What Do They Do?
by Michael G.
people are fairly certain that an editor is the person who "cleans
up bad writing." While there's some accuracy in that description
(as well as an unintentional insult to any writer whose work has been
edited), it doesn't encompass the range of services an editor provides.
And when it comes to trading card game editors in particular, those services
are even more precise and unique
and hard to come by. In fact, most
editors begin their careers headed in a completely different direction.
to be a wildlife biologist," recalls Jessica Beaven, lead editor
for licensed trading card games at Wizards of the Coast. "Then, around
the time of the Challenger explosion, I decided I wanted to be
an astronaut. As that path narrowed down to dedicating seven years of
my life to the Air Force without ever making pilot because of my slight
myopia, I decided I'd be better off following a path that allows a little
Like many editors,
Jessica initially wanted to write (and still does; her short story, "Liar's
Game," will appear in the Realms of Shadow anthology due from
Wizards in April 2002), and she'd kept a journal for many years. "Creative
writing always seemed a little magical," she says, "with the
way writers can conjure worlds, people, and truths that can directly affect
other people they may never have met -- all at the whims of Fate."
Because of her passion for words and language, she majored in English
in college as a means of "choosing not to choose," as working
with words tends not to have a field of its own ("it's more of a
vehicle from which to explore anything and everything a person could want
With a degree
in English, Jessica ended up first editing for a small music textbook
publisher in Redmond, Washington, called Pst, Inc. (as in "Psst,
did you hear . . . ?"), a job she acquired simply by sending her
résumé to addresses of publishers she found in the Yellow Pages. "Nobody
there seemed to understand how much I could offer in the way of actually
working on text," she says. "By the time my supervisor offered
me more work along those lines, I'd found a full-time software technical
writing job, so it was too little, too late. Besides, the main guy at
Pst was condescending and had horrible breath. I learned a lot about singing,
Wizards of the Coast acquired the Five Rings Publishing Group and the
popular trading card game Legend of the Five Rings, Jessica moved
from her writing position at the software company Syntax to work full-time
on the TCG. "I just couldn't get excited about PC-to-UNIX connectivity,"
she admits of her former job. "My immediate supervisor was a delightfully
tempestuous Burmese woman, and the pay was good. But when I saw the job
offered at Wizards, I had to have it, even if it did mean a pay cut."
After a trial-by-fire
editing test ("The interviewers, namely Ed Bolme, decided to ignore
the results of the first test I took and gave me a page to crash-proof
in front of the panel of four or five with whom I was interviewing"),
Jessica began work on Legend of the Five Rings, which was a job
that sparked her interest in Asian cultures, especially Japanese language,
martial arts, and history. "I also grew by leaps and bounds both
personally and professionally during my work on the game," she says.
"I learned to interact with more types of people in better ways,
learned lots of tricks and habits for gaining respect and doing good work,
and got to experience teaching adults in the form of demoing at Gen
Con. Plus, I just poured a lot of time and energy into templating
and customer satisfaction."
a skill that trading card name editors need to acquire early on in their
careers, as it governs most of their work on the cards. Editing and R&D
work closely together to choose exactly how to word cards and rules, with
a focus on clarity and consistency. R&D carries the bulk of the responsibility
for the game mechanics side of this, as the editor generally doesn't know
a given game as well as its R&D leads and probably won't be able to
think of as many cards or rules for comparison. The editor carries the
bulk of the responsibility for the language side of templating, however;
the editor has to determine whether a template uses good English and language
understandable to the average player, for instance. Some games -- Pokómon
or Harry Potter, to name a few -- require the language to be simpler,
as its target audience is younger players. Other games, like Magic:
The Gathering or MLB Showdown, have larger vocabularies and
more complex templates.
templates themselves -- the precise words used to detail what a card does
or how a rule applies -- also have to be consistent with one another,
and the editor is responsible for making sure that rules that do the same
thing are always said the same way. For instance, say an already-printed
card read "At the beginning of your turn, draw a card." The
editor needs to be certain that other cards don't read "At the beginning
of your turn, draw 1 card" or "Draw a card at the beginning
of your turn" or "At the beginning of each of your turns, draw
a card." All of these cards do the same thing, so they should read
the same way. This may seem simple, but it can become very important with
more complicated templates, as players often have the tendency to think
that if two instructions are worded differently, they must mean different
things. The editor and R&D share about equal responsibility for templating
consistency, although the editor keeps the templates of all cards that
have been printed for the game. When a new card comes in, ready to be
templated, the editor then presents any past templates that might apply
to that card to the templating team, which makes the final decision.
up an enormous amount of an editor's time when he or she is working on
a game, but at Wizards, if it has text on it, an editor sees it. Editors
correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar, make suggestions for rewrites,
additions, and deletions, and sometimes even do a bit of writing themselves.
And because most editors work on a particular product line, if something's
to be printed under that line's banner, the editor usually looks at it.
This can include promotional website text, league booklets, letters, player
surveys, periodical articles, press releases, storylines, FAQs, solicitations,
ads, contest descriptions, posters, postcards, sell sheets, gift boxes,
strategy guides, consumer response cards, signs, brochures, demo scripts,
media alters, book covers, stickers, tokens, letterheads, binders, marketing
copy, playmats, and of course, cards, packaging, and rules. These last
three, Jessica says, tend to be the most complicated "because they're
the most likely to have late changes from licensors and other teams at
Wizards," though she notes that cards are easily the most fun to
work on "because they're the meat of a game; the stakes are high,
but so are the challenges and the pride of accomplishment."
work closely with different parts of the company at different stages --
R&D when the game is under design and development; typesetting, production,
and art as it moves into its graphic stages, where an editor will review,
or "proof," text to be sure it reads correctly before going
to print; sales and marketing when the game is being sold to businesses;
the leagues when the game is on the streets and being promoted for play;
and the periodicals team when writers begin to publish reviews or strategy
tips for the game. Anytime there's text, an editor will look at it
even if it seems a little odd, limited, or possibly beyond the editor's
"I was asked
to edit a Japanese promo card once," Jessica recalls. "The project
manager brought it by because the approval form had a space for editor
sign-off. I just checked the legal text and declared the rest of it 'good
And as with any
position, editors have their ultimate "dream jobs" as well.
In Jessica's case, in addition to editing anything in the field of theoretical
physics (one of her myriad interests), it would be to work with a famous
author "who doesn't know much about editing but who respects what
editors can do. Sometimes, when I finish an intriguing book, I contemplate
sending the author an offer of my services pro bono, just as a way to
say thanks for the experience. Most of them probably have editors assigned
by their publishers, but I may still give it a shot the next time I have
the time to take on new projects."
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