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  • Riley Roberts

My Path to Videogame Production

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

Like many kids, I grew up loving video games. However, this love was more than a love for playing them, I was always interested in the creation of games too. I would put stats from games like Call of Duty, NBA2k, and several others into spreadsheets, and I'd try to comb through the data to see how the systems of the game worked, both for my own improvement and curiosity. I knew I didn't want to be an artist or a programmer, neither of those things ever struck a chord with me, but time seemed to stop when I was playing games, analyzing games, and even watching videos related to games. I always found myself thinking about how exciting it'd be to work on these incredible, truly interactive pieces of art. I did not have the problem many highschoolers face of having to find something they're passionate about and pick a major, I knew I wanted to design games very early on, the only question was where I'd go to pursue it.


Game Design

I began researching colleges, googling things like "top videogame design colleges." I started, of course, another spreadsheet. This spreadsheet attempted to aggregate the many lists and rankings, taking average rankings of some of the top schools to compare them against each other using multiple sources. I researched programs and found problems with many, very often that problem was "they expect me to either be a programmer or an artist, not an actual designer." Then one day in my digital media class, I saw a booklet for DigiPen Institute of Technology. I was shocked, I'd first heard of DigiPen only weeks earlier when I made my spreadsheet, and here it was again. Living in Texas, I was amazed a booklet for a school of about 1000 in Washington State had made it to me. I asked my teacher if I could borrow it, and I was amazed at what I saw. Their game design program looked like exactly what I had been looking for, and I loved the idea of a school full of people who shared my passion. The idea of getting to work on game-teams, working with people of other disciplines to combine forces and make a full game, was what attracted me the most. I continued researching and applied to many different colleges, but once I got accepted to DigiPen, I knew it was time to move up to Washington.


Master of None

My Freshman year felt absolutely magical at first, I was just happy to be working on games and surrounded by people who shared similar passions. My first 2 game-teams were relatively small, ~3-4 people, so I got to be a jack-of-all-trades, which I really enjoyed. To my dismay, I was told that the industry seldom hires jacks-of-all-trades, and I should probably pick a specialty.


Systems Design

My Sophomore year I felt absolutely lost. Game-teams had gotten bigger, and already there was less use for someone without a strong specialty. I thought I'd give systems design a try, I liked spreadsheets, so it seemed like a natural fit. My first team Sophomore year I was the Associate Producer, Design Lead, and Systems Designer, but unfortunately the game I was on didn't have many systems to begin with. Truthfully this was fine, as I didn't find the passion I expected in systems. I certainly enjoyed it, but it didn't feel like my calling, I didn't love it. What I did love was working with people, I found I loved production and leadership, even as I was still learning what producers truly do. I also loved working with data, which drew me to the idea of UX research. After working tirelessly in the User Research and Testing class at DigiPen, I earned the professor's recognition, and I thought I'd found a new passion.


UX Research

My second game-team Sophomore year, I was primarily the Associate Producer and UX Researcher. This gave me the opportunity to explore both of these passions, and I loved getting to work with people and data simultaneously. On both of my game-teams Sophomore year, I had things drive me away from production. They were never too serious, but UX research had gone more smoothly, and I decided to pursue that as my main focus. I joined a Junior game-team as a UX Researcher and I loved it. I got to test the game and work with the other designers to improve it, which felt like a dream, but I did miss being in a leadership role. This was the only team I'd been on since the start of freshman year where I wasn't some sort of lead... yet. At the end of the semester, our Producer informed me that the leads of the team wanted me to work as an Associate Producer, as the team was rapidly growing, with plans to continue hiring. I was extremely excited by the thought, I had missed leadership and our producer was exceptional, but I was unsure if I'd ever enjoy production as much as UX research.


Production

To no surprise of anyone who read the the title of this article, I loved my new production role. This was by far the largest team I'd been on, over 20 people at this point, and I was shocked at how smoothly things went for me in this production role compared to my previous teams. I felt like I'd finally found a Producer I was excited to work with, and a team whose work-style complimented my own. I absolutely loved both of my roles, and I decided to apply for internships in production and UX research.


Summer: Zynga Producer Internship

This internship was a clear turning point in my life. I had become very frustrated with DigiPen, and I was genuinely wondering if I even wanted to stay in games before Zynga. Zynga made me completely reevaluate that, I got to work with some of the most passionate, incredible people I've ever met, and I found an absolute love for production. This was clearly what I'd been searching for during my time at DigiPen.


Senior Year: Production

And now, we're here. I'm in my senior year at DigiPen, and I should be graduating earlier than expected, partially thanks to the credit I got from my internship. Still continuing with my Junior game-team, I was made Design Lead, which is combined with Associate Producer to make me the "Design Producer (and UX Researcher)." This is not because I am the best designer, it is a result of my leadership skills and an incredible team of designers that know I'll do everything in my power to ensure they are able to do their best work. I'm working towards my Professional Scrum Master 1 certification, starting this production blog, and life is good. I get to work with incredibly passionate people, helping them do their best work, often combining my roles as Design Producer and UX Researcher by using data to guide the team.


For a while, I wondered if I'd ever find my calling. I think I've truly found it. If you have any questions, opportunities, or advice for me, please contact me using the button in the top right of this website. Hopefully I'll be updating this post with information about a new fulltime job soon enough!

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