GameDev Thoughts: The Realities Of Being An Indie Game Producer

Being a producer could be the epitome of doing a ton of work and getting no credit. Remember that team project you worked on in high school? Congratulations! You have now elected yourself the leader of that group. Without fail some people will be a joy to work with while others will be a pain. Your primary responsibility being the leader of this group is serving as a liaison being different departments and roles, so that your game ships on time without costing you and your team too much money. In this role you have to essentially rally the troops and get everyone on the same page, which is easier said than done. Serving on the art team or programming side of things in a previous job or role will give you the ability to empathize and see another person’s point of view when they are begging you to add another feature or art concept.

It is no surprise that many prospective gaming students would rather be a designer or programmer rather than a producer. In the gaming industry, today’s producer has a set of fluctuating expectations and job duties. It does not sound nearly as creative or tech-savvy as either of the job titles above. Job titles can range from Junior Producer or Associate Producer to just Producer at some companies. That, combined with the fact that a producer has an enormous amount of responsibility on their hands makes being a producer hard if the project fails. If that game does not ship or if you run out of money, those two failures fall directly on the producer.

Essentially, being a producer is being a manager. The biggest struggle with being a producer is knowing how to manage your time. Since you are in charge of a group of people and not just yourself, learning how to effectively delegate will serve you well since the success of the project depends on the success of the team. Also, you’ll do well to automate certain processes and learn how to setup reminders to keep you and your team on track. With so many things going on it can be easy for a deadline or demo to slip your mind. Take some time each week to update your calendar with your goals and expectations. Keep communication with your team consistent and clear, and make sure to hit those internal deadlines!

Overall, being a producer can teach you a ton about yourself, what you can and cannot handle, how you manage stress and so on and so forth. Producers many times get a negative reputation due to the nature of their job. That does not necessarily make them bad people. They have one objective and one objective only: to get that game out there to the public by eliminating roadblocks and effectively coordinating a team.

Important Takeaways: Being a producer is harder than what it seems. Kudos to you if this is an occupation you want to pursue. In the end it will teach you how to both work with a team and effectively manage a team. Exemplifying great leadership abilities while showing stellar time management skills is an absolute must. While you may not necessarily get the credit you deserve in this occupation (the glory usually goes to the creative director in larger studios, or the game designers in the smaller studios), you will definitely learn many intangible soft skills that you can take with you to any job. Knowing how to talk to people, work with a team and taking some initiative without having to be handheld are all traits employers look for. Ultimately, your end goal as being a producer is to “produce” the game — getting it past the finish line. If you can do this within a reasonable time frame and on budget, you have succeeded in your mission. Keep your eye on the prize and do not get bogged down with scope creep.