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?
Mikhail Klyuev: I work as a producer at Playrix, taking part in developing and supporting a few projects. My main area of responsibility is Homescapes, but I'm also involved in Gardenscapes and one more project we haven't announced yet.
I participate in developing new in-game activities and helping the team implement them. Naturally, analytics are part and parcel of my work. I study the metrics and assist in interpreting them in regard to events in each game, and then in adjusting the game balance with the other team members. One more very important part of my job is nurturing the professional growth of our game designers, mentoring them and giving them feedback.
I study the metrics and assist in interpreting them in regard to events in each game, and then in adjusting the game balance with the other team membersMikhail Klyuev
How did you first get into games and how did you progress into this role?
It all started eight years ago. At the time, I couldn't believe that my town had a company that was developing and publishing games. I didn't have any relevant education or experience. I just thought that it was an area of work which I had to get into by any means necessary because it was close to my heart and seemed promising career-wise.
I started off as a support specialist for the company's game communities in social networks. It was the only position I was qualified for. Of course, I didn't want to stop there and realised it was just the beginning of my journey. I started taking initiative on other matters inside the company, evaluating games being sent to us for publication from a game design point of view and proposing solutions.
After a while, I got noticed and was transferred to the publishing department as a game designer, and later joined the development team itself. I ended up becoming a producer on two projects. At one point the company went through a rough patch financially and a project in development that I was part of became "too costly" for production.
I left the company in 2017 and a few months later joined Playrix. At Playrix I started off as a game designer on Fishdom, gradually became one of its producers, and then got reassigned to other projects.
What did you study (if anything) to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?
I can’t say I've taken a lot of professional courses. I've done a few that targeted really specific topics I was interested in. Generally speaking, my journey to become a professional in my area has been based on a few principles: Getting experience through new tasks, market research, and reading professional materials.
Of course, you won't absorb all of your knowledge from a book or an article. Chances are you'll only grasp a few of the most interesting and helpful things to you at that moment, which will hopefully manifest themselves in flashbacks later on while you're solving a particular problem, however these flashbacks are what make you grow as a specialist.
Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?
I haven't encountered anything like that, but I'd like to point out that the producer's role differs from company to company.
What advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?
Don't be afraid to join game development at entry-level positions. Once you're in, your growth will fully depend on your desire and enthusiasm, on how well you absorb other people's experience, and on what goals you set for yourself. Granted, companies can be different and in some of them, employee development isn't a priority, but I'd say such companies are the exception rather than the rule.
Those of you aiming to become producers should understand that you need to go the extra mile to get noticed. Professional growth and a willingness to try out new things are very important in game development. Once you feel too comfortable in your role, it's time to move forward. Don't be afraid of challenges. Treat them as open doors leading to amazing opportunities.
How has the shift from office to remote working impacted your role, if at all?
Before the pandemic, I'd already had experience working remotely. When I joined Playrix, I worked from home for a year because Playrix didn't have an office in the city where I lived. It wasn't until I moved to St. Petersburg that I started working in an office. Since March, we've all been working from home as a preventive measure to keep the virus from spreading.
I don't feel any difference, to be honest. Everything I have to do for work can easily be done from anywhere, provided there's a stable internet connection. We've been doing video calls since forever because our team has always been dispersed. I don't feel like I'm away from my colleagues, so I don't see any issues working like that.
What does your typical day look like when working remotely?
Make the most of your peak productivity hours and spend this time working with no distractionsMikhail Klyuev
It's no different from when I worked in the office. The first thing I do in the morning is take care of the issues left over from the previous day and the tasks that I can complete on my own, like reviewing concepts or data analytics, preparing documents, getting ready for meetings, etcetera.
I may also spend about half an hour reading up on topics I'm most interested in professionally and then try to implement my new knowledge at work right away if circumstances allow. After all, if you read before bed, you might forget everything by morning.
Then it's time for teamwork. This is when all team members are available, and you can work on any task or issue that you can't do on your own. There are a lot of calls, emails, and task messages during this time. At the end of my day, I usually plan for the next day, set priority tasks, and prepare bullet points for documents and tasks. This kind of approach helps me complete things in a more productive way.
What do you think are the biggest advantages and disadvantages to working remotely?
I personally see the following advantages: I'm free to plan my day the way, it's much easier to find peace and quiet when you work from home, and you can spend more time with your family.
Disadvantages wise, I'd say: It's always hard to maintain the work-life balance, sedentariness (there's no need to leave the house), and the bonus of company meals that were provided prior. It's totally different at home. I have to go grocery shopping or have everything delivered, cook, and only then can I enjoy the meal itself. It's time-consuming, so I just order out sometimes.
Is there anything you wish you had known before switching to remote work?
If I'd known how much time I'd have to spend working remotely, I'd have prepared for it better. I worked in the office for over a year, so I didn't even have a comfortable chair or computer desk at home because working remotely was never an option. Two months into lockdown, I finally got a proper chair because my back couldn't take it anymore.
Do you have any advice for others who are struggling to adjust to remote work?
The most important thing is finding a work-life balance. Make the most of your peak productivity hours and spend this time working with no distractions. At the same time, it's important to take breaks. I'd recommend you spend them stretching, taking short walks, cooking, or eating. Don't spend your break at the computer you're taking a break from.
After the pandemic ends and if you were given the choice, would you prefer to continue working remotely or go back to working in the office?
I'm going back to working in the office, that's for sure. This way, I'll be more disciplined workwise. It's very important, especially when your workload keeps growing.
I'm sure I'll also be working from home from time to time. I did a couple of times before when I had to be home during work hours. I like it when you have this kind of freedom, and I really hope that more companies have realised that remote work doesn't negatively affect their work processes and, as a result, they'll give their employees the choice.