What Does Top Entry-Level Talent Cost Nowadays?

I’ve been chatting with a few undergraduate MIT students who already have full-time offers from video game companies. Most had summer internships with one of the large publishers, and all appear to have worked on video game-related projects, in and/or out of class. I thought some of you might be curious to know what those offers look like.

Students who applied for engineering jobs seem to be getting offers in the 70s — in some cases, the high 70s. The same students got offers approximately 10K higher from companies in other industries; i.e. Oracle, Microsoft, etc. So the gap between game company offers and non-game company offers appears to be narrowing for engineers. In general, I was amazed at how high the offers were!

On the other hand, students who applied for production jobs (even students with a double major in computer science) seem to be getting offers in the 30s. I find this to be completely bizarre. I mean, yes, I understand the laws of supply and demand (there are more wanna-be producers and designers than well-trained engineers). And yes, production skills are harder to learn outside of the work environment. But are talented entry-level producers really worth only half the equivalent engineer? Even when they have the same academic training? (After all, a solid grasp of programming is useful to both producers and designers, not just engineers!)

I think this exposes one of the industry’s most fundamental flaws. Producers are expected to keep game development on schedule and under budget. They are expected to act as the bridge between the various development groups, the mouthpiece to the outside world, and the interface to marketing and sales. They facilitate (and in many cases participate in) the creative design process. In other words, producers are the oil that keeps the machine running smoothly — indeed, keeps it running period. If entry-level salaries are any indication of how much (or how little) the industry values its producers, it’s no wonder so many games run over schedule and over budget!

Update: many people have asked where the job offers came from, since location obviously affects salary. I haven’t had a chance to reconnect with every student I initially spoke with, but it appears the majority of the offers were from studios in California and Seattle.

2nd Update: As promised in the comment thread, I’ve posted a followup editorial (which has been reprinted with permission by Next Generation.

55 responses to “What Does Top Entry-Level Talent Cost Nowadays?

  1. That’s interesting because in the early days it was completely the opposite,
    producers were making top dollar. This was especially true at EA.

  2. Murray — that is interesting. Was that true of entry-level producers as well? I suspect that the salary discrepancy only applies to entry-level candidates (at least, today). I know that executive producers at EA are compensated relatively well.

  3. Good question, in the mid to late eighties there were very few people with computer game experience, so everyone seemed sort of “entry level”. Wherever they started out the producers had a much higher top end. Of course the hardware
    had very limited capabilities so the games had to be fun without much visual reward.

  4. I’m not completely surprised by this, really. I’ll try to explain, but please forgive if I ramble a bit.

    An ‘entry level producer’ is sort of an oxymoron, it is not? As a lone producer, one is expected to shoulder a lot of responsibility — perhaps more then a company _should_ feel comfortable giving to someone as their first full-time position out of school (even if they are top talent). With positions like associate producer, assistant producer (etc) the responsibility is lessened, but so to (perhaps) is the direct impact on the project’s success — and therefore the lower salaries.

    As an additional barrier for top-talent entry-level producers, there is an awful lot of trust that must be earned for a Producer to do his/her job well. Because they (1) don’t have the experience and (2) don’t have the trust and connections within the industry and company, the salary stays low.

    A top talent engineer, on the other hand, can often start making very significant contributions immediatly. I’m sure there are numerous cases of top engineering talent joining a company right out of school and quickly proving their technical ‘chops’ to the point that they were given tasks that made a big impact on the game in question.

    I hope this isn’t an offensive generalisation, but I also think the ‘trust’ issue raised above is perhaps easier for engineers to work around. Even on a large-scale game it is often easy for a star engineer to get noticed quickly by the people who assign the tasks. The lead programmers are usually on site and can quickly get a feel for whether or not a new employee is the real-deal or all-talk. Producers, on the other hand, often work with many external contacts who likely have a much harder time making that disctinction — the ‘soft skills’ of a producer are a lot harder to quantify (especially remotely) then those of an engineer.

    …so…all that to say: super-star entry level producer (associate?) is still going to have a hard time getting the chance to prove his/her worth, and therefore the salaries start low. Super-star entry level programmers have a history of quickly demonstrating their value, and therefore the salaries start higher.

    My 2C, for what its worth.

