Interview

From journalism to game production: Auroch Digital's Peter Willington on his career so far

From journalism to game production: Auroch Digital's Peter Willington on his career so far

It takes a great number of individuals working together in various disciplines to make any commercial enterprise function.

The mobile games industry is certainly no exception, offering dynamic and diverse roles to thousands the world over.

As such, PocketGamer.biz has decided to celebrate this with a regular series of interviews where each week we chat to a mobile games industry professional from a different field - be it game design, art, or PR - to learn about how they bagged that job in games.

Obviously every career path is different, but the goal is to give a picture of the sorts of skills, qualifications and ambition one might need to find themselves in such a role - and how we can all learn from it.

This time, the spotlight is on Peter Willington. A former journalist and critic on PocketGamer.biz sister sites Pocket Gamer and AppSpy, he has since hopped the fence into a production role at Bristol-based developer Auroch Digital.

PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a little about your current role and what it entails.

Peter Willington: At Auroch Digital I'm a Producer and Marketing Manager.

The Marketing Manager role is pretty self-explanatory: I set the direction for the company's marketing, define how we achieve our marketing goals and then set about with my colleague Jake Connor (our Community Manager) on meeting them.

We're currently ramping up to the release of our latest game - Ogre - on Steam, so we're both very busy at the moment in this area of our duties.

What a Producer does can vary pretty wildly between studios based on factors like team size, the types of projects being worked on, company culture and so on.

I keep the vision of the game on course, liaising with our clients and stakeholders.
Peter Willington

The way things work at Auroch, on a day-to-day basis, I'm checking in with the teams to make sure production is smooth and planning projects with them from start to end.

I keep the vision of the game on course, liaising with our clients and stakeholders and so on. I'm fortunate enough to work with Ilse Marshall and Nina Adams, and between the three of us we set studio-wide standards for the production process.

I'm also on projects to represent the player's interests (making a great game) while representing the management's interests (keeping to the budget), and the team's interests (enjoying their work).

I do this by being in the middle of the web of development, understanding the needs of all parties and enabling incredibly talented people to do their best work.

In terms of projects we've announced, I'm currently producing Dark Future: Blood Red States, our adaptation of the classic Games Workshop tabletop game, but there are some more titles in the pipeline I'm involved with that I can't wait to start talking about.

How did you first get into this job?

Before I became a producer, I used to be Deputy Editor of Pocket Gamer and led the direction and growth into streaming platforms with AppSpy.

This gave me a great deal of experience managing people, leading digital projects, making partnerships to amplify the brands I was a part of and understanding the different needs of the games industry.

I decided to take my career in a different direction that built upon this expertise and being a producer was a natural fit.

I'd known Tomas Rawlings - the owner of Auroch Digital - for a few years by this point and had been around the Bristol Games Hub a lot too, so when the opportunity at Auroch came up, I jumped at the chance.

Is it something you ever imagined yourself doing?

Yes, absolutely. I'd always planned on ticking off the games journalism bucket list and then moving on to actually help making games.

Since I'm not a coder, I can't do visual art and I'm not interested in being a designer at a commercial level, becoming a producer was a natural fit.

It intersects with all my interests: being involved deeply in games on all levels, developing ordered systems to help people do amazing things and being a central part of an organisation that aspires to do great things.

What did you study (if anything) to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?

I learned my most important lessons in a practical setting.

Going to events and conferences and talking to people, as a critic, let me see lots of different facets of the business and what people's needs are.

Never stopping playing and studying games has given me a depth of knowledge that is so useful.
Peter Willington

Always making my own games using simple game-making tools keeps reminding me about the kinds of skill sets different disciplines use and require.

Playing games from the age of three and, most importantly, never stopping playing and studying games, has given me the vocabulary and depth of knowledge that is so useful in the industry.

Running the podcast Staying In, where we talk about games quite often, forces me to keep thinking critically about the medium and play games that are outside of what I usually consider playing.

I studied acting at university. It taught me to take and give constructive criticism, and work with others.

I hear there are some good games courses available across the UK, but I don't think you can beat the experience and sense of pride you gain from downloading Unreal Engine 4, GameMaker or Quest, getting stuck in and making things for yourself.

Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?

In my first week of work at Auroch, I learned very quickly that a producer that starts a conversation with a developer with "could you just..." is setting themselves up for a fall.

Making games is a complicated process and the (seemingly) simplest of requests can actually be highly complex, involving tasks that require multiple disciplines from across the studio.

What other advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?

Play as many different kinds of games as you can and be passionate about the medium. If you're not, you'll burn out real fast because making games is hard.

If you want to be a producer, make sure you actually want to be a producer - and not a designer, which is a trap I've seen a few people fall into.

Get involved in game jams and other practical projects where you can in order to better understand how teams work and what they need to be successful. This knowledge will make your life a lot easier.

Be humble and defer to your experts for advice. You can guess at how long a task might take a coder to complete, but only the coder knows how long it will take them.

Stick to your guns and be realistic. Producers very often need to be the realist in the room - though you should never be the pessimist.


Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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