Meet Ronnie 2K, the Man Who Ditched a Law Degree for a Dream Job in Gaming Ronnie Singh (better known as Ronnie 2K) discusses his role in the legendary NBA 2K franchise.
Ronnie Singh, better known as Ronnie 2K, is the Digital Marketing Director for 2K Games. I envy this man for two reasons: 1. He is a driving force behind one of the greatest sports video game franchises in history (sorry, Pong.) And 2. He was short as a kid and then hit a growth spurt that rocketed him to a 6' 6" feet tall adult.
I am neither of these things, so I was very excited to him on this week's episode of Get a Real Job. (Click above to listen.)
Ronnie 2K has been involved with NBA 2K since the early days of the franchise, serving as a community manager and social media specialist. Over the years, he has grown into this role where he is a content creator, podcaster, brand ambassador, and the guy pissed off NBA superstars text him when they are unhappy about their in-game player ratings.
Here are some of the highlights of our conversation, which have been edited for length and clarity:
"We used to be a lot like the movie industry where we would release a game every year. We'd put all of our media dollars, all of our attention and pr efforts into a single date. Back then it was early October. And then after the holidays, we'd kind of like start fully preparing for the next year. But as games have changed, so has the way we market. Now it's really about digital drops and keeping the game fresh and culturally relevant. We mess around with the player ratings every day. So instead of building up to that massive annual event, we are much more of a 24/7/365 thing."
Learning the ropes
"In terms of being 'Ronnie 2K,' I was definitely not a natural. It was trial by fire and took some time. I have learned a lot watching those videos from 15 years ago or whatever. I remember for 2K11, we put Michael Jordan on the cover and we had a launch event and, all of a sudden, like there were celebrities at our events. And there were superstars like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant showing up unannounced. And I was just handed a microphone and had to get these interviews no one had planned for done. So, I'm not going to lie, I had a couple of shots of liquid courage — tequila — and just went for it. Look, this 'Ronnie 2K' thing was not supposed to happen, but it came together in a really organic and authentic way because I love the game."
Getting a real job
"I just got married, and in my dad's speech, he said, 'We still have no idea what he does, but it looks cool.' It got a good laugh out of the crowd. So I actually was a really good student and got into law school. I took the LSATs and was going to be a lawyer. So I started working 80 hours a week — which I do constantly now, too — but it wasn't my passion. It was work, and I was like, 'I'm just not gonna settle for this.' I wanted to work in sports and luckily I had support from my parents. I mean, they weren't thrilled that all of a sudden I was gonna drop out of a top-five law school and give up a law career go work for a minor league women's basketball team. But I was in my twenties and I thought I'm gonna work as hard as I can, and if it doesn't work, I feel confident enough that I can pivot back. I think that some people just succumb to the pressure of I need to figure out a major and then figure out a career, and then I'm stuck in this career forever. It doesn't have to be that. You can chase your dreams. I've now been at 2K for 15 years. I'm not stuck in it. I love it for what I get to do and for the amazing people I get to work with."
The pace of innovation
"Which each new update, we want to be innovating a lot, but not innovating so much that it's surprising and confusing to the consumer. Striking that balance is always challenging because if you asked ten 2K fans which is their favorite version in terms of gameplay from the last ten years, you'll get ten different answers. So who are you listening to when it comes to what people really want? Ultimately, you just have to be confident in your choices based on your knowledge and history. Every consumer has their favorites, so your job is really just to put what you feel is the best product out there."
Ball is life
"People are sometimes surprised to learn that NBA players love playing 2K. Like, you assume that they would want a break from basketball when they are relaxing and gaming. But if you live and breathe that world, it is hard to separate. Our game is so intricate and involved that you really need to be part of it, you really do live the life of a basketball player. It's funny because I actually get reached out to a lot by NFL guys and I'm like, why don't they just play the football game? But I think everybody wants to be a basketball player. There's just a cultural coolness about it."
About Get a Real Job
Dan Bova, VP of Special Projects at Entrepreneur.com, has high-energy chats with entrepreneurs who are pursuing careers that their parents, teachers and any sane person in their life can't wait for them to quit and "get a real job." Everyone from comedians to treasure hunters to craft brewers will explain the ups and downs of doing something that is decidedly not normal, that doesn't have a guaranteed future, but damn is it fun in the meantime.
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