A Sucking Maw of Pain and Anxiety (A WFH/Recent Game Industry Trends Retrspective)

Working from home isn’t for everyone, but prior to the pandemic, it was great for me. The problem now is that *everything* is remote. No conventions or casual get-togethers. By the time I do every meeting I *have* to have on zoom, I am too burned out to do remote brainstorming.

There are also problems some people attribute to wfh that, at least for me, aren’t about that. Before when I would do wfh, no one expected me to reply to chats and emails in a quick timeframe. Now, if 15 minutes go past, they wonder where I am. If 7 people ping me at once They aren’t all 7 going to get me attention in 15 minutes. If one of those things is an emergency, the others have to wait. But no one is putting reply expectations in writing. They appear to just seethe, wondering if I am *really* working.

(Note that most of my wfh is contract and freelance, but I have heard it’s even worse for people doing wfh for a single company, most of which seem to have 3 to 4 different ways to communicate remotely, and no system for keeping the volume managable.)

And current work conditions are hampered by things well beyond wfh. For example, more of my friends and colleagues are depressed and in real, dangerous pain than ever before. (So am I.) That mostly isn’t about lack of socialization or in-person meetings. Instead, it’s a response to grief, loss of both actual beloved people and lifestyle options that have ended. It’s a side-effect of loss of faith in humanity overall. And it’s stress dealing with endless uncertainty.

In the tabletop RPG industry in the US, no one feels particularly secure. Small and mid-tier companies could go under with one more shipment being delayed, even when shipping within the US. At bigger companies, layoffs are an ever-present specter.

I’ve had people say “Look, I understand *some* delay, but why is project XX two years late?! Does working from home not work?”

Well, no. It’s because being creative has been a sucking maw of pain and anxiety for more than two years.

“Can’t you just ignore other people’s pain and suffering and calls for help to spend more time working on the game product I want?”

No. I can’t.

And I don’t think I want to work with anyone who can.

And even if I could bring myself to try, the resulting depression that would hit me for abandoning people who crush any protectivity the extra hours were supposed to produce.

No writer, no editor, no publisher, no customer service representative in gaming (or any creative endeavor) is at full capacity atm. I presume the same is true of lots of other fields, but this is the one where people come to me for help and advice.

And the reduced ability in quantity, quality, and responsiveness has fuck-all to do with if they are in an office or not. And if the pandemic totally ended today, it’d be a year or more before they all recovered. And most of them can’t say this, for fear of losing customers.

From Publishers to Assistant Word Miners, from ttRPGs to novels, retail, delivery, medicine — people need to be cut some slack. It sucks, and it cannot and will not be fixed quickly, and it’s not because anyone is malingering.

Thanks for reading to the bottom of my long-ass post.

Support Some Folks!

Normally, this is where I post links to my Ko-Fi and Patreon, and talk about how helpful it is to back them.

But not today.
Today, I am highlighting other people and groups. Because if you want gaming to survive, you need to give what support you can. That might be financial. Or it might be boosting the reach of these means of supporting others.

Mutants & Masterminds Patreon
“Every week, you’ll receive an updated Hero Lab and PDF of a fan-favorite M&M character!” You can also support Green Ronin by buying things at the Green Ronin Store.

Know Direction Patreon
“The award-winning Know Direction Network has news, reviews, and interviews. We have provided over 500 hours of original podcast content, over 300 hours of convention coverage, and over 800 articles from a decorated team of bloggers, including prolific Pathfinder freelancers, a hugely successful third party publisher, and an RPG Superstar winner.

We want to do more. We have plans for additional audio, video, and blog content. We want to get more staff to more conventions. And we want to coat everything we release with a more professional varnish. However, we pay for most of our material out of pocket, and it’s hard to find the funds for these projects. “

Open Gaming Network
“The Open Gaming Network is a family of wiki-like rules reference websites for various Open Gaming Licensed game systems, or similarly-licensed RPG systems.” They have a Patreon. Also, you can support the OGN, and a lot of companies, by shopping at the Open Gaming Store!

Isabelle Thorne (aka Kindalara) is a writer, editor, and creator. I’ve worked with her many times, and am a big fan of her creativity and skill. She has a Ko-Fi, and a Patreon as “Thorny Rose Gaming.” She absolutely deserves your support.

Steve Kenson is creating Icons Superpowered Roleplaying Content.

Joshua Hennington is an up-and-coming freelance writer of tabletop role-playing game content; he’s written for several accredited publishing companies, from Paizo Publishing to Rogue Genius Games, Everyman Gaming, Rite Publishing and more!

Chesley Oxendine is an RPG creator who could use help with medial expenses.

Game writer Ruvaid Virk’s heater went out. In Michigan. In the winter.

Steven Hammond is a freelance ttrpg writer and designer, best known for writing kooky stuff for Pathfinder 2e.

Everybody Games is creating the Eversaga Roleplaying Game… but it’s slow, tough work that takes money.

Ashton is creating illustrations, fiction, and roleplaying game tokens. Also has a Ko-Fi.

Shanwolf is a new streamer, who is also trying to write “Iron Stars, Burning Hearts.”

Ivis K. Flanagan is a Freelance RPG Writer, Gamer, Teacher, Dreamer, and life long Disney Disnerd. She has a Ko-Fi.

Andrew D. Geels is @PinBarbarian on Twitter. He streams at twitch.tv/pinstripedbarbarian. His website is pinstripedbarbarian@gmail.com. He has a Ko-Fi.

Dustin Knight is on Facebook, Twitter, and Know Direction, as well as his own Blog. He has a Ko-Fi, which helps fund his 3pp review stream.

Sen.H.H.S. has been a ttRPG freelancer since 2020. She has an Itch.io store, and a Ko-Fi.

Joseph Blomquist has a freelancer contact card for writing, game design, and illustration work, and a Ko-Fi.

Allie Bustion is creating tabletop games, supplements, and hacks!
Twitter: @madpierrot
ko-fi: http://ko-fi.com/madpierrot
patreon: http://patreon.com/madpierrot
itch.io: http://madpierrot.itch.io/

Shay is an Indigenous tabletop writer, editor, and playtester. They have a Ko-fi.

Minty Belmont has a Ko-fi.

Luis Loza is creating Pathfinder 2E and other RPG content on Patreon.

Isis Woz has a Ko-Fi.

The amazing Eleanor Ferron has an Itch.io Comic and a Ko-Fi.

Liz Courts has an online Portfolio, and a Patreon.

Jacob Blackmon has a Patreon for his art, and another for his Masters of the Universe Action Figure Webcomic.

Sasha Laranoa Harving is a veteran freelancer. She has works for sale on Pathfinder Infinite, and has a Ko-Fi.

Jessica Redekop is a Canadian illustrator and game designer who is starting to get into costuming by way of LARP. She has a Ko-Fi.

The amazing, talented, veteran creator Stan! has a patreon (www.patreon.com/stannex) and an ongoing Kickstarter right now (www.NewStanProject.com)

Mike Bramnik is a Gamer, geologist, geek, and relatively new TTRPG freelance author writing for established settings and crafting soundtracks for RPG sessions. He has a Ko-Fi.


About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at https://www.patreon.com/OwenKCStephens

Posted on February 7, 2022, in Business of Games, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thank you —
    Both for your creative efforts, and for thinking about and helping others.

  2. As always wonderfully written and poignant; we all need to be more mindful of other and graceful to ourselves and those around us.

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