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Brand New in the field - Game Production

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Hi Everyone,

 

I am in the mere beginning stages of attempting to enter into the video game industry. I have an MBA and have had significant experience in other private sectors which I believe have given me the skills to become a great producer, that is, with training and hard work. But unfortunately, I have zero experience in game production and development. I have started learning some coding (Java, C++, Python) on my own. I am also considering getting certified in Scrum, just so I can get some knowledge in a common Project Management system. My questions are the following:

 

Should my next steps be learning Design? How would I go about doing that? (Should I purchase software and play around with it)

Should I get certified in Scrum?  I know most companies are using some type of Agile methodology. Are there better realistic choices?

Once I have some education of game development, should I start building my own game? Will this give me the experience needed to appease recruiters for Producer positions?

 

Again, I am an absolute "newb" to this field, but I am determined to become a producer and will do what it takes to get there. I really appreciate any advice you all can give. Thanks!

 

Cassandra

 

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Hmm. I can see how my post might be misleading. I definitely mean Video Game Producer. I understand that they don't develop anything in that position. I am just trying to familiarize myself with the various departments that I would be communicating and working with. To be honest, I'm just trying to gain some sort of experience that will help me get my foot in the door.

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cscheer, I understand why you are contemplating learning programming: so you can communicate meaningfully with programmers. I think taking one programming course, or programming something in Pygame, could be helpful.
I think getting a Scrum certification could be helpful too - but you need to understand that most game studios use their own scrumlike-but-not-quite-scrum methodology.
But the main thing holding you back is that you haven't worked on a game. It might be useful to join up with an amateur indie team, if one will have you (most don't see a need for a "Producer"), or even to work for a while in game Quality Assurance. Recommended reading (besides that Wikipedia article already posted) is my article at http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson42.htm
And have you watched the Extra Credits video, "So You Want To Be A Producer"?


And, lest we forget, do you live within daily commuting distance from some game companies? http://www.sloperama.com/advice/m84.htm Edited by Tom Sloper

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Hi

 

First of all - people skills! Network, get to know other developers and build a network in the industry. This won't land you a job immediately, but it will help you understand the role of a game producer in different companies. It can vary a lot! 

A second good point with people skills, it's a job that manages people, and people are sometimes difficult. It's important to understand that the job of a game producer is much more projecting vision, plan and goals rather than creating project plans and sitting in sprint plannings.

 

Learn to understand all disciplines, you don't need to excel in any. Taking a programming course or two might help you, but I don't think it is what will land you the job, even if it will help you.

Most producers actually start out as something else, QA, art, programming, whatever. Then they realize that the fun part of their job is not the actual implementation but the process around the implementation. As a producer you must love the journey as much as the end goal and coach people to get there while adhering to the vision and design for the game. Learn to facilitate change and accept that it will happen.

 

Now that's enough "fluff", here are some practical tips:

 

  • Get Scrum certified, as mentioned earlier most game companies don't adapt Scrum 100%, but always parts of it
  • Get project management experience in similar fields (IT, other creative fields such as advertising, vfx, film production)
  • Get involved in game development in any way you can, do pro-bono work and network
  • Do be prepared to start from the bottom and work your way up
  • You mentioned you have an MBA and experience from other sectors, maybe try another field in game development (finance?) and then work your way into production. Game studios are companies too and that requires the "boring" stuf

 

I've been in game production for about 10 years now and I love it, it takes a lot of work but I can tell you it's worth it! The ride is the fun part.

  •  
Edited by recycled

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Interesting. For starters, I think you have relevant experience and a good mindset: trying to find a way to communicate with people is critical, and often overlooked by most (at least, in my area), but as Tom pointed out, you're missing hands-on experience with actual development of product, in this case, games. I can't speak for other industries in software, but my impression is that games, moreso than any other related industry, require hands-on experience more than general qualifications.

Case in point: I've seen a lot more QA, programmers, designers, etc. promoted to Video Game Producer (or assistant producer) than I've seen successful producers coming in from other industries. And of the few that I did see come in, almost all were eventually let go.

That being said, I have yet to see a humble aspiring producer that has your instincts.

 

I know some (such as Tom) may disagree with my suggestion, but I believe it remains a valid one, and that it worked for many people, including myself. I shipped myself to this industry with no hands-on experience and started as a QA (you can see some of that possibly still pinned in these boards) roughly 6 years ago. I believe QA is a right fit, if perhaps quite a hit from a hierarchical standpoint, simply because it forces you to look at the end-product (games) under a much different light. If you're curious enough, it leads to a lot of learning and some great opportunities (I was a coordinator after roughly a year).

 

I'm not suggesting you take the path of QA, but possible, apply for a position that is not directly tied with running the project. A QA director/lead position, or translation assistant project management position could be a great fit as it would put you in direct contact with the project and the learning curve would lessen if only by osmosis with the environment.

