The games industry plays host to a colourful cast of diverse individuals, from artists and coders to narrative designers and studio heads.
The skills to pull off these roles, however, are complex and differing, with each position requiring mastery in its field – especially in these complex times we are all living through at the minute.
To highlight some of the brilliant work that goes on behind the scenes as well as how employees around the world are adapting to the life of remote work, PocketGamer.biz is reaching out to the individuals who make up the games industry in our Jobs in Games: Remote Working series.
PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?
Lauren Davidson: I'm a pitch producer at Tag Games. I work in the pitching team to help deliver new game concepts to clients. It's a new role within the company and possibly quite a unique one in the industry, given the nature of how we work.
We are a work for hire studio, so pitching is hugely important to what we do. Day to day, this means I work closely with business development to find out what our clients need, and with our development teams to create game pitches. This can mean anything from a high-level concept to full game documentation and detailed specifications. I sit within the production team, so I bring the benefit of our production processes to pitching.
I got into this role through sheer determination because I wanted to be part of the games industry.Lauren Davidson
One of the best parts of my role is that it provides a lot of room for creativity. In pitching, we're working on new game concepts and early-stage ideas which means lots of fresh challenges and problem-solving. Tag's environment is one that encourages and supports feedback from everyone. We are not limited by one person’s imagination, and I love that. This is an environment I thrive in.
How did you first get into games and how did you progress into this role?
This is my first job in the games industry after previously working in VFX and animation. I got into this role through sheer determination because I wanted to be part of the games industry. I've always been fascinated by the art of a story you can lose yourself in; a tale you can live out in a virtual world.
In my last year of university, a mentoring opportunity came up at Tag, so I made sure I went to the interview. Luckily, I got the position and was mentored once a week by the art team. Spending time with the team, I learned a lot about game development and it was in that year I found my passion for production. I kept in touch with Tag after graduating, convinced that it was the studio I wanted to be a part of. Over a year later I was offered the position I am in now!
What did you study (if anything) to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?
I studied animation, which gives me a valuable perspective on the art process when I'm thinking about projects. I think having some understanding of art, code or design can really help with project production, even if you just complete a short online course. The main thing for production is to really understand processes, why they are put in place, and being able to communicate to others why they are important and beneficial for a project.
Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?
I think there is a misconception, especially from people coming out of university, that production doesn't have real value within games development. I think this is partly because university courses tend not to focus on the detail of what good production processes look like.
Production has an impact on everything, from the quality of your game to the hours staff work and the level of morale and motivation in your team. Producers are there to protect the team so they can do the job they love, but also to encourage their personal growth and development.
What advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?
Find a studio with a production team that will support your learning. Working with people that value this discipline will really show you how it can have an impact on the project as a whole, and teach you techniques and approaches that you can apply yourself as you progress in your career.
At Tag we have a strong supportive production team and peers to learn from. We are always encouraging each other to improve and learn. Be determined, and spend time really learning production methods, and understanding why these are so beneficial.
How has the shift from office to remote working impacted your role, if at all?
The Tag team has done an amazing job of adapting to remote work and we had time to establish changes before the move home. This greatly enabled us to work through any risks and problems before they arose.
Obviously, working remotely means there are less ad-hoc conversations. As we can't just walk over to someone in the office, we're being much more intentional about who needs to be in conversations, and more specific about what we need. It can be easy to miss information, so myself and the team are working on communicating constantly through an all-day "Zoom room".
It also helped that most of Tag (myself included) had used Zoom for work before. I have been using it with remote team members and contractors, so this set my expectations. I imagine if I hadn't, it would have taken a bit more time to get used to this way of communicating.
What does your typical day look like when working remotely?
My working day is as close to the usual working day as it can be, with a lot more reliance on Zoom. We all have our working hours and lunchtimes on display to make sure others know when we are online and working, and also to make sure we take a proper break for lunch. We also have a #lunchappreciation Slack channel so now we're all taking a bit more care over food preparation.
As we can't just walk over to someone in the office, we're being much more intentional about who needs to be in conversationsLauren Davidson
The day starts, as it always does, with morning stand-ups - projects, pitching, production etcetera. One big change we made is all-day Zoom rooms for each project. We have a constant online meeting room through Zoom, available for each team member to be present all day. Within each room, we have breakout rooms for each discipline, for specific discussions around art or code.
It feels a little bit less like isolation when you can see the rest of your team are available to chat instantly. Most people have their webcams on all day, so you get to see everyone's cheery faces.
What do you think are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of remote working?
I think the biggest advantage of remote working is the improvement in work-life balance. There isn't a commute so you gain time in the morning. Over lunch, as people are already at home, they are more likely to take a proper break.
When it comes to communication, there are advantages and disadvantages. We're finding that we need to be a lot more intentional about who needs to be involved and informed in meetings and be very clear on objectives and outcomes. It can be easy to talk over each other on video calls, but we make sure that everyone is heard. Having access to the team in Zoom, you can get clarification on something quickly and easily, and have the whole team input, which is very useful for decision making and progress.
The biggest disadvantage for me is seeing my teammates in person. Personally, I can't wait to get back into the office. I work with a fantastic bunch of people, who are great to be around.
Is there anything you wish you had known before moving to remote working?
It's a big change, and something like that does take some adjustment. But mostly, the way I'm seeing it right now is that it's a challenge and the way we're encouraged to deal with challenges at Tag is to try our best, communicate well with each other and learn from what you discover, so that you can improve.
It's certainly an unusual situation, but we're already discovering ways to improve how we work that will come in handy, even when we're all back in the office again.
Do you have any advice for others who are struggling to adjust to remote work?
I think having an all-day virtual room really helps the team, and myself. You still feel like there are people around you, supporting you, and immediate decisions can be made if the whole team is in the room.
At Tag, we are still finding time to chat about life, have fun, and laugh together. This is one of the many reasons I've adjusted well to remote work, so where possible, I recommend you find time to do this.
After the pandemic ends and if you were given the choice, would you prefer to continue working remotely or go back to working in an office?
I can see the benefits of having the option to work from home for some disciplines if you need to focus and have some dedicated time. Practically it's good for people to have the option for childcare or having a boiler repaired.
But I enjoy the buzz of the office and real-life interactions. I enjoy finding out how other projects are doing by catching up with other team members when they have a few minutes spare, or having a chat in the kitchen when making a coffee.