How to become an associate producer: Ellie's story

Meet Ellie, 24, an associate producer for Sumo Digital, a games developer in Sheffield. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

Ellie smiling at the camera.
"You have to inspire trust and motivate people to deliver work, which I always enjoy."

What is your job?

My responsibility is day-to-day management of the team, making sure that we hit milestones (important stages) and goals and making sure I keep stakeholders (the people who have an interest in the project) up-to-date on where we are and what the risks are.

What are your day-to-day tasks?

I lead meetings and distribute notes, so that everyone understands what needs to be done. I facilitate scrums (team meetings) and make the important decisions to get the game out of the door, so we can keep everything on time and to budget. A scrum is when you have a meeting with the relevant people in the morning and ask three questions: what did you do yesterday? What are you doing today? Are there any issues that are preventing you from working?

What subjects did you study at school?

I was good at English, which is very important in the games industry, especially if you are a producer. I studied English Literature and Language, Geography and Art and I did Media Studies at college and started bringing in more digital media components. After having a lifelong passion for games, I wanted to do something game related and did Game Art for four years.

Was this something that you always wanted to do?

I wanted to be an artist, then a fashion designer, then a concept artist and finally a 3D designer. I actually studied to be a 3D artist and then realised I had an extra skill set and a new passion for production. The extra skill set was organisational and people management skills. Your portfolio is everything in the games industry. Although I worked incredibly hard, the reality was that my portfolio wouldn’t have been good enough to get me a job in the industry. You have to make hard decisions and I decided to go with the most viable career, which was production.

How did you know you had the skills to be a producer?

I took part in a scheme called ‘Tranzfuser’, which is backed by the UK Games Fund. They fund graduates to create a games prototype within 10 weeks, and then take the game to an annual festival held in Birmingham to showcase it and get feedback. I was the team leader – we needed a producer to make sure everything was on track and I realised I could do that as a job. When you’re a producer, people rely on you to tell them what’s what, so I’ve had to come out of my shell.

Ellie standing at a whiteboard in a meeting.
Ellie leading a meeting.

Top tips

  • YouTube can be a good place to learn about what the gaming industry is like

  • It is easy to see a career as a straight path but that is not the case. I have gone down a different path. Don’t constrain yourself, you can always build up your CV

  • Don’t be put off if you don't meet all the qualification requirements of a job. If you are skilled, good employers will see that and may take a chance on you.

What to expect if you want to be an associate producer

An associate producer gives feedback on games, compiles other people’s feedback and influences the direction of a game. They work on the game schedule, talk to team members, make sure that tasks get completed, attend meetings and problem solve.

The exact work will depend on the game you're producing and the size of the company you work for.

  • Associate producer salary: Variable
  • Associate producer working hours: 35 to 40 hours per week. You may have to work extra hours when deadlines approach.
  • Typical entry requirements: Although you can become an associate producer with any degree subject, employers often look for a degree, HND or foundation degree in Computer Games (development or design), Computer Science or Games Technology. Alternatively, a degree in a subject such as Animation, Interactive Media, Games Design and Art or Graphic Design may be useful. Although having a postgraduate qualification isn't essential, it might be useful if your first degree or HND doesn't involve a games specialism. Work experience, gained for example through a placement during your degree, is also valuable and may help you to network. You can also start in games testing in QA.

The Independent Games Developers' Association (TIGA) accredits a number of games courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

This information is a guide (source: Prospects.co.uk)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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