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  • For the Love of All Games: How Catherine Herdlick Broke Into the Industry

    [09.04.07]
    - Jill Duffy

  •  CH: I was a babysitter for a long time. I was a waitress. I worked at a movie theater when I lived in Boston because I wasn't earning enough money and needed some supplemental income.

    GCG: Is there anything you can take from those part-time jobs that you can use now, like a skill or a way of being around people?

    CH: I did definitely! With babysitting, I love spending time around kids because they're uninhibited. They're excellent feedback systems. They're just raw feedback about whatever's happening whether it's good or bad.

    It depends on how young they are, but I was with very little kids. It sort of makes you spontaneous, which I think is really important in the workplace, particularly as a role as a producer. Things are popping up all the time, like fires to put out.

    GCG: What's the best thing about being in a producer-type role?

    CH: One is working with all the different people and making sure the people are communicating with each other.My two favorite things are talking with the people and knowing everything that's going on. Having an intimate understanding of the audio and the visual and the game design and how the programming is working out -- is it robust or buggy? Is the programmer having problems? Having a read of the pulse of everything that's going on in development at any given time.

     

    Also, not just knowing it, but using it to make sure everybody else who needs to know something knows it. You need to make sure people are talking to each other and that there aren't any gaps in communication.

    The reason I like that is because when I do that effectively, work is more efficient and people are happier. I like that aspect of being responsible for knowing the status of everything on the project at any given moment and using that to prevent problems.

    GCG: This may be a bit of an over-inflated stereotype, but is it a control issue?

    CH: Well, I definitely have a controlling personality! (laughs) That's no secret.

    It's great to have an outlet for it in my career where it's productive instead of trying to control my friends or other things in my life that I cannot control.

    It's also been a challenge. One of the reasons I am really liking agile development is learning to feel comfortable with a certain amount of chaos and understanding that that's a part of it, an important part of it. I've gotten better at that over the years, too, understanding that I can't control everything.

    GCG: What's the worst part about being a producer?

    CH: The worst part about being a producer is kind of related to the control issue. Part of control is wanting everybody to agree a lot of the time, and wanting to diffuse every situation. Hearing every one's opinions about something, particularly management or a publisher's concerns, or when we get to that point, the portal's concerns about the game, and distilling -- knowing that somebody's going to be disappointed. Either the team is going to have to do a lot of work, or you have to say no to the publisher. The communicating is fun, but also really really stressful.

    Sometimes a compromise is worse than your way or their way. Dealing with things like that is the worst part.

    The other worst part is dealing with turnover. Any time there's turnover, be it in a publisher, in the team, a feature, in the design, it just ends up always being really stressful and disruptive.

    GCG: Who do you interact with the most?

    CH: Probably the game designer. It depends on the project and also the phase of the project. Sometimes it's the publisher, and sometimes it's constant conversations with the publisher, particularly during beta to gold. You're discussing what can be done in the time remaining. And asking them for our check!

    A lot of the time I'm communicating with the publisher when I'm not directly communicating with the publisher. Between deliveries, I keep a running tally of things I want to make sure I include in the release notes. I'm basically in mind communicating with them all the time.

    GCG: What are the release notes?

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