    -Ben

  5. Ben — thank you for the thoughtful comments (which were neither rambling, nor offensive!)

    I think you raise some valid points. However, I worry that dramatically lower salaries for promising production talent are likely to drive away some of the best candidates, and the industry desperately needs those candidates!

    After all, if you’re a double major in media studies and computer science, and you can get an engineering job for 75K or a production job for 35K, which job are you going to take? But the fact is, you might have been as (or more) valuable as a producer — maybe not instantaneously, but certainly within a year or so. In other words, these candidates are an investment.

    How many people have a decent grasp of engineering *and* design issues, as well as an understanding of the economic, social, and political issues that affect every game developer? My guess: not many.

    At any rate, I’m certainly open to the idea that entry-level engineering salaries should, as a rule, be higher than entry-level production salaries. But twice as high? How about a compromise, like 50% higher? ;)

  6. For entry level, I’ve seen the salaries and offers for jobs in the games industry (for programmers) range between high 30,000’s (midwest) to high 70,000’s (west). East coast was in the neighborhood of low 50,000’s to mid 60,000’s.

    Entry level Artists and Level Designers seem to be around low to high 40,000’s everywhere consistantly

  7. As a prospective game designer (non-engineer) I have to say that I’m just as confused at those numbers seeing as there is a definite pyramid of labor in a game product. You don’t have 10-15 producers and 2-3 engineers. You have the exact opposite. So now you’re paying more money (not that they don’t deserve it) for a larger percentage of your work force, but the person(s) supposedly making the “big decisions” at the top is possibly one of the most undersupported positions in the company? To echo previous sentiments; no wonder the game industry has been pushing out lower and lower quality product recently.

    Oh, and shameless plug… I’m looking for a job and I’m not an idiot. Someone hire me. ;)

  8. An associate producer on a next gen title

    Most “Entry Level Producers” need to go through QA/Production anyway.
    Very few start out as Associate Producers (AP) (they don’t have the experience).

    So, 35k after making $7.50 an hour testing games is a pretty steep bump.

    If these MIT guys are being hired as APs, then the salary is reasonable.
    They need experience and shipped games to get the $$.

    It seems like a waste to go to MIT in programming and then become an AP.
    They aren’t utilizing the skills they paid all that money for.
    But I am sure they can program mean macros in Project and Excel.

  9. Bryan,

    Entry level producers are not “making the big decisions.”

  10. Other thing to consider is that entry-level people are not the bulk of those producing the game. An entry-level producer is likely going to be working with someone who’s been doing it for a while. As someone pointed out, he’ll probably have less to contribute than an entry-level producer. But later on when he gains the experience and is no longer an entry-level producer, he’ll be contributing more.

    Some other things to consider is how fast do these people advance in relation to their pay scale. Perhaps a company wants to take little risk with entry-level producers at 30k’s and if they prove to be a star, their salary will soon make up for the gap between producers and engineers. Analyzing a small picture of something that is really a multi-variable system is going to produce an incorrect overall picture when those other variables are not equal.

  11. > entry-level engineering salaries should, as a rule, be higher than entry-level production salaries. But twice as high? How about a compromise, like 50% higher? ;)

    Who are you going to arrange this compromise with?
    There isn’t some committee somewhere setting these salaries to be “fair”. They pay what they have to pay to attract the talent they need. A starting engineer can get other similar-pay offers in other fields. A starting producer will get much lower offers elsewhere.

  12. InDaBiz — it was a joke.

    All — it’s interesting to me that some posters think a computer science education is “a waste” for producers. Can it really be true that an understanding of engineering is useless to a person who helps schedule and budget engineering tasks (if not at entry-level, then eventually)? I think not.

  13. InDaBiz brings up a good point. Often during crunch period you hear the common:
    “what would you do if you weren’t in games?” (this questions seems to get asked a lot less during conception and pre-production).

    Engineers know that the world is their oyster. Game programming is some of the most technically challenging engineering tasks out there — the brain surgeons of the tech world (limiting technological constrains, constantly increasing consumer expectations, etc). For many top game programmers, a ‘cushy’ job like Senior Real-time Systems Architect sounds like a walk in the park. :)

    For Producers/Game Designers, though, the options are less clear. Sure an experienced producer can probably move into other industries based off of the strength of his/her experience, but a junior who, after a year at Game Company A decides s/he isn’t cut out for the industry, is likely going to have to fall back on his/her education rather then professional experience when looking to change industries.

