So.. You Want To Be a Game Producer?

I'm often asked how to get into the games business, but what if you want to become a successful games producer like me?  The following is a typical reply that I give in response to such inquiries in email or at talks I give; note that I reference organizations - these are in Utah, so if you have any suggestions for ones in other parts of the world that you have found useful, please do send them my way and I will add them.

Before thinking qualification, get some experience; it frankly matters more and will help you decide if you really want to do this. 

First – grab the materials from my website that I reference in my talks -- http://www.guv1.com/jonblogs/handouts -- these will serve not only as a reminder but also the ‘references’ doc includes organizations, books you should read, etc. 

Second -- using that material, attend meetings of the local groups and any others you can find; good for networking but in particular, you’re looking for collaborators: most universities have groups of would-be-game developers, for example.  Get involved with a team and begin to practice.

Third -- read the books I listed as I found them all really useful.  Perhaps start with the Game Production Handbook https://www.amazon.com/Production-Handbook-Heather-Maxwell-Chandler/dp/1449688098/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1518134665&sr=1-1&keywords=the+game+production+handbook&dpID=518Hqak6ItL&preST=_SX218_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch  -- I don’t agree with everything Heather writes, but different studios do things differently (you say tomatoes, I say tomatoes…ok, that doesn’t work when written down but you get the idea) – and this is a pretty comprehensive study guide for everything you’ll need to be familiar with to be an effective producer.

Fourth – should you get a qualification? Know that hands-on experience matters a TON for would-be employers; getting a qualification in games production doesn’t have quite the value it should, mostly because so few of the courses are actually taught by… experienced games producers (so the piece of paper isn't much of a guarantee of anything for a would-be employer).  So should you decide to ratchet up student loans for such a qualification, check out the faculty that will be teaching you, especially how many commercial games they have shipped, size of teams they managed, platforms worked on… you know, experience (more than student games, titles you might have heard of).  A program that offers would-be producers the chance to actually work with a live student team and publish one or more actual games before graduation is preferable (such as the University of Utah's EAE program).  Noting that some of the larger game studios prefer someone with a degree, remember that because there are so few useful ones for production, in reality, they’re saying they want people who have attained a certain educational standard – as such, it doesn’t really matter what, but I would suggest a degree involving technology in some way is helpful.  If you have production experience (say through smaller studios) then they won’t really care if you don’t have a degree.

Fifth – can you become a producer through another game dev discipline? Yes, of course. Many get there by starting out in a QA role and demonstrating their value to a  studio through offering ideas, suggestions, organizational skills and generally a comfort level with game teams.  In my experience artists sometimes become producers, programmers rarely: the reason is, I suspect (huge generalization coming up), that artists and producers prefer to focus on one thing at a time, obsessing over the detail with that one thing until it is done (which they need to and is what makes them great at what they do). Producers have to manage a wider spectrum of tasks simultaneously - think of the plate-spinning trick, running between each of them as needs be (don’t let any plates fall!), giving them all attention. Still detail oriented but adaptable and OK with multitasking. I find people are hard wired to be one or the other.

Do please share your additional thoughts and experiences!