I've moved from product management for a middleware (game engine and tools) company to a production role for a studio on an upcoming game. More specifically, I'm now an associate producer for a studio, working on a cool game for the Wii.
For those that don't know me, this might feel like a bit of a 90-degree turn, but it's actually a sensible next step that presented itself, and I jumped at it.
Remember, I previously left a very productive (but brutally demanding) senior gig in the financial services world to go to middleware. I did that because I wanted to be less fractured between my toy job and my passions -- the latter of which encompasses the creative me, and my passion for video games. Middleware seemed like a good (sorry) middle ground between the game industry and my enterprise background, where I could use my mad biz dev skills and help a large number of game developers.
As is often the case, the reality was slightly different. The job was necessarily more about the company first, and the developers second (it is a business, after all), more marketing than biz dev (the latter of which I had to fight ridiculously unnecessarily to do, not that I didn't still make massive hay on that front), and actually took me too far away from the project and personnel management skills I was leveraging at my prior gig at BigHugeCorp.
So, after much conflict, I took this associate producer gig. While I'll probably talk about the squishier aspects of that life decision conflict in my other blog, some of the conflict, frankly, revolved around the possibility -- on the professional path front -- this gig could make it look like I fell off a ski lift over the last few years; International Technical Director to Product Manager to Associate Producer.
But the reality is, at it's heart, my interest in video games is about me being able to help great teams make games. So, my title aside, it's about that. This is a great first studio and first title for that.
Interestingly, it turns out this gig gets me closer to the project, dev, and personnel management skills I found myself missing in my last job. I'll be managing sprint teams, doing resource juggling, and negotiating requirements and various trade-offs as I work to help get the project out.
Not that this isn't going to be hard. For all intents, I've moved from an executive career path to kind of starting over mid-career. This takes me away from explicit biz dev (though I'm wired that way, so I'm sure I'll find a way) . Not easy things, but concessions we were willing to make to be a part of something important (yes, I think this game is important).
But on the career front, this opp is also about me figuring stuff out about the game industry.
See, the game industry thinks it's so damn special. I have never seen a vertical industry so adamant that if you're not from within their industry, you can't contribute to their industry. Ludicrous. I've been pursued by and successfully navigated everything from financial services to health care to the film industry, and never experienced this kind of bigoted attitude before.
So, I wanted to get into the game industry, and see if it really is that special, or whether software development is software development, and professional impedance in games is just the result of a cottage industry that just hasn't completely grown up yet. (The reality is it's likely somewhere within the continuum, but I'm guessing it's closer to the latter than the former.)
Now, my studio is a great place for me to start to try to figure this kind of thing out. Unlike other studios, they've been up front about wanting to work with good people, regardless of background. This creates a good space for me to learn the ropes, ramp up on the obvious learning curve, and not worry about also fighting against folks who expect me to fail (and may want me too, so they can stay special).
Starting to ramble. Let's just see if I sink or swim.