What does a Producer do in Video Games?

If you know the expression “herding cats”, you already know half of what a Producer’s role is, and the challenges that come with the job.

Much like a conductor guiding an orchestra, the producer keeps each part of the development in sync and on task, when it comes to creating and launching video games. Instead of different orchestra sections, the producer conducts different teams, like designers, engineers, translators, etc. so that together, they produce an extraordinary experience for the end recipient, the gamer.

The Producer’s first priority is the Project, specifically its journey to completion. Even if a producer is dedicated to a single team, the project itself is still the foundation for setting priorities and making decisions. This might sound a bit harsh, but keep in mind that the project is nothing without its people, so it comes full circle, and a good producer knows that if the people are doing well, the project will benefit.

Producers are guardians of the Big Picture. The artists need to focus on their art, the developers need time to code, and so on. It is easy to lose sight of what everyone else is doing, when you are focused on your own work. That is where the Producer comes in as the Big Picture expert, to make sure no one falls victim to tunnel vision, Feature Creep, gets blocked by unsolved bugs, or prioritizes work that isn’t needed quite yet.

Producers are facilitators. You make sure deliveries and timelines align across teams, sprints and milestones, and you do this by assisting those doing the work. Here are 5 ways this might play out.

  1. You help plan the work and prioritize items that will move other teams forward as well, before doing other things. Part of that is also following up and poking team members to do boring things, like write reports or updating their work items.
  2. You sit in on a LOT of meetings, so you get a good idea of what is going on at a high level, and you can relate anything important back to the team. I like to say, sometimes the producer’s job is to have their time wasted, so the real talent doesn’t have to.
  3. Running interference is related to the previous item. Some people like to go straight to the source, without checking whether the source has time. The producer can step in as a temporary gatekeeper. You take the questions or request, so that you remain in the loop, and if work was requested, you ensure it doesn’t get put ahead of the planned work (unless warranted, of course).
  4. You take charge without being the boss. You run meetings with all sorts of people, and you can’t be too intimidated by asking senior leadership questions, or questioning the priorities of a team lead, if it doesn’t fit with the overall progress. Running meetings also means making sure all agenda items are covered in the available time, notes are taken, and follow up is done.
  5. You’re a support class, to use gaming terminology. You make the others be all they can be by propping them up. Think like a healer, not like a tank. Strategy beats brute force when it comes to getting a game shipped. Especially if you’re like me, meaning strictly anti-crunch. Cheer your team on, and be ready step in with a quick heal or buff at any time.

What a (good) producer doesn’t do, is force everyone to follow their way, whether we are talking about prioritizing work, deciding how to track it, or anything else. You’re a facilitator, not a dictator.

For example, if everyone hates working in Jira don’t force people to use it. Find a tool that works with minimal frustration. People don’t have to love it, but you can do better than something they hate. For the record, I am a big fan of Jira. I only use it in this example, because it’s a tool many are familiar with.

That’s the high level look at what producers do. There are many approaches to the how things are done, but they all roughly try to achieve what I’ve outlined here. I will be writing more about producing games in the future, so leave me your questions in a comment or ping me on social media.

By Rasmus

Nerd and immigrant who uses words, pictures and sound to tell stories.


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