The video game producer’s role is as owner of a project, or a major part of a project. He or she has the responsibility of assembling and managing a team of engineers, designers and artists; outlining, scheduling and tracking tasks; and making sure the project is headed in the right direction.
The simplest way to describe what a game producer does is that he or she gets stuff done; they are the people who are responsible for making sure that a product gets made.
What does a Video Game Producer do?
In game development, there are many clear-cut roles: a programmer programs code; an artist creates art; an animator animates characters and objects; and a game tester tests games. A producer’s role, however, is not so well-defined. Duties will differ between studios and the video game producer’s expertise.
Video game producers are a little like book editors, a little bit like film producers, and a lot like product managers. They manage the production schedule, budget, development team, licensors, and outsourcing parties. They also work with public relations and the media, quality assurance teams, and are an integral part in getting a project green-lit. It’s also the producer’s job to help guide the project toward meeting a shelf date. If the date is missed, it’s the video game producer’s job to work with public relations to release a reasonable excuse for the delay.
A producer must be proficient in both speech and the written word. Video game producers interact with various departments and the people within them, each department having their own way of communicating with the video game producer. Producers must be able to speak everyone’s language and translate between departments when needed.
Producers must also be comfortable speaking in front of groups and a camera. In this role, it is necessary to stand in front of industry executives and sell them on whatever it is the producer needs approval on. This means being enthusiastic, well-spoken, understandable, witty, and, most of all, confident.
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What is the workplace of a Video Game Producer like?
Video game producers often attend industry yearly conventions like E3 and GDC, and go on press tours and meet all the editors from the major media outlets. They also need to attend many business meetings to keep abreast of what is going on. Producers have their fair share of overtime; they're constantly putting out fires; and feel obligated to keep an eye on things even when they're not working.
Today we’re speaking with Frank Rogan, a veteran video game producer and senior producer. Frank has worked on many game titles including Enter the Matrix, Gears & Guts, and the Total Annihilation series.
It’s the love of intricacy and detail, along with an appreciation for a well-made product, that makes me love being a video game producer. I’m like a mechanic. Separate, tiny parts, connecting in intricate patterns, combining to form something much more grand and impressive—that’s what I love, whether we’re talking cars or games.
Most casual observers understand the role of a programmer, an artist, or even a sound engineer, but the word “producer” is more vague. They… produce things? What does that even mean? Are they the ones in charge? Do they make all the creative decisions? Pull all the strings? What do they do, exactly?
As a video game producer for Zombie Studios, John E. Williamson works on all the different aspects of bringing a whole new world into existence. As we’ll see, the job isn’t all fun and games, but it is pretty darn cool.