Ronin Round Table: Steve Kenson #2

“What’s it like working in the RPG industry?”
This is a common question. It’s also one that’s difficult to answer, since the experience of “the industry” varies from company to company and working for Green Ronin is different (one imagines) from working for Wizards of the Coast, Paizo Publishing, Steve Jackson Games, or any number of other publishers.
For one thing, those companies all have centralized offices where people come to work, whereas Green Ronin (as Chris Pramas discussed in a previous Ronin Round Table) is a distributed company, operating primarily online and collaborating across the country and four time zones. Green Ronin also has both full- and part-time employees, unlike many RPG companies which are either full-time or strictly part-time endeavors.
So what does a typical work day for me look like? I get up fairly early to go over my morning emails and messages with my coffee, answering any that require an immediate response, and flagging others for later while putting together my to-do list for the day.
Then it’s off to the gym, since I find working out in the morning keeps me on-schedule and helps me to focus during the day. Once I’ve worked out, showered, and changed, I’m back at my desk by mid-morning to begin digging into the actual work of the day. I tend to start with writing time, when I’m at my freshest and I’ve had time to mull things over. (I find I get a lot of ideas at the gym or even in the shower that have me eager to get to work by the time I’m back at my desk.) I’ll typically write or design through to lunchtime, when I’ll take a break, although I’ve been known to eat my lunch at my desk while going through emails and such again, or just reading Facebook and message boards (not the best eating habit, I’ll admit, but I’m working on it). Finished drafts go into our company Dropbox for the developer to look at and mark up for revision.
In the afternoon, I’ll keep writing, if that’s the priority for the day, or I’ll shift gears to do some editing, either going over previous drafts or entering corrections. Editing is one of the only tasks I still do with paper and pen, since it’s the most effective means for me to notice corrections and note them. I’ve done some proofreading of PDFs on my iPad, which is the closest virtual experience to editing hardcopy, but I still tend to work with stacks of printouts when it comes time to do serious revisions. So much for the “paperless office”! Rather than editing my own work I might also do an edit pass or development on another piece, particularly if one of our developers needs a hand.
Afternoon tends to be time for phone calls and such as well, if they’re necessary, just because other parts of Green Ronin are on the opposite coast and hours behind East Coast Time. Still, we do most of our corresponding via email, which is easier to manage unless there’s need for a lengthy discussion or an immediate response.
As the afternoon wears on towards dinner-time, I tend to “wind down” with the more mundane “paperwork” tasks, including things like data-entry (putting stat blocks into Hero Lab for M&M products, for example) and answering low-priority emails from earlier in the day. This is the sort of less intensive stuff that makes a good wrap-up, although my days don’t always end at 5:00 PM. More often than not, after dinner I’ll be back at my desk for an hour or so, either putting in a bit more writing or editing work, or handling follow-ups from communications earlier in the day. Remember, my West Coast colleagues are just getting into the most productive parts of their afternoon when I’m wrapping up for the evening! The occasional evening or weekend afternoon, I’ll be on Skype for a company-wide conference call where we can catch up on what’s going on and talk over things more easily than back-and-forth emails.
Of course, that’s just a “typical” day and one of the advantages of telecommuting for a company like Green Ronin is there’s no time clock and fairly few scheduled meetings. So if I need to take off to run some errands in the middle of the day, I do. Likewise, if I need to work late to ensure something gets done in time for a hand-off to development or production, I do that, too. So long as things get done, there’s very little of “management” looming over our shoulders. I think it’s an arrangement that suits me and my fellow Ronins; like the name says, we’re independent types who like being our own “masters”!