Producing games is an art. There are so many pitfalls, so many ways in which creating a super complex, massive, hulking piece of software can go wrong with no possible way of redemption that getting a game out the door is often a miracle in itself. There’s useful best practice out there to follow but when all is said and done, it boils down to your personality as a producer and how you interact with the personalities around you that dictates how you and your team make a game.
That right there, in the paragraph above is the most important aspect of games production to grasp. More important than whether or not you can talk for hours about MS Project, Kanban or Scrum. If you’re managing a team, I want to know that you’re doing it as you – not someone you think you should be. As a producer in the games industry, you manage very smart, very savvy and sometimes very passionate people and you’ve got to respect that. They smell a fake a mile away and they don’t like it. Be honest, be true to what you believe and try to have fun doing it.
I kind of got thrown in at the deep end in games production; I was given a project with more system SKUs than I had programmers and told to get on with it. It was new tech for the company, it featured new platforms, it was mostly staffed by new hires and it was for a tiny, tiny, fricking excruciatingly small budget for a publisher that had ideas of hitting the big time. Although we eventually managed to ship the game (just about) on time, it was a harsh learning curve and from that point on I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to improve my knowledge of games production. Continuing to learn the mechanics of your profession is always time well spent but I went a step further and also spent months, if not years trying to make myself someone I wasn’t and that turned out to be a misstep. I wanted to be tougher – a single minded vision holder, more of a dictator, more like Steve Jobs. It turns out that this just isn’t me and I wasted a lot of energy trying to make smart people do things they weren’t convinced about because that’s who I wanted to be.
What I eventually discovered was that I actually already had the tools to be a good producer, it just wasn’t the producer I’d imagined. I’m good at listening. I’m a good diplomat and collaborator. I’m really good at shouldering responsibility and bringing others along with me and that’s allowed me to produce a bunch of games on time, on spec and on budget at the same time as maintaining the respect of the people I work with. I’m not saying that being a dictator is bad, it absolutely works for some people but it wasn’t me and trying to be something I wasn’t weakened me as a leader and an organiser.
Whatever else I say in this blog, take away the solemn fact that you can learn all you want about pipelines and spreadsheets but if you aren’t comfortable in who you are, if you aren’t comfortable that how you think and what you believe can be used to make games and make them better then you’re in the wrong job.