(Metagame Archive) Voices From The Field: Judgment Calls

By Ben Kalman

“Since this is a game, people take their responsibilities less seriously than they should.”

– Tay Howland, UDE Net Rep

A situation arose a few weeks ago that questioned a spectator’s responsibilities within the game and whether or not one’s loyalty to a friend meant that one should not call attention to that person’s playing errors.

The situation in question:

Someone was watching a game featuring a player he considered a friend. The player recruited Boris before laying down a resource. He then searched for a Common Enemy and placed it in his resource row. He played Signal Flare and began to search. At that moment, the spectator went to find a judge. By the time the judge had reached the table, the player had already searched for Dr. Doom, Lord of Latveria. The judge’s decision was to rewind the game state back to where the player played Common Enemy. Hence, the player would only have 7 resource points instead of 8 after playing Boris. Common Enemy would be played from his hand, and the Signal Flare could be used to find a different card.

The spectator, when posting this conundrum, was worried that he had done the wrong thing by bringing a judge over to correct his friend’s mistake, as it essentially cost that player the game. I was terribly disheartened by some of the responses he received, with people referring to him as a snitch and putting him down for being disloyal and ratting out a friend. One person went so far as to say that he should have waited for someone else to find a judge, as his responsibility was to his friendship and not to call his friend’s mistakes.

These people are 100 percent wrong. It is never snitching to get a judge to fix a game. If that player had won the game with a broken game state, he would have won falsely. If someone had discovered the mistake later on, that player could have been disqualified for cheating. In this case, the friend did the correct thing by getting a judge to fix the game (not interfering with the game itself), and also potentially saved the player from a very embarrassing situation.

When I asked Erick Reyes, owner of Edgeworld and someone well versed in tournament responsibilities and play, about this situation, he said, “There [are] two ways to look at it. One, you don’t say anything because you want your friend to win. Two, you do your duty as an observer as outlined by the tournament policy and report the error to a judge. The problem is that if you don’t report it, the game could progress to a point where your friend would be given a penalty game loss even if he is winning. As a judge and storeowner, [I recommend that] you report all errors. As a friend . . . it’s sticky, and I can see the other side, especially at a high level event where a lot is on the line. But, that being said, I would side on always reporting game errors.”

The problem is that many players don’t realize—or care—that when they sign their UDE cards the very first time they enter an UDE-sanctioned tournament, they are agreeing to the Upper Deck code of conduct. Their responsibility as players in a UDE tournament is to follow that code to the letter. Is it cheating as a spectator to not report an obvious play error? As UDE Premier Events Specialist Alex Charsky points out, “This is more of a question of ethics and personal integrity [than rules violations]. Technically, it is [the] responsibility of a spectator to report any errors they see to a judge. Can we expect it from 100 percent of all tournament participants? I hope so, but then again, I am an optimist!” Charsky does state, rather emphatically, that it is indeed the player’s responsibility to know and follow the UDE code of conduct. “Yes it is. They do sign the UDE card that says they agree to abide by UDE tournament rules.”

Rob Leander, a longstanding Yu-Gi-Oh! judge and one of the highest ranked Vs. System players in the world, lays the responsibility on the spectator, as well. “One could say that a spectator’s responsibility would be nothing at all; all they do is [watch], as the [word] “spectator” [suggests]. However, others say that a spectator has a responsibility where if he or she sees a wrongdoing, they should address a judge and see about getting [it] corrected. Well, I believe it was the right call to inform the judge. Whether it was an honest mistake or a blatant act of cheating, it was still something that needed to be corrected so that the game state was not affected. If it were me personally, I would have informed a judge, as well. Some people say that personal loyalty is stronger then the rules. If it were Dave [Spears] or Rian [Fike], I would wish I [had] not witnessed it, but if I did, I would [do the same as] I would for anyone and inform a judge.”

As Alex Charsky points out, it is indeed a question of ethics and integrity. That means doing what is right as laid out in the tournament guidelines and code of conduct provided by Upper Deck. As a player, if you have issues with the possibility of a friend “betraying” your play errors, you should remember two things:

1) Tournaments are played in public. There is no privacy in a tournament, nor should there be. Snitching and ratting out are derogatory words designed to implicate someone who has betrayed something secret or private to people who have no business knowing it. In this scenario, the judge needs to know what has happened in order to repair the game. No one who would wish for a friend to remain silent is someone I would want as a friend, because to keep one’s mistakes under the table and hope nobody notices them is cheating.

