I'm a producer. I am a producer of video games. But what does this actually mean?
What do you do?
When people ask what I do for a living I will usually reply, "I'm a video game producer," or "I make video games." And then the most common responses are:
"Did you make Candy Crush? I've played that."
NOTE: this used to be - "Did you make Doom? I've heard of that."
I guess this dates me a bit.
Or they may ask,
"What games have you made?"
This question usually makes me wonder - often this is a person who does not play games so I wonder if it really matters what I answer.
The other common question is:
"So you play games all day?"
When I get this response I feel an obligation to give my profession to answer.
"No, we do not play games all day. Someone needs to make the games people play. And I am part of that team that makes the games."
But of course, there is much more to it than that. Given the chance, I try to explain what it exactly is that a producer does.
First, I usually state that I am a Senior Producer (heck, I put in the time to get the title, might as well use it). Then I quickly clarify,
"Senior Producer does not mean I am an old producer. It means I have more experience and responsibility than some other producers."
Well, that pretty much infers that I am older than other producers. And since I started in the video game profession in 1993, I probably am one of the older folks.
The quick answer
My quick answer for what a producer does is,
"The producer is responsible for everything," followed by,
"As a producer you worry a lot."
There is a team of talented people who are necessary to get a project done. The producer is just one of these people. The difference isthe producer is the one responsible for the end results.
Usually, if things are going well, the producer may not have much to do. Well, except worry about what may happen in the future and how can we solve those future problems, that haven't occurred yet, now.
The producer helps steer the ship, is on the lookout for icebergs, and whose job, with the help of the entire crew, is to make sure that ship gets to port on time, without accidents, and within budget.
The producer gene
In college there would always be one or two classes where the professor would assign a "group project." You and some other random people would be put together to work on something and your grade would be determined by the work the entire group turned in.
Inevitably there would always be one or two people in the group that wouldn't put the effort in. They seemed to breeze by without having to work hard and gotthe benefit of the work by the rest of the group.
One time I decided I wanted to be one of these "slackers." The group didn't know me; I could just sit back, not participate, not volunteer, and maybe get off doing little work but still get a decent grade. The group started and I followed my plan. But the group was clearly disorganized and not making much headway. I tried to stay firm, but after a while of the group floundering about, I sat up straight and took over.
A producer is someone who by nature wants to take charge. Put a handful of people in a room and give them a task. The producer, good or bad, will make his/herself known.