    When I say that this inequality doesn’t surprise me, I didn’t mean to imply that I think its necessarily right.
    But again, as InDaBiz says, the industry pays what it has to. No company, no matter what the industry, is going to valuntarily offer up more then they have to in order to attract the talent they are after. If designers and producers straight out of school are accepting the 35k offers — despite their credentials — the pattern will continue.

    -Ben

  14. > If designers and producers straight out of school
    > are accepting the 35k offers — despite their
    > credentials — the pattern will continue.

    But are a significant percentage of exceptional candidates being driven away by such low salaries? I can’t say conclusively, since I haven’t seen an exhaustive study. But I can say that it definitely encourages our double majors to choose engineering over production (and once they’ve made that choice, they’re unlikely to double back). And I can say that it definitely discourages masters students as well (who have even more school debt, and probably worked for several years before returning to school for an MBA or a media studies advanced degree).

    Whether that’s a loss or not is up for debate, but I’d argue that you want some of those people in production.

  15. David, I think that’s a huge problem with our education system right now. A lot of people are turning to the “get your degree quick/online” at X Specialty School. Why bother spending $10-15k a year (or probably a lot more than that) for a general education that takes 4 years when you can just get your specialized degree in 6 months or 2 years.

    Are you going to get paid more because you have a full university degree? Is that full university degree going to matter after you’ve been in the trenches for 2-3 years? Book knowledge and practical knowledge tend to land apart from each other.

  16. BTW, I should add that, as I noted in my original post, I’m not oblivious to the laws of supply and demand. It’s a more nuanced argument I’m making, here.

  17. Let me mention the flip side of this:
    An experienced producer who has a track record of getting projects done on time in budget despite the inevitable roadblocks derailing the project is worth his weight in gold. If a game company wants to produce top selling games the only way is to hire proven producers to do their magic. Its not so different than a Hollywood producer and director. It isn’t easy to define what makes a great producer except by results. And there aren’t many people with the combination of qualities necessary.

  18. > It isn’t easy to define what makes a great producer

    Agreed.

    > there aren’t many people with the combination of qualities necessary.

    Which, I think, is an argument for broadening the talent pool by attracting more people with possibly higher salary expectations, but also excellent educational credentials, knowledge of engineering principles, and/or advanced degrees. :)

    Btw, I don’t mean to come across as argumentative. I hear what you’re saying. I just also happen to believe that there’s value being squandered, here.

  19. But I can say that it definitely encourages our double majors to choose engineering over production (and once they’ve made that choice, they’re unlikely to double back).

    Not 100% sure I agree with this part. My hesitation is based off of my earlier points re: trust and track record.

    If TalentA is presented with an engineering option at 75k and an associate producer option at 35k, of course we all agree s/he is likely to take the engineering option.

    What, though, is stopping him/her from using that as a stepping stone into a producer position a few years down the road. With a 75k salary under his/her belt already (not to mention some powerful allies in the industry and company)
    , its going to be a lot easier landing a salary that is more in the ballpark one would expect given the responsibility of a producer.

    Your point, David, is still very valid — if people do follow this path (ie: I’ll take engineering for now in the hopes that one day I can work towards production, because its a path with a better salary scale) it means we lose out on some exceptional potential fresh out of school. I guess to counter that all I can say is that the experience, connections and trust that one can build as a hot engineering talent (with Producer potential, I should point out) are all invaluable to a succesfull producer.

    If I’m a company wanting to invest in someone long-term, perhaps I would encourage them to take the engineering path as a stepping stone to production — even if its going to cost me more up front.

    -Ben

  20. > What, though, is stopping him/her from using that as a stepping
    > stone into a producer position a few years down the road.

    An interesting thought. I suppose there are two responses:

    1) I’m not sure it’s clear to students (at least, MIT students) that this is a viable option.

    2) Why not use summer internships to evaluate a candidate’s “trustworthiness”, rather than require a roundabout, multi-year route through engineering (which, btw, effectively precludes MBA and other non-CS masters degree candidates)?

    Don’t take this as a dismissal of the idea. I’m just pointing out the issues.

    > The experience, connections and trust that one can build as a
    > hot engineering talent (with Producer potential, I should point
    > out) are all invaluable to a succesfull producer.

    Certainly.

