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  • Donovan Garcia-Buckler

It has been four amazing years, but what did I learn?

My senior Champlain College photo!

 

As I write this blog post I am getting ready to finish up my senior year at Champlain College. It has been four amazing years as a Game Producer and I wouldn't trade the memories for the world. As I have started to think about the future for myself I couldn't help but think about where I had come from.


I started as a Game Production Management student back in 2018 (which at this point feels like a lifetime ago) and when I first started I knew nothing about what I was doing or frankly who I was as a person. College has been such an amazing place for growth and development not only professionally, but also personally. I got to learn to stand up for myself here and have good healthy conflict with teammates. All skills that I didn't have when I first started here.


So taking a look back I want to share with you the biggest takeaway that I had from each year, and my goal is that you find some value through my experience or you can resonate with some of the learning that I had to do these past four years.

 

First Year 2018-2019

My first school open house where I got to give tours all on my own!


My first year I got hired to be a Student Ambassador at Champlain College! It’s a huge leadership position on campus and got to try first hand working with prospective students and getting to know them. The whole point of the role is to be the face of the college and in by doing so interact with folks who are coming to our campus. However this was incredibly nerve wracking for me at first. This was one of the first times where I was with a group of folks who I didn't know and they looked solely to me for information and to hear me speak. I had done some public speaking before, but usually only with folks who I knew or mostly knew. This was a great time for me to learn how to be comfortable & confident in what I was saying. Because when you go out on tour, typically the only one there and there is no one else to fall back on. Growing up I hadn’t always been the most confident in myself, so I was excited that I got to finally work on my self confidence with what I was saying. My biggest takeaway from this year was to be confident in myself and what I'm saying. If I don't have the confidence in myself and what I'm saying who will?

 

Second Year 2019-2020

My Production 1 team for Rhythm of Anxiety

Second year of Champlain has a lot of fond and not so fond memories associated with it. This was the year that towards the end got all screwy cause we went remote that semester in March of 2020. However there was still a lot I got to learn about team management and my management style as a Producer.


This year was my first real time to be a Producer. The first year it is more about getting all of the basic fundamentals in place and getting used to the cycle of Sprints to plan out work for a week. As well in my first year my longest game project was about 3 weeks. The second year was now a chance to actually start putting my skills to the test and making a game for longer than a few weeks. However before we started our final project we went home for spring break in March of 2020, and like many folks that was the last time that we would be gathering in person.


We then quickly shifted to online working and that came with a lot of struggles. Folks were feeling isolated, burned out, and honestly unmotivated to do work. As a Producer and a manager this was a lot to address and support folks. I was always told that Producers are supposed to be objective focused on tasks and their completion and nothing else, and while every one of my teammates was struggling so hard I had a hard time subscribing to that logic that my teammates were just workers. So I decided to stop and develop my style of production based on who I am as a person. A Producer that cared about their teammates and their mental well being over little possible thing getting done. I started to manage my teammates with their mental well being in mind. I started having chats 1:1 to check in on folks. Playing games with folks after hours to make them feel like someone was there. I did what I could to let my teammates know that I was there to support them and that I cared.



The image above is an image from Twitter that asks folks what there production style is and I think that it matches mine pretty well. I realized from this quick switch to online work that I could be my authentic self and be a manager. My kindness is what helps me to manage my teammates and it only really clicked when I took a moment to decide for myself what I was going to do, regardless of how much experience I had producing. This has set me up for great success in the future, as the reason people wanted to work with me in my senior year was because they had heard about my way of managing.

 

Third Year 2020-2021

My team's logo from my internship

Ahh the year of hybrid of learning. This was a year of me growing and learning about the actual making of games. The first few years I had gotten more confidence in myself and my management style, but now would come the hard part. The actual making of the game.


My hard skills of creating documents, researching in industry, and helping map-out roadmaps of whats to come in later sprints in different milestones needed more practice. This semester was the perfect time to start to build these skills up, especially because I wasn't able to go out that much.


I was able to improve my skills and learn a lot about a whole variety of things. In particular a lot related to game business as I got to take 2 advanced seminars addressing relevant topics in the industry. I actually got to talk about these topics that I studied more in a previous blog that I did for Champlain College study abroad.


With a stronger background in game business and other hard skills I was able to bring this new knowledge to my production 2 team with Lenora Fedora. I was working with my team for the full semester and this helped me to do things like create an itch.io page for the game and helped create roadmap documents for all of our milestones.


With all of these new skills and experience with being a producer I wanted more experience that wasn't just school projects. I was able to network into an internship at Rad Magpie. A local non-profit indie game studio that was based close to the college. In this role I got to produce a team of young developers, and I got to help support the studio in fundraising activities for the studio to do non-profit work.


The team of young developers that I got to be was Producer on was called Pink Soul Crab Studios (The logo is posted above). While working with so many developers I noticed something for the first working outside of working with folks of my game studio cohort. People are at different levels of their development and maturity, and as a Producer it is our job to help support folks to bring them up.

 

Fourth Year 2021-2022


My capstone team version 1.0!


My capstone team version 2.0!


I'm currently in my senior year and this has been the culmination of everything that I learned. I have learned so much going from a team of 9 (7 Champlain students, 2 contractors) to 23 (16 Champlain students, 7 contractors).


I have learned so much about game development working on one for over a year, but regardless of all of that I learned something more important. Your teammates are what matter most of all and you need to treat them like human beings no matter what. As a team we created a human first team with the sole purpose of making sure that we could always remember that above all else we value each other and our mental health.


When we were green-lit to continue our games production into the spring of this year we knew that the only team mates that we would want to onboard are members who wanted to be a part of that culture. We didn't care about X best designer, or X best programmer. We cared about would they want to treat their teammates as humans plain and simple.


While my senior isn't over I'm already looking back on some of the amazing and fond memories and I can't wait to see what the end holds for us.

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