2) What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Think about what you would do if you lost a game where an opponent made a crucial error that cost you the win, and you found out that a friend of his or hers saw the mistake but didn’t say anything because that person didn’t want to betray a friend. If you say that you would applaud the decision and go merrily on your way, you’re most likely a blatant liar. I would be willing to bet that you’d be very angry and would do everything you could to rectify the situation.

It has been said that people are now uncomfortable allowing this spectator to watch their games. I would hesitate to trust anyone who is uncomfortable being watched by a spectator whose priority is to protect the integrity of the game and who has a history of doing the right thing. This judge was lenient compared to what some judges would have done in his place, so having bystanders who ensue that the game is finished fairly and properly is actually quite comforting. If not for this spectator, the player might have had a much more serious problem. Alex Charsky said, “I think there are grounds for investigation of cheating there. I think that a friend bringing up the error is what actually saves this player from getting DQ’d for blatant cheating. It’s obvious that the player is not accidentally searching for Common Enemy, since he needs it in play to search and recruit Dr. Doom.” Charsky went on to say that if he didn’t disqualify the player, he would have pretty much followed the same path the judge did, although, “once again, all of this assumes that I believe that the player accidentally made this error, which as presented above seems very doubtful to me.”

It is a fine line to walk between cheating and protecting a friend. As a spectator, you are equally responsible for ensuring that the game is played correctly, although only a judge should interfere with a match to try to repair it.

Here are some simple guidelines on how to react when you, as a spectator, player, or judge, witness an error in play.

1) As a spectator, do not attempt to stop the match or fix it yourself. Longtime Vs. System judge and rules adjunct Chad Daniel says, “A player should not stop a game in progress. Just get a judge over as fast as reasonably possible. While this may result in a very few situations where, by the time judge gets there, it is too late to fix it, it is overwhelmed by the number of times a spectator is wrong about the misplay he thought he witnessed. What I mean is, if players were told to stop matches where they witnessed a misplay, [often] no misplay actually occurred, and we would have held up the tournament for no reason and interfered with the match, possibly even breaking someone’s concentration.”

2) Spectators should immediately get the judge and carefully explain the error to him or her. Only the judge should stop or repair a match. The longer you wait, the more danger there is of a game loss, or worse, as the game state falls into disrepair.

3) If you’re a player, you should always carefully watch what your opponent does. You should always respect an opponent’s decision to call a judge, and always respect the judge’s decision. As Rob Leander says, “The player has the responsibility to be respectful to their opponent, as they are expecting them to be respectful in turn.” This goes for judges, too. Players and judges should be respectful to each other, as they would expect the same in return.

4) As a player, never try to fix the problem yourself. Always call a judge and let him or her fix it. Charsky is adamant that “one of the worst things that players can do is try to fix procedural errors themselves. I can’t stress this enough. If you messed up, let the judge fix it. Don’t try to fix it yourself. I can’t count the number of times that I had to game loss a player for a severe procedural error that resulted from a player trying to incorrectly fix a minor procedural error. The best example of this is a player accidentally seeing the top card of his deck and [shuffling the deck] to fix the problem.”

5) As a judge, stop the game first and ask questions later. Charsky advises that “the judge should make a decision on stopping the match immediately or getting the full story out of the spectator to ensure that what he observed was indeed an error, and then attempt to fix the error. Immediately stopping the match is slightly better, since you have a better chance of repairing the game state, although you do occasionally stop a match in progress when there was no error committed.”

6) No matter what happens, the judge should always repair the problem to the best of his or her ability. Charsky says, “The absolute worst thing a judge can do is not follow up on the problem and let the players sort or play it out. Judges should practice active judging. This means that it’s okay, for example, for a judge to step in and ask a player what they discarded for a Signal Flare if it’s not obvious from looking into the KO pile.”

6) As a player, spectator, or judge, learn what the cards do. Read the comprehensive rules and make sure that you know and understand both the code of conduct and what’s expected of you as a UDE member. I can’t begin to tell you how important it is that you do this, as nearly every mistake I encounter—especially those that become unrepairable—is the result of ignorance in one form or another.

In the end, everyone who is involved in a tournament—the players, judges, and spectators—share the responsibility of protecting the game’s integrity at all times and of keeping the tournament fair and civil. If you don’t step up and make sure that an error is corrected or that a cheater is caught, then you are an accessory to the problem. Take care to make sure that you are aware of and follow your responsibilities, and the game and community will be better for it.

Also known by his screen name, Kergillian, Ben Kalman has been involved in the Vs. community since Day One. He started the first major player in the online community, the Vs. Listserv, through Yahoo! Groups, which now boasts well over 1200 members! For more on the Yahoo! group, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Marvel_DC_TCG

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