 

If you intend on going head-first into production though, here is how I'd recommend going about it:

 

- You need design experience? Try to describe a game you know in over 1 and under 5 pages by breaking down the mechanics. Flowcharts may be relevant, but you can forego wireframing, etc. Stick to the essential. This won't make you a game designer, but it will help you struggle with some of their challenges (and remember, that's based on a game that exists!) All the software you need: Microsoft Word, or Open Office.

 

- Scrum Certification? In my own experience, a lot of employers appreciate the fact they can send some of their employees to these, as it gives them some form of PR, but they rarely hire based on it. More importantly, the people they send, they know they don't need to be afraid they could get "brainwashed". Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with Scrum, but it is very rarely applied "as is" (and much less in servicing-based studios).

 

- Building your own game is a plus, but perhaps more on a personal level. I don't think you can easily "cash in" that kind of experience in an interview, especially if all the examples you have to talk about come from a single game project. That being said, once you DO get a job, it will make things easier for sure. I've used Unity for a bit now, and it's an engine that has gained a lot of popularity, so on most of the projects I work on, I tend to understand very quickly what we're talking about and it saves hours in meetings! (that's profitability/value right there that upper management can't deny).

 

A bit more on the interview (anyone feel free to jump in).

I think what you'll need to do is find creative ways in which your current experience is relevant to the role. This won't be easy, but focusing on resource management, conflict resolution, timeline management, etc. could help a lot.

Is there overtime in your field? If so, is this passed down from upper management, or do you have a say in this? Do you call for overtime or try to avoid it? Are you able to lift your team above expectations? How? etc.

 

If you can keep the discussion flowing around what you CAN do and are honest about what you have to learn, then there might be a business in a precarious situation that may be willing to take a risk with you. 

Any studios local to you? Willing to move?

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I know some (such as Tom) may disagree with my suggestion, but I believe it remains a valid one, and that it worked for many people, including myself. I shipped myself to this industry with no hands-on experience and started as a QA (you can see some of that possibly still pinned in these boards) roughly 6 years ago. I believe QA is a right fit, if perhaps quite a hit from a hierarchical standpoint, simply because it forces you to look at the end-product (games) under a much different light. If you're curious enough, it leads to a lot of learning and some great opportunities (I was a coordinator after roughly a year).


I do not disagree. As an entry pathway, QA has tremendous value that many don't appreciate fully. I know at least one guy, perhaps several, who started in QA and went on to be a producer in multiple AAA projects.

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Thank you everyone for your thoughtful and informative responses. Throughout my research of the industry and the position itself, I have realized that directly going into an Assistant Producer position is practically impossible with my limited experience in game development. I am now realistically looking at finding a QA tester position in the near future as a way to get my foot in the door. 

 

Unfortunately, I am currently in Seoul, South Korea. Amazingly, the gaming industry is great here; however, I do not speak the language. So therefore, getting a QA testing job here is just as impossible. I am planning on coming back to the states next  year and plan to move to a location more suited for my career goals. I was considering Seattle. What do you think? I really can't afford San Francisco, and I really would prefer to be on the west coast. (I've lived in Missouri for over 10 years, and I'm a bit over the Midwest). 

 

Most importantly, do you have any advice on what I can do in the meantime? Is there something that can show me how to effectively QA a game? I have been playing with Unity and completing the tutorials, which I have found very enjoyable, as well as continuing my programming education. 

 

Again, I really appreciate everyone's advice. Thanks!

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Hi Cassandra,

 

This may or may not apply, but two of the key skillsets that were covered in my original QA interview were:

 

- Can you write a critic / review of an existing game, that is, write good and proper english (that should not be a problem) and list actual issues in the game with a jargon that is as close as possible as to what the dev team would employ (get acquainted with terms that are likely to get used within the industry). Focus on the bugs you see, describe them and tell whether that makes for a 'poor' product. A QA's responsibility is to bring awareness to flaws within the product so that the project manager in charge can make decisions based on qualitative and quantitative information (number of crashes, likelihood they will occur, graphical glitches, walkthrough 'breaks', etc.)

 

- Learn the controllers (by heart if possible). A QA will be expected to know the button's names (a,b, or square triangle, etc.) Learn it :)

 

Two of my close friends are coming back from Seoul just now. Small world eh!

Best of luck!

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Unfortunately, I am currently in Seoul, South Korea. Amazingly, the gaming industry is great here; however, I do not speak the language. So therefore, getting a QA testing job here is just as impossible.

Not speaking the language would also make it impossible for you to get work as an assistant producer. Being fluent in English can be a plus for something like Localization QA, but a Korean hirer would need you to also be able to communicate in Korean.

I am planning on coming back to the states next  year and plan to move to a location more suited for my career goals. I was considering Seattle. What do you think?

I think you should read my articles on Location, Location, Location and Decision Grids. You should check out gamedevmap and gameindustrymap, and make a decision based on solid information.
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/m84.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/m70.htm
http://gamedevmap.com/
http://www.gameindustrymap.com/

Also worth mentioning: the low wages in QA. While QA has value as an entry pathway, it doesn't pay enough to support a family in an expensive area, and singles may need to live with paying roommates. Edited by Tom Sloper

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