Capital Games Personal Post-Mortem

The Fall 2012 semester at the Entertainment Technology Center is over:  Food Quest has been handed off to the client as well as into the ETC archives, and the Capital Games team is officially disbanded.

The team achieved a great deal this semester and I’m very happy to have been their producer.  My team really stepped up to every challenge and obstacle we encountered along the way.  I hope they’ve learned a lot, and as for myself, I feel like I learned a few things about producing as well:

From my advisors:

I met with my faculty advisors twice over the course of the semester for individual performance grades and evaluation, and they told me a good number of insightful things about me as a producer.  There are there main things I need to work on:

Leading the team:
I’ve normally got a passive personality, and that’s pretty apparent to anyone who meets me.  While the faculty sees me as doing extremely well with the administrative and clerical duties of producing, I’m not yet a figurehead.  This is something that I need to work on and I believe I can; I came to graduate school to improve what I’m not good at, not to continue to do only what I am good at.

Growing the team:
I’ve got personality quirk that isn’t a problem for me, but is detrimental to those around me.  That personality quirk is that I’m pessimistically optimistic:  I like to talk about how bad things might be so that we can make it turn out better; this is how I internally motivate myself to work harder.   Turns out that constantly lamenting how terrible the project is going to turn out is not the best way to motivate a team  and help them get in the mood to work hard.  It’s fine if I keep the pessimistic optimism for myself, but externally, I need to show more optimistic optimism.

Pushing the team to achieve:
My normally passive personality towards others makes it simple for others to get away with the “easy way out” in their work, and I need to recognize that and know not only when to retreat from challenges that are too big, but push my team towards challenges that they can overcome.  For Capital Games, the team took a bit of time to hit our stride at the beginning and could have arguably hit it a little sooner if we hadn’t let ourselves be so daunted by our project initially.

From Anthony Hildebrand:

Anthony was our Writer and Sound Designer on the team, but he plans to be a producer as well.    For our project, he wanted to be able to look at the producer from an external role so that he could learn from me and I could learn from him, and it worked.  As the producer on a team, I’m the “go-to guy” but it helped for me to sometimes have someone else I could “go-to;” moreover, having someone else to help evaluate and criticism my actions and decisions really helped me to grow and develop.

One thing that Anthony helped me with was my communication.  In my circles, I’ve never been the social leader-type, but around the time I started graduate school, I realized that most skills aren’t innate, they’re practiced, and so my communication is something that I’m actively trying to improve during my time here at the ETC.  Anthony helped point out a lot of my shortcomings and how to solve them:

  1. One thing was to be aware of falling back on certain words too much and “cheapening” them.  For myself, I too often use the word “definitely” when I want to sound confident: “X will definitely happen” OR “I will definitely do that.”  While being confident is important, I was using this speech tick too much as a crutch.
  2. The biggest thing, though was my lack of control in a conversation.  My default personality is the passive nice guy and I can be afraid of controlling a conversation because it feels selfish; Anthony explained that as a producer, it is important to let others have their say, but to then bring it back into the larger picture to show that you always know what’s going on.  One particular thing he suggested I practice as well is to end conversations on “a button” – when I know a conversation is ending, I should take control and leave an important takeaway that I want everyone to remember as well as finish with a definitive phrase that ends the conversation.

The biggest thing he helped with was helping to facilitate communication with the client.  On Project Xense, the client was more hands-off than here on Capital Games, but Anthony had dealt with a more responsive client on his own previous project at the ETC, Pixel Pushers.  He gave a lot of great pointers about how to help the client understand what the team was and wasn’t capable of, but moreover on how to make sure to address the client’s concerns while suggesting alternatives.  It can often be easy to push back aggressively against unexpected client demands, but one really needs to dissect the meaning of those demands.  If you understand what the client needs relative to what they want, you can come to a compromise that is acceptable to their values and your own schedule.

And of course, he kept my confidence up and made being on the team a fun time, and that’s an even more important characteristic of a good producer.

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