I find it odd that in this white collar world we live in, we still lack the definition what a good EP, Producer, or Project Manager really is. Yes, it’s nice to get in front of a whiteboard and infect the meeting room with ‘vision’ but let’s be frank, vision means nothing if there isn’t solid basics behind it. I’ve seen Producers and PMs come and go, and despite what most in the industry think, a good Producer/PM will save time, money and resources company wide…if they’re allowed to.
Good Producers (Project Managers, etc.) are not leaders in front of the pack, but the humble mechanic is the guts of the machine. They are the under appreciated glue that must think quick on their feet and, if they are doing their gig right, are virtually invisible when a project is in full swing. They are the ‘face’ because they have to be. They are the ‘bad cop’ when they need to be, but most importantly of all, they are a vacuum of knowledge when they aren’t around.
So what makes a good Producer or Project Manager? Well… let’s see!
For A GREAT Producer: The Most Expensive
- Github | Bitbucket Account (Technical knowledge) – Technical Rapport: I learned this from an engineer. Engineers now no longer respect producers who don’t have SOME tech chops. Sites Like Udemy, Code Academy, etc. have too many resources to for one to say: ‘I don’t know what that is.’ What to be friends with your designers and engineers? Show them ‘Teh Bucket’.
- Example Project Plans – Organization: Specifically Scrum, kanban or some sort of translatable plan with organizational visuals. If they are Senior, they need to show or explain Post Mortem/ Project close out protocol and descriptions of wire frames that will be archived for future project slates. Budget examples? Bonus points.
- Volunteer | Ludum Dare | Game Jam experience – Passion: This will show you passion for gaming and long term commitment because they are not looking for a job. For instance, I’ve done a few game jams, but I’ve also modded (still do) SF4 joysticks, hacked PSPs, got into the IOS Jailbreaking scene and Cyanogen (Android). This will show they have a passion to make games good, general team work and the thirst to make the industry better without talking about it. This also shows creativity, experimentation and general moxy, and my goodness, isn’t that what Fortune 500 companies complain about? Not having enough brain trust?
- A Blog that’s Consistently Updated| Social Media |or Youtube – Communication: What is your producer doing to improve their skills and the lives of others? How are they relaying the information? Is it worthwhile? Even if their blog doesn’t get much traffic, if their information and writing skills are awesome, then they will be even more awesome relaying information to the team, execs and press if need be. This is also great for the hiring and firing process.
- Tester Experience – Consumer Knowledge: A LOT of Producers, Designers, Artists and Engineers have degrees, but do not have QA experience. This is a bad thing. Especially for console, this can lack of skill can hemorrhage money and kill a project when Cert comes around. My husband and I are of the last class of industry folks that worked our way through the bowels of the machine, but almost everyone I worked with are either Senior, Leads, CTOs, have their own companies, or are Consultants. We ALL were testers first, so we know what to look for, how to dig in if need be and we don’t use our position to skirt the project. A lot of us know ‘TITLES’ are BS and test is the last, and most important gate, since they are the direct link to the consumer. Seriously, if you meet a Producer who has test experience, I guarantee they will have nearly all of the above because they have gaming love coursing through their veins. Most testers last 1 year and quit; it’s the hardest, most under appreciated job in gaming, or any tech industry. Yes, Ladies and Gents, Grandma’s Boy is more powerful than what meets the eye.
For A Good Producer: You should have 3/5 above. Middle Tier Expense
For An Average Producer: You should have 2/5 above. Low Tier Expense
Now, this is my opinion, but looking back at my career, I’ve seen many a Project Manager and Executive Producer come and go. Many larger companies can hire mediocre/sorta okay staff because they have the slush to pay for their mishaps. A good Producer for small teams, indie companies and start ups can propel their team to greatness.
TL:DR: A good producer SERVES; they never LEAD.