The joys of lockdown: Working remotely

The last six months or so I have been working remotely as a product owner for SimCorp, a company I worked with for many years prior to moving to Stockholm in 2017. The agreement was to visit the headquarter in Copenhagen 2-3 days every month, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, so far I’ve only visited the office once after re-joining. 

This has actually worked out quite well! A major reason is of course that I have a long history with SimCorp and know the product and the people well. The technical setup works well, and with almost everyone working remotely, you avoid many of the pitfalls of having remote team members. Actually, I can’t imagine going back to a full 5-day working week in the office again, at least not as long as I have kids living at home, a good internet connection, and an office where I can close the door. 

Here are my personal perspectives on working remotely.

Morning. Copyright 2021 Frederik Jensen.

What I enjoy from working remotely

  1. Going for a walk in the lunch break or in the morning after bringing kids to school.
  1. Picking up kids early from school and kindergarten and go sleigh riding in the first snow before it gets dark.
  1. Watching recordings of general information meetings at double speed and skip ahead to the important parts.
  1. Reaching out to people on Slack for them to get back to me when they have time.
  1. Having a quiet workspace for concentrated work whenever I want it.
Noon. Copyright 2021 Frederik Jensen.

What I don’t miss from pre-covid days

  1. Queuing on the freeway rush hour traffic or in a crowded subway and worrying about not getting to the office in time.
  1. Cruising around looking for the last available parking lot, seeing it taken by another car, and instead going to that faraway parking lot that adds precious 15 minutes to the commute in both directions.
  1. Hoping to make it to school in time to pick up kids to not have your kid being the last kid around for the third time this week.
  1. Going to the airport early morning to visit a nearshore office with my wife being on full time kids duty and my only contact with the kids being a video call just before bedtime.
  1. Forgetting to renew monthly train tickets or optimising the ticket period for the upcoming vacation just to have it been in vain by unplanned sick days.
Afternoon. Copyright 2021 Frederik Jensen.

What I miss about not going to the office

  • I’m still working on that list.

Well, I guess I should include free coffee and having a clear mental on/off switch for at work/not at work. But most importantly I have enjoyed getting to know new colleagues over coffee and lunch over the years, sharing war stories and venting the occasional workplace issue. Many I still keep contact with and consider friends.

Working remotely is not without drawbacks and pitfalls of course. But I’m sure companies will find ways to embrace and become truly “remote first” companies and be awesome places to work. It’s such a privilege to have a kind of work where this is possible.

Mars to Stay

Coming to a web shop near you in 2021.

Back in 2016-2017 I created a game called Mars to Stay. A game about people travelling to Mars to build humanity’s first colony on the planet. I finished it and it premiered at Fastaval 2017 but I wasn’t really satisfied with the result: I wanted to cramp too much into it, there were too many ideas in the game which made it difficult to play.

It had a game engine based on PbtA with stats and moves and advances specific to each character. It had multiple story lines and lots of freedom for players to choose. The central choice for the characters — whether to stay on Mars or to return to Earth as things go south — lacked a hard mechanic to make it crunchy and deep.

In essence it was a sandbox game where satisfying play depended on a lot of hard work from the game master (and I was blessed with a great team of game masters to carry the game at Fastaval 2017, thanks again).

Claudia Cangini came up with the retro poster look for the front page illustration. I love how the retro look in this and the other illustrations generates a tension with the idea that life on Mars will be an inevitable utopia.

A few months ago, after having had some good experiences with online play, I revisited the game to see if I could make it work online with a format similar to Montsegur 1244. I.e. as a collaborative story game where players take turn setting scenes and with the story arc driven by text read aloud during play.

Over a weekend I had a skeleton in place and in a week I had a version ready for playtest. The first playtest was good and identified things I could change and improve to enforce and deepen the central choice. The second playtest was great, confirming that less is more, players can work magic with a fixed structure and subtle hints for inspiration. I also learned that playing Mars to Stay online works great: The inevitable technical issues and the loneliness of sitting at the end of a fragile video connection bleeds into play.

Shane the Visionary living the dream of life on Mars.

So I’ve decided to finish and publish the new version of the game in 2021. I will publish it as PDF and EPUB (digital editions) which makes a lot of things much easier. I’m thinking to sell via Lulu, Indie Press Revolution, and DriveThruRPG. Via Lulu, the game will also be available on Amazon and AppleBooks.

I’ve engaged with Claudia Cangini to add new illustrations to the new version of the game to really enhance the final product. I’ve secured ISBN’s for the game, this was quick and easy to get, thanks, Sweden. A third and a fourth playtest are planned, both without me participating.

So things are on track for publishing a new game in 2021. And why not make an updated version of Montsegur 1244 for online play as well?