So a couple of weeks back I came across an article on Gamasutra that discussed why you shouldn’t become a manager in the games industry because you’re probably doing it for all the wrong reasons. Now being in a manager role in our company I naturally got interested in hearing why I shouldn’t be one and why my reasons to become one where all wrong. Funnily enough I came to the conclusion that I don’t agree with the article, or to be more precise, it came from the perspective of a AAA industry veteran. I’m not saying that the author of the article is wrong, I just think that it doesn’t cover the full scope of the games industry as a whole.
I’m an indie, or at least I like to see myself and my team as one, and in the article becoming a manager is presented as a career choice where an artist or a programmer thinks that they can do a better job managing their team than the person currently doing so, plus they get better pay and get to be part of the decision making process. While this might be true in the AAA industry, I mean I wouldn’t know, this is not my perception of how I ended up in a manager position.
When my team got together with the intention of creating a game company roughly two and a half years ago, we were twelve people at the time, my first thought wasn’t “Wow it’s going to be great for my career if I take the position of lead artist!”, it was more along the lines of “We’re six artists and someone’s got to take the lead responsibility, might as well be me.”. Worth noting is that we were still students at the time with quite limited experience in full scale production so I only had a vague idea of what I was getting myself into, but I still felt that I could do a decent enough job and none of the other artists were particularly interested in doing it.
My point here is that I took the role, not just because I thought I might do a good job, but because it was necessary. We knew enough that we could confidently say that if we didn’t fill the lead positions then the whole team would crumble. Why did we say that? Because we’re in that peculiar spectrum where we’re a big small team. If you have a team of 2-3 people then there is no point in having lead roles in the same sense as a team of, in our case, twelve. The team of 2-3 people can easily have meetings where each of them can voice their opinions and be part of taking decisions, but as soon as the team size starts shooting up over five or six people then suddenly it gets a lot harder to reach a consensus in any given situation. That’s what we knew and that’s why we decided it was necessary to have people with the responsibility of taking in the opinions of every other team member and then take decisions based on these. This means stepping on the toes of people who might not agree with the decision, which is never fun or something you actively seek out to do (hopefully), but that’s why it’s called responsibility.
So that is where I think the above mentioned article fails to address a pretty important point, necessity. I of course don’t have nearly as much experience in the industry as the author, nor have I worked in AAA, but I can imagine that even in the AAA industry there are times when it’s necessary to fill a management role lest the whole production would be in danger. In a situation like that I’d say that necessity is a pretty good reason to take on that role, provided you believe that you can handle it and that it’s worth trying to save a project in that situation. For indie developers and smaller companies on the other hand, I definitely think that necessity is a good enough reason to take on that type of role.
In conclusion I’d just like to say that I do agree with most of the points the article brings up, you shouldn’t take on a management role for the wrong reasons, like simply because it looks good on paper, that will most likely turn for the worse for both you and your team. But do keep in mind that there are some pretty good reasons for doing so as well, especially if you are part of a smaller studio, if you’re willing to learn and give up some (or a lot) of your creative work in order to make sure that the rest of the team can do theirs.