My Job as a Game Producer
Since I was very young I always wanted to be a part of either the animation or gaming industry and it was around the time that I graduated from school that I ended up choosing the latter.
I also saw myself as either a future animator or as a game designer; funny enough, I ended up studying Computer Engineering at my university. This was not a random choice as one of my objectives was to be able to make games on my own, being able to draw a bit, having taken animation courses here and there, programming was the last skill I felt I needed.
However there was another job I never even considered: being a producer, the job I do nowadays.
The role of a producer, unlike game designer or concept artist for example, is not that strange for outsiders to the gaming industry. It is used in many other fields. From movies to music, there are producers everywhere; but, what does a game producer do? They don’t write the code for the game, they don’t draw the assets and they are not directly responsible for the game mechanics either. Some people might even think they do not contribute to the game development process. Thinking that would be a mistake.
During my years working as a producer at LEAP I have learned a lot about what a producer does or who a producer is in his or her professional life. Game producers represent the serious part of the gaming industry. They are the ones in charge of the process that turn ideas into products people can enjoy. We go to meetings with clients and publishers, we build schedules and we make sure everyone finishes their tasks in time.
Even if we end up having some delays, producers are the ones that have to face the aforementioned clients and publishers and explain what happened, what went wrong, and make sure the team has a way to fix it. Not the most glamorous job in the industry for sure; but it sure is important.
Being a producer, I learned that game development is not only about having a great idea and sitting in front of your PC. It’s about choosing the many steps needed to make this idea into a reality. And said steps must be chosen in an organized and methodical way.
Without order things will get out of control, without a long term plan you will lose time deciding what to do next, and without a schedule you might never see the light at the end of the tunnel of game development. Planning and executing those steps help you stay focused on the task at hand and avoid being lost. It takes away the feeling of just working by instinct and gives you a radar.
On that last note, producing has also taught me how to keep my feet grounded on reality. Many creative people would love to keep working on their great ideas forever or for as long as possible. Sure, sometimes it is good to take our time getting things right; but even more often it is better to realize that projects have an objective and that a team works towards a goal: shipping a game. Whether we want to or not, that game cannot stay in the oven forever.
You learn to prioritize. Some ideas have to be abandoned if they are too hard to implement or if they simply take too long, some others might sound great on paper but they simply don’t work well with the rest of the game. Many seasoned game designers know this, but if that’s not the case, a producer might need to step in on behalf of the project and it’s schedule.
It is a lot of responsibility for sure and sometimes you might be tempted to just sit back and let your team decide what works and what not; but I believe producers are creators themselves and must also be a part of the process from the very beginning, and if they know something will not work it is their duty to let their voice and authority be heard. Producers must also learn to adapt to their game’s needs.
In many ways the producer is the face of the team, not the famous face (maybe in some interviews with the press) as that job usually goes to designers and creative directors. But the day-to-day job has taught me that, when it comes to being held accountable for the wellbeing of a game, the producer will likely be the first to answer, specially in a small indie studio, and that is definitely respected among your peers and members of the industry.
I’ve been to E3 and GDC and was lucky enough to meet many producers there. Seeing how they can stand in front of hundreds of people in behalf of their studios and their games says a lot about their work and the role of leaders they usually take. These people might no longer be programming, drawing or designing, but they might just be the beacon that keeps those teams from drifting away and keeps them on the right track. I know it might sound dumb, but that’s how I saw it back then.
Today, I may be just a rookie at this and might not end up following the path of the producer forever; but I am proud of our role in the industry and what we can achieve with the right team by our side.