    > If I’m a company wanting to invest in someone long-term, perhaps
    > I would encourage them to take the engineering path as a stepping
    > stone to production — even if its going to cost me more up front.

    I suspect that you’d be better off trying to get your hands on the best and brightest intern candidates. Spending one, two, or three summers with someone is an excellent (and very cheap) way to get to know them.

  21. Get the facts straight. There is no such thing as an “entry level” producer position. There’s “Project Manager”, “Associate Producer”, “Producer”, and “Executive Producer”. Guess who gets the big bucks?

    You get the big bucks and higher position through experience, and mostly managing opther people. Not by studying programming.

  22. 70’s for undergraduates? isn’t that a bit steep?
    I mean an assistent professor in SE at any university in the US makes that
    kind of money .

  23. > Get the facts straight. There is no such thing as an
    > “entry level” producer position.

    Ummm… no. Many of the larger game development companies have an “assistant producer” position which is often filled by employees rising up via QA, and/or students (usually former interns) graduating from university.

  24. eelke: Yup, professorial positions are among the least well-paying jobs relative to the amount of education/experience required. It’s one of the tragedies of our society.

    Artists make on the order of $30-40k. So, I guess the question is: does an Assistant Producer add as much value to the game as one artist does? What do assistant producers even do?

  25. Interesting, but the numbers are only marginally useful without knowing where the jobs are located. These days, I find it useful to calculate the per-hour equivalent in terms of square feet for a local house. For example, considering the amount of time one is expected to spend at work and commuting, how many hours would one have to work to afford a 2000 square foot house?

  26. > the numbers are only marginally useful without knowing where
    > the jobs are located

    Just updated the post with more information. Seems like Seattle and California (Bay Area and LA), for the most part.

  27. If you want to make money, become a contractor. Make your own hours and write off your truck.

    The game business pays crappy and it’s getting crappier. And your degree isn’t worth what you imagined. And there’s no Santa Claus.

    Happy Friday.

  28. I am currently a student studying computer science and I have worked in the game industry on the publisher’s end for a couple of years. I would have to say it makes perfect sense for an engineer to make 2x if not more than a designer. After all, a designers job is not in the same playing field as an engineer. Even if someone with a degree in engineering wants to become a designer that’s their own choice. Engineering is a much more stressful position and responsibility. The trade off for being paid a lower salary as a designer is having a fun job. And that simply can’t compare to an engineer who has to stare at a screen for hours on end writing code.

  29. FromTheTrenches

    I was recently hired into a games production job after graduating with a CS degree from Georgia Tech. Given the kinds of offers I recieved (for software engineering, production, and management jobs), I can safely say I was considered top entry-level talent. I am making more than the engineers I work with because in addition to technical expertise (and very real project leading and building experience) I have the people skills and ‘big picture thinking’ that is vital to this kind of job. When more people like me enter the field, I see non-technically oriented, entry-level designers going the way of the dodo. Designs that are not created with a thorough understanding of the target medium are simply bad designs. More progressive companies are paying for talent like mine because it is rare. Having a CS degree from MIT isn’t enough to make a good engineer, much less a good producer. It is the experience that comes from applying educated understanding to real, finished projects that companies pay for. Otherwise your talent is just a gamble that isn’t worth an extra 35k a year.

  30. FromTheTrenches – you say you just graduated. How exactly is your CS degree + “educated understanding” better than an MIT student’s CS degree, plus Media Studies degree (which includes game design coursework), + “educated understanding” (i.e. from internships, extracurricular work, etc)?

    Your initial argument seemed congruous with my thinking, but your followup was just plain puzzling.

  31. Greetings:
    For John, I’m going to assume that you’re just ignorant because you don’t have experience and not trolling. The job of a designer, particularly a lead designer, is much, much more stressful than the job of an engineer. Not only do you have to keep the entire game in your head and identify every potential output of the complex systems you have designed, but you have to answer to everyone: the team, studio management, and publishers. Practically every decision you make has to be explained and justified both up and down the chain. At any given moment, you may need to function as a technical writer, psychologist, marketing specialist, historian, artist, engineer, or producer. If you think that staring at a screen working on a discrete problem is tough, try staring at a screen and solving a complex multivariable problem that has not only technical but also social and political challenges. Many’s the time that I’ve seen designers wish they could focus on one thing that could be definitively finished the way that programmers get to. The only people who think designers have a cushy dream job are people who’ve never had that job.

