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By Hassan al Razi
It’s been a wonderfully chaotic ‘almost’ two years since my first day as a Product Manager (and Game designer) at Alpha Potato. So far I can say I have overcome a lot of hurdles, dived into deep waters, been completely out of my depths and somehow found my way back to the surface again. It has been quite a journey and I could not have done it without the help of the amazing people I work with, who I have learned a great deal from. I’ll share two key realizations/learnings that shaped my thought process and helped me grow as a Product Manager and Game Designer.
Being a Product Manager AND Game Designer is HARD
But what if you’re both? To me it seems like a constant battle between the left and right side of the brain, a battle that no sides are winning decisively. Balancing between implementing gameplay requirements, meeting deadlines, and KPIs has been one of the toughest challenges I’ve faced. This is where my fellow Game Designer and Product Managers here at Alpha Potato have been my saviors. I’m always picking their brains, asking for help, learning from their experiences and how they deal with similar scenarios, trying to become a better juggler of the two roles. I know finding that sweet spot is still far from reach, but after these two years it feels like I’ve taken baby steps toward that direction.
Planning is Your Best Friend
For many years of my life I’ve been the “Who needs to plan when you can Improvise like a boss” kind. So, when my Product Manager life started in a game development company that tests more than 10-12 prototypes a month, each prototype taking two weeks or less to finish, i.e., a really, really fast production cycle (at least for me)- I thought I’m going to fit in just perfectly here. And after many blowups, missed deadlines, and “well I have no idea where this is going anymore”- moments in my early months I realized, I couldn’t have been more wrong!
After a while I found myself going through the basics of Agile concept- user stories, task breakdown, estimation, the whole lot. All these ideas started to make sense, but the years-old mindset (Read “ego”) of mine was still getting in the way- so I decided to force myself into detailing and planning ahead, and see what happens next. Soon after I started to write things down, however, I found out that it’s much harder to bullshit yourself when things exist outside of your head and on paper. It took me some time to swallow that bitter pill (“ego” again :)), but I believe that’s also when I started to grow as a Product Manager.
I’m not necessarily saying since I’ve started spending more time in pre production, planning, and estimates everything suddenly became all sunshine and rainbows. I still miss deadlines from time to time, but it has been much easier to track what’s going wrong, predict the pitfalls and refine the schedule. For now, I see that as an absolute win!