Learning to Produce
The capstone unit of the Games and Interactive Environments course (QUT) spans two semesters, emulating a professional game development process. The final deliverable is a high-fidelity game experience, suitable for presentation at the QUT capstone showcase (31st October).
Thus far the experience has been an exceptional learning opportunity, but also quite challenging. I am the producer for my team and I have found that there is no cut and dried formula for developing the skills required for the role. For me this has meant a lot of learning on the fly, asking for help and a persistent feeling that I’ve forgotten something.
These inherent uncertainties can be a real hurdle when starting out, and so I wanted to share a few of the lessons I’ve gleaned. My hope is that other fledgling producers may find this both useful and encouraging.
Until the capstone unit, it had never stuck with me how important and powerful managing time really is. When coordinating a group over a fixed timeline it is an absolute necessity. It pays to do some research into effective work styles and project management tools.
It is also important to temper discipline with realism. Any plan is only as effective as your ability to execute upon it. When time blocking, try and think about how the worker will be feeling at that specific time. Get to know how your team likes to work both individually and collaboratively. Take what works for you, leave what doesn’t and always critically self-reflect. Time management should be in service to the individual, never the other way around.
Meetings are an essential part of planning, assigning tasks and resolving issues. They allow for direct and decisive communication, but risk being derailed by general discussions and side chatter. This isn’t inherently a problem, but considering factors such as milestones, you want to be using your time as efficiently as possible.
Establishing an agenda and desired outcome for meetings helps to keep discussion on track, and meeting durations efficient. Defined start and end times is especially useful framing for tracking a meeting. Nobody wants to use 60% of a meeting to resolve 10% of the objectives.
As you accumulate knowledge and apply it as skill, you become increasingly adept at your role. This will hopefully build on itself to the point where you are wholly invested in your work and want to do the absolute best you can. This is an incredibly fulfilling mindset and should be embraced to the fullest.
However, there is an aspect of wanting to do well that can be blinding. Always strive for excellence, but also be wary of putting your process over required objectives. Planning and presentation are important, but ultimately doing is what delivers.
There are any number of qualities that make for a good producer, but a producer’s strengths are entirely contingent on how well they interact with their team. Consequently, I believe trust is the number one dynamic a producer needs to foster.
Trust that the team members can depend on each other to deliver. Trust that mistakes will be met with understanding, and a willingness for resolution. And trust that each individual is a valued and respected member of the whole. And trust is what carries teams through to finally finishing their game and making all the hard toil worth it.