    For David, I think your disconnect with From The Trenches is that he’s assuming you’re talking about recent graduates with no work experience, whereas you’re looking at recent graduates as having almost a year’s experience from serial interning. The Georgia Tech program, from what I understand at a distance, is also very focused on building game projects as part of the degree experience, which while not as valuable as actual work experience is about as close as you’re going to get in the academy. I think he’s assuming that your mythical graduate has focused on pure CS, where the theory doesn’t always translate effectively to the realities of game programming. So, his point is that someone with solid work experience who can step immediately into a leadership role is going to be more valuable than someone without, which I’m sure you’d agree with.

    However, Ben’s comment is still, I think, the most relevant one. If you’re getting talented people from schools like MIT who don’t understand that “producer” is a role you move into with experience, then they really haven’t done their homework on the industry. Particularly if they have been interning for multiple summers and haven’t picked up on the fact that there’s a world of difference between working on something for a few months and leading a project from beginning to end, then they haven’t really learned what it takes to be a producer.

    Producers need to have experience. Besides the lead designer, the producer is the only person who has to understand, track, verify, and have input on every aspect of a game’s development. An entry level producer job isn’t actually leading a project. Neither is an entry-level engineer, to be sure, but it’s a lot easier to find people who have the skills to be a producer but not the experience than it is to find people who have the training to be an engineer but not the experience. Things do even out over 2-4 years, and there’s more upside on the producer track, so it really is a tradeoff between taking the lower salary and working your way up the chain or taking the fast money up front. The smart double-major goes into the engineering track, then works their way up to lead programmer/development director and then across to the producing track, if that’s the kind of work they’re looking for.

    At least, that’s the way it’s worked in my experience.

    Best,
    Eyejinx.

  32. Im guessing you’re NOT an engineer Eyejinx. And I’m not down playing a designer’s or producer’s job. However, in MY experience those are not as stressful as being a producer or designer.

  33. I realized I goofed. The last comment meant to read “in MY experience those [ designer and producer ] are not as stressful as being an engineer.

  34. Eyejinx — I think you’ve done a good job of summarizing the matter (at least, from a given perspective). Thank you for the thoughtful post. I’m content to admit that this issue isn’t clear cut, and that it’s easier to quantify the value of an entry-level engineer than an entry-level producer.

    I’d like to digest all of what’s been said and followup with another post on this topic in the near future, rather than simply react on the fly to additional comments. That said, I can’t resist making one final response to a particular part of your comment.

    Quote: “it’s a lot easier to find people who have the skills to be a producer but not the experience than it is to find people who have the training to be an engineer but not the experience.”

    My response: If you agree that a producer benefits from a solid engineering education (i.e. a CS degree, especially with emphasis on game development), then your assertion is – by definition – questionable. How can it be “hard” to find a good entry-level engineer but “easy” to find a good entry-level producer (who is versed in both engineering and media studies matters?) The fact is, they’re BOTH difficult to find. The difference is, one is valued much more highly than the other, simply by virtue of the career tracks they have chosen.

    I’d like to believe this doesn’t matter — that double majors who choose engineering (due to the much higher payrate) will eventually find their way into production, if that’s the career they actually prefer. My fear is that lateral transition isn’t as likely as some are making it out to be. But perhaps I’m (most happily!) wrong in this regard.

  35. Greetings:
    For John, you are correct that I am not an engineer, and as such I should probably take my own advice and not presume to know what it’s like to do that job. Mea culpa. The people I’ve worked with who’ve done both producer and programmer roles have often commented that they prefer the programmer role in many ways because of the focus and sense of concrete achievement that come with it. That’s certainly not a scientific sample, so take it with appropriate amounts of salt.

    I’ve also dealt with a number of senior engineers who either directly or indirectly understand what it takes to be a lead designer, and they have also repeatedly stated that it’s much easier on the stress levels to not be “caught in the middle” between management and the team. So, my experience, admittedly anecdotal, leads me to believe that there is a significant difference in stress levels, particularly at the lead levels. You may have different experiences, understood.

