Summoned (from your hand) by revealing "Blue-Eyes White Dragon" in your hand. You can only Special Summon "Blue-Eyes Alternative White Dragon" once per turn this way. This card's name becomes "Blue-Eyes White Dragon" while it is on the field or in the Graveyard. Once per turn: You can target 1 monster your opponent controls; destroy it. This card cannot attack the turn this effect is activated.

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That may seem harsh, but as I mentioned before, players have an expectation that one judge represents all judges; one bad instance of “that judge got into a 60-comment flame war with some random” is enough to make every judge look bad. And as someone picking staff, I'm going to look elsewhere for help. If you want to be selected to judge events, remember that you're not shouting Into The Void when you type nonsense. People read that nonsense, and if you don't want a Head Judge to see it you just shouldn't put it out there.

If you have any questions about social media, game mechanics, card interactions or tournament policies, you can send an e-mail (one question per e-mail please!) to and your question could be answered in a future edition of Court of Appeals!

-Joe Frankino

Joe is a Yu-Gi-Oh! judge and player from Long Island, New York. Joe used to post on message boards back in the day. Then Facebook and Twitter happened. He also used to post on a blog. Maybe soon he will again. Maybe.

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