Think you might have what it takes to produce games? In this second installment of our Level Up Industry Lessons, we’ll be going over what a Video Game Producer does, and the requirements of what it takes to become one.
Meet the Video Game Producer
A video game producer’s role varies not only by studio, but every day at the studio.
Suppose one day you may be staying on schedule, but a programmer takes an unexpected sick day. The tech artist might be taking too much time on a certain piece. Perhaps that piece they were working on was in fact a low priority piece, because they misheard the production coordinator’s directions.
So maybe you need to fill in or pick up the slack in the programming team at the last minute. While you could tell the tech artist to pick up the pace, maybe show them what the expectations are for the quarter. You could have sworn you told the production coordinator what you wanted relayed to the team, but perhaps they thought they knew what you meant on one of the minor details. At the end of the day, the producer is the one held responsible for a project’s delivery – no matter what. The goal is to get every aspect of a game done on time (art, narrative, design, programming, sound, testing, localization) and all within budget.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Video game producers are master strategists who are calm under pressure. Whatever the developer needs, you can expect all studios to be looking for producers who are well-seasoned in project management. Throughout your experiences in the industry, you will learn how different work environments can affect progress, identifying the weak spots in a process, and how to improve upon it. Overall, the way a producer leads will determine the effectiveness and the work ethic of the entire team.
A producer needs to understand the progress of each department, and sometimes they may be entrusted with producing more than one game at a time. Developing multiple games in various stages of production is sometimes dedicated to a team, sometimes one team is responsible for all of those games simultaneously, depending on the size of the studio.
By learning the capabilities and limitations of each team, the producer will become more well-equipped on how to prevent obstacles just as she or he can overcome them – and even better, when to turn obstacles into opportunities. Above all else, producers are highly organized strategists, knowing each detail and how it contributes to the overall big picture. A deep understanding of project management and psychology is essential to the role.
While this position may come with a lot of red tape and potholes, understanding how your team(s) work together within those empty spaces can determine a project’s success. It is vital for aspiring producers to become acquainted with a plethora of technical skills. The “if all else fails, do it yourself” mindset will serve you and your team(s) well, but the team should never rely on this.
This can range from learning a coding language (C# or Python), knowing your way around an engine (Unity, Unreal), knowing a bit of 3D modeling, storyboarding for animation, or even video editing. Producers also would benefit from learning all of the phases of testing a game. However, the producer doesn’t need be a prodigy in these areas, but a good understanding of this variety will open more doors for you.
Video Game Producer Career Path
Producers embrace the creative, technical and business aspects of game development. An understanding of each stage is critical; learning about these stages is half the battle. Producers learn from experience working in various stages of development, while working in AAA studios to smaller indie teams. The typical track of becoming a producer can look something like this:
Game Tester – Quality Assurance – Assistant/Associate Producer – Lead Producer
However, this isn’t always the case. Certain studios require different skills from their producers, and it will depend on the game’s requirements. Some studios will require a producer to have experience shipping AAA console games, while another will need their producer to have experience in shipping licensed games. Another studio might be looking for a producer who is savvy with Unity, or a background in 3D animation – while other studios are in search of a producer who can do both.
No matter what, a producer maintains the morale of his team with organized and resourceful ingenuity.
Resources & Industry Advice
Game development might be one of the more competitive industries, but by no means is it impossible to break into. Experience is the universal language that all studios, whether indie or AAA, can understand and appreciate. In an evolving industry, it is vital for video game producers to continue to learn new techniques and learn emerging technology trends.
Being able to adapt to these constantly evolving roles is an essential art of being successful in this industry, especially since the responsibilities may vary from studio to studio. Collaborating with a team and the ability to communicate your ideas is not only required, but it is expected from a game producer. We had this in mind when creating our curriculum for our Game Design & Production program. Our classrooms simulate the studio environment that a producer needs to gain practice and experience – all the while gaining knowledge passed down by the instructors, who are industry experts in their field of study.
There are numerous paths when you’re looking to break into the gaming industry. Video Game Production is just one of these paths you can take, so stay tuned for our next part of this series: Level Up Industry Lesson: 3D Animator.