    For David, while a good producer needs to have a solid understanding of programming challenges (to be able to judge, for example, whether a feature is going to be costly or relatively easy), it certainly doesn’t require a full CS degree. In fact, most of what the producer needs to know about technical problems (how to organize a pipeline, where dependencies fall in tasks, scope of features) can be learned from experience with no formal technical training. In fact, a good producer knows when to go to the programming team and ask them questions to get what he needs to know. The lead programmer on a team can provide the producer with most of what they need in this respect.

    So, the difference between a producer candidate with a CS degree and one without is nowhere near the difference between a programming candidate with a CS degree and one without. It makes sense to me, in this context, that there’s a larger difference in starting salaries between entry-level engineers and entry-level producers (who are actually assistant producers) with the same degree.

    Also, the implicit suggestion that a degree in media studies matters would make one a better producer is not necessarily true. Frankly, the value of a “media studies” degree is currently questionable at best. Being able to talk about games academically doesn’t translate into being better able to make games, in the same sense that a degree in English literature doesn’t translate into being a great writer.

    However, having a degree in CS generally means that you have familiarity with a number of programming languages, algorithmic approaches to problem-solving and simulation, and an established framework within which you can relate to the rest of the engineers on the team. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make a good games programmer, but it’s more relevant to the job than a media studies degree is to being a producer.

    Since there are more people without CS degrees who want to be in game development than there are people with said degrees, and since the knowledge that a CS degree represents isn’t essential to doing a producer’s job, where it is essential to be doing a programmer’s job (the knowledge, not the degree itself–there are plenty of non-degreed programmers who do great work), it makes perfect sense to me that people with CS degrees would get larger offers to be engineers than as production-track folks.

    But, maybe that’s just me. I’ll look forward to the follow-up article.

    Best,
    Eyejinx.

  36. Being a game producer is like being a game designer or a project manager; it is extremely important work and is very challenging. But it is much more prestigous and a far more coveted role than being a programmer. You’re expected to work your way up to those roles rather than start out in them.

    Also, most good workers find it easy to respect a superior manager or producer that has more successful experience than them, is older than them, or has a large financial stake in the business. If you put a worker under someone who has none of those things that simply took a different degree plan in school, the worker won’t respect him/her and become demotivated and even bitter.

    I don’t think the game industry lacks respect for producers and designers; they just expect you to work up to them rather than start out in those roles.

  37. FromTheTrenches

    Sorry I didn’t mean to imply that one CS degree was better than another, rather that it takes more than a degree and some interning to prove your worth to a potential employer. It really takes a lot of work on solid, delivered product (in school AND out of school) in leadership roles to compete favorably against all the other people in the industry trying to climb their way up to production.

    I also agree with what Eyejinx said about media studies. When it comes to delivering a product, I’ll take someone who builds over someone who talks any day of the week.

  38. John said:
    >In MY experience those [ designer and producer ] are not as stressful as being an engineer.

    Here’s some free career advice. If you like designing so much more than programming, you need to become a designer.

    I started in the late 80s as an engineer, when that role also had a lot of design responsbility. Then I became a Lead Designer, then an Executive Producer. After all that, I can personally attest that engineering is the least stressful of those jobs. Being able to focus on a technical task is not only less stressful, it’s more fun in many ways. Furthermore, technical jobs often have less accountability, because most managers don’t have technical experience (or CURRENT technical experience) and thus can’t hold their programmers to task for screwing up. Meanwhile designer and EPs are always under the gun of upper management, marketing etc.

    In all seriousness, you seem to be indicating that your experience shows that design is more fun than programming. The Technical Director I hired would disagree with you 100%. He wants to solve technical problems every day and doesn’t want to deal with the design/production side. If you agree with him, stay in programming. Otherwise, ask for some design responsbility and switch career tracks. You will be happier in the end.

  39. Damn, 70K for a job straight out of uni, that’s almost the same number as mine after a few years in engineering at a gaming company (Sydney.au)…. I’m in the wrong country!

  40. I think there are a lot of factors into going into this — while good producers are valuable in this industry, depending on the company, a good engineer is worth many times that.

    In addition, I think that traditionally Producers have come from the non-production areas of the game company. Part of this is because going from art or programming to producer would typically result in a pay cut. So instead, producers come from the lesser paid areas of the game company — qa, tech support, administrative. I’d say 75% of the time entry-level producers come from QA.

