Thursday, December 1, 2011

Questions for Being Producer

I have always been a fan of Extra Credits. If you are not familiar with this web series then you should spend the next few minutes watching some of their videos. Each video takes a deep look into the issues the plague the video game industry or things that you have not thought about. A few weeks ago they did one about being a video game producer. There are some great bits of information and even with my short time as a producer, I can vouch for it all. Below are some questions that should help you onto your path of being a producer.

How comfortable are you with shades of grey? That is to say, how comfortable are you with nebulous situations? For example, how do you measure a coder's efficiency? Compared to 3D Modelers, who have more visual results, it is rather hard to figure out how coders are doing, aside from asking other coders.

How are your comprehension and context skills? When your team is going through a hard time of development, you will have to be able to look at the symptoms and piece together a solution. The higher ups are not interested in the symptoms as much as they are interested in knowing the root cause and the solution.

How are you with teams? Are you a great motivator? Team management skills are important. Being able to boost their moral is important. For example, lets say your team has been failing sprints/development cycles (will explain later) for quite a while. The team will be start to loose cohesion and motivation will fall to the wayside. As a producer, you will need to find ways of bringing them back together. If this happens, set up small goals that the team can accomplish. It will take time but the team will come back full force.

Can you be firm? When something needs to get done, can you firmly tell your team that it needs to be done and still get team buy in? Different times during development, the higher ups may pass down some policies that the team will need to start following. In these times you will have to explain that this is the new way of doing it but more importantly explain why they are doing it.

What about when you want to test a theory with your team? For example, you want them to try doing something before another thing. The best solution for this is to explain to the team your observations, explain the proposed solution and ask their opinion. The key to this is to explain your ideas and answer the why. If the team does not understand the why it won't be ask effective.

How good are you in asking questions? This may seem silly at first but a great questions can get the team on the right track/frame of mind. If I was to ask you "why is the sky blue", what would your answer be? Now, what about if I asked you "what color is the sky?" What is your answer now? Do you see the difference between the two questions?

As a side note, you will get asked the "what should I do" question. It will show up in different variations but it it will show up. The best answer, although it seems like a jerk move, is "what do you think?" Pay attention to their response as this person is usually the subject matter expert. They will know better on how to solve the problem than you will, most of the time.

Lastly, how well can you be involved in a conversation while not being involved? One of the things that producers will need to do is to be able to hold, direct and coordinate meetings. While in meetings, your team might wonder off the main point onto another subject. It is your responsibility to get the team back on track.If you get too involved with the conversation, you may not notice it going off track. FYI, programmers love to debug code while in meetings.

These questions should start you down your path of being a producer.

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