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Sustainable Game Development from a Game Producer's Perspective

Make awesome games with great teams, happy people and sustainable processes for players. Creating an environment and opportunities where this goal is achievable is what it means to be a Game Producer.

Make awesome games with great teams, happy people and sustainable processes for players.

To my mind, creating an environment and opportunities where this goal is achievable is what it means to be a Game Producer. I believe it is more than just a job or a position - it's a calling and about being a leader. In this short essay, I explore what the role and responsibilities of a producer are and the tools at their disposal. Let's dive in!

Producers need to be mindful of the following four fundamental dimensions implied in the statement above:

  • The Game which is the product the Team is working on
  • The Team which is the group of People working together to create the Game
  • The People who are each and every individual belonging to the Team
  • The Processes that support the People in the Teams to create the Game

These four dimensions are interconnected and affect one another continuously. These interactions and effects create the Six Principles of Sustainable Game Development:

  1. Build Trust & Facilitate Cooperation
  2. Align Vision & Communicate Direction
  3. Nourish Motivation
  4. Create Structure
  5. Drive Coordination & Facilitate Alignment
  6. Adapt to Change & Embrace Growth

Producers need to 1) recognise that all these principles are relevant and interconnected, 2) understand that all six need to be addressed and 3) they need to be balanced continuously and relentlessly. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Facilitate Trust & Cooperation

Building trust between people and in teams is the first step Producers need to take. Acknowledge different personalities and apply the platinum rule - treat others like the way they want to be treated. Facilitating cooperation is about the organisation of feedback and critique by creating opportunities both on an individual and team level. Run retrospectives or blameless postmortems often, organise internal show and tell sessions and talk directly with each team member. Listen intently and with empathy. These actions will create and shape the values of the team and its individuals.

Align Vision & Communicate Direction

Everyone sees and interprets the game differently through their own lenses. Align the vision and expectations for the game and help the team define roles and responsibilities of each individual. Communicate direction by ensuring that these are visible and clear for everyone on the team. During uncertainty, change and disagreements, rely on these to make decisions the right way. Constantly reinforce these values so they become ingrained.

Nourish Motivation & Protect Health

Everyone is motivated by different things so take an interest in getting to know everyone and acknowledge these differences. Create an environment where autonomy, purpose, mastery and relatedness are the driving motivators. Autonomy is about having control over what work you do, how and when you do it and with whom. Purpose is about contributing to something larger than yourself and meaningful. Mastery is about learning, becoming better both personally and professionally. Relatedness is about connecting to other people and being part of something bigger. Be mindful of the physical, mental and emotional health of yourself and everyone else in the team. Take breaks.

Create Structure & Make Work Visible

Structure should empower people to their best work, not limit them. The right methodology/process is the process the team buys into and works for them. Focus on the flow of work and the performance of the whole system by making it visible and reducing waste. Amplify feedback loops throughout the whole flow to continuously improve. Create simple tools, iterate and test often. Estimate rigorously, measure relentlessly and always have a contingency plan.

Drive Coordination & Facilitate Alignment

Meetings are great - use them well. Separate between administrative (standups), tactical (planning), strategic (design) and developmental (retrospective) meetings. Align expectations in the beginning of meetings and identify next actions and clarify decisions at the end. Communicate the right decisions and information to the right people at the right time.

Adapt to Change & Embrace Growth

Cultivate a growth and learning mindset in the team and individuals to create resilience to deal with uncertainty and change. When proposing/making changes: 1) assess the current situation and collect information, 2) clarify the intent and goals of the change, 3) provide options describing both advantages and disadvantages, 4) identify and outline next actions and 5) invite ongoing feedback, discussions and suggestions.

To me, these are the six principles that define what it means to be a Producer - a leader.

What can YOU do?

If you are inspired by this essay or found something interesting, I have a challenge for you. Consider one of the principles and identify an action within that principle - something small, something you can do relatively quickly. Have you got it? Then do it. Find another action and do that. Remember - this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Notes & Disclaimer:

1) While reading the essay, you might have been wondering - what about players from the first sentence? Isn't that a dimension too, so there are five? This is an aspect that I came to realise as an external dimension that amplifies the dynamics between the internal dimensions and therefore the principles too. For example, Trust and Cooperation extend to player communities. Vision & Direction establish a connection with players. Without Players, there is no Game.

2) While this essay focuses on the role and responsibility of Producers in the game industry, I strongly believe that the dimensions, principles and tools I described above are universal and applicable outside of it in a much wider context. Something to think about.

3) This essay has been inspired by a wide array of books, articles, talks, industry resources combined with a great deal of personal experience. If you are interested in the full essay (my MSc Thesis) and the reference list, you can find a link to the original on my personal blog, at the bottom of this same article: https://world.hey.com/regoporkolab/sustainable-game-development-from-a-game-producer-s-perspective-31c0d083

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