    I’ve seen really bad producers come from QA, I’ve seen some really good ones come from QA — what’s more important than where they come from is how the team sees the producer — if they respect the producer for his knowledge, experience and abilities, things usually go pretty smoothly. The teams that don’t respect their producers are usually the ones that fail to release product on time.

  41. Julian Beak

    Three things come to mind:

    1. I say the least stressful job on a game team is a junior engineer. Junior engineers usually have hard constraints for which to measure their success and therefore it is very satisfying. Junior artist is a close second and is only more stressful because you have to communicate qualitatively so much with your lead, and that is prone to misunderstanding.

    2. I’ve seen engineers successfully transition to producer. They get more respect from their teams than when entry-level producers transition to full producers. The latter have to deal with more bullshit from people who don’t respect them.

    3. Leadership is not for everyone and the strength of character required to lead a team is not found in only the technically savvy. Sometimes the technically savvy believe that “hell is other people”. The mix of characteristics required for an effective game team leader is worth 120+K. These same people could work as executives and earn at least that much, so the games industry is going to continue making mediocre games till they pay up.

    I’ve worked in this industry for almost 18 years and that is what I found to be true in my circumstances.

  42. I would like to agree with an earlier post. It was said that given these circumstances a perosn is more likely to become an game programmer first, and eventually turning into a game porduce. Whihc I think is the best scenario, because in order to understand what it takes to program a game in a realistic amount of time, you need to program the game.

    For example, I am no artist, I could not realisticly tell an artist I expect you to have a completely photo realistic drawing of a model on my desk by tomorrow, that would be asking far to much of the person. In order to truly understand this concept, I would need to learn to draw so that I would at least have some idea, what is a good amount of time.

    I guess the point I am making is this, producers need experience in order to be good producers, and the only effective way for a company to discover this is by having you work for them as a programmer first.

  43. Game Ghetto

    The prevailing attitude that an effective designer or producer needs to have been trained as an engineer is the reason that most games don’t speak to the mass market. TV producers aren’t expected to be electrical engineers capable of building a cathode ray tube — they’re expected to understand the universality of drama, comedy, and how to entertain.

    Until we can abandon the old school programmer-reigns paradigm, we need to give up complaining that our medium is marginalized.

  44. FromTheTrenches

    Game Ghetto – Your comments show exactly how wrong you are. The games media is not like TV at all…game technology is constantly evolving as are the experiences presented by cutting edge games. The evolution of games is tied directly to leaps in computer technology. By contrast film and video media have not progressed significantly in decades. Show me a director that doesn’t understand the nuances of film (camera, lighting, film stock, etc) in addition to the forms of drama and entertainment, and I’ll show you some really bad films.

  45. > The games media is not like TV at all…game technology is constantly evolving as are the experiences presented by cutting edge games. The evolution of games is tied directly to leaps in computer technology.

    That in no way implies that a producer must understand the innerworkings of the advances themselves. An effective producer needs only know how to best uses those technological advances to his/her game’s advantage.

    I do not have to be an application developer (or have any experience of writing any kind of code) to realize what a certain application could mean for a project I was in charge of after being told what it can and can’t do.

    Basically, there are two types of people. Those who can be great game producers and those who can’t.

    An engineer, a mailman, a carpenter or a Navy Seal could be either from either camp, and being one of these professions does not imply which camp they may fall into.

  46. Just thought I would add my 2 cents here…

    Since I have found interest and started researching the game
    industry, I have found that it doesn’t really make a whole lot
    of sense. I completely agree that 30k is way too low for an
    entry level producer. I have been playing games since I was 7
    on nintendo and a 386 IBM. Although the graphics have gotten
    much better since then, the quality of games has not. Maybe
    companies should focus more on their management and design
    resources, because almost every comp sci major out there wants
    to be a programmer. I know more computer programmers than I
    could shake a stick…

    So what kind of people does 30k attract for a job? The ones that
    just need to work with games and can’t do anything else. At
    first glance, this seems good for the company. But I think
    that setling for 30k when you can get better elsewhere is
    irresponsible and screams ‘I love games hehehe’. I would more
    readily start a new company, even with no experience but good
    management and design skills, if every company offered only
    30k. Let us think about what other types of jobs make 30k…
    without a college degree!

  47. Pingback: Addicting Entertainment » Blog Archive » Entry Level Game Industry Salaries: Maybe There’s Hope Yet

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