The Internship Chronicles – Alex

Alex Dalton (Game Production ’19) tells us about his internship at indie studio, Back to the Game, during his semester abroad in Montreal. Alex also had the opportunity to table the game he was working on at MEGA and MIGS.

When a student comes to Champlain College, what do you think they came here for? For many, it was the opportunity for a higher education. For me, it was all about the internship opportunity. Champlain College offered a number of connections that I could use to break into the highly competitive game industry. Upon arriving in Montreal I was thrilled to be starting my internship. Unfortunately for me, I did not find one for a few weeks but when I did, I hit the jackpot. I landed an internship at Back to the Game. Back to the Game or B2TG was founded by my boss Richard Rispoli, three months before I came around. The team was small, consisting of industry veterans. Richard worked in the game industry for fifteen years prior working on platforms ranging from PC to the Nintendo DS. Our lead programmer Ivan has been working with Richard for quite some time and I have become quite in awe of his programming skills. Back to the Game’s lead artist Michael is a quite and talented soul. Michael has worked on some great projects like Disney’s Zootopia and I have been honored to work with him. The same goes for everyone at Back to the Game. I could not be the producer I am today without the continued guidance of Richard.     

Project planning was my main task that I have had to work on throughout this internship. A project plan is just as it sounds a plan that details the workflow for a project. Now being a producer I should have been well acquainted with project plans. Originally I thought that it was just a document that explained the phases of production because that is what I was taught. I quickly learned otherwise. Richard showed me that a project plan was also a spreadsheet with tasks. I learned that I needed to account for each asset, each system, and each piece of work that the team may need. This also accounts for marketing and rights acquisition. Working on this project plan was the focal point for most of my own work. I was never very great at this kind of work and at first, I struggled with the project plan. I could format the document very nicely, the rows and columns would make an accountant cry tears of joy. That being said the estimation was all off. This caused my numbers and bottom line to be bloated. When I talked to Richard it hit me. I had no idea what artists or programmers do. I had no idea what their process was and that hindered my own ability to estimate their work. After this realization, I took onto myself to learn how both of these aspects of development work to some success. My roommate was more than happy to help me understand what he did as an artist. I learned what an artist’s process was so that I could properly estimate the work put in front of Michael, our artist. By doing this I greatly reduced the bottom line and provided some clarity to where the project was going. By focusing most of my efforts on the project plan I was learning so much about how the team works and the workflows the accompany a busy production.

The most recent task that I had to work on was just being at MEGA in the old part of Montreal. MEGA was a game convention for mainly indie developers to show off their projects. Richard got us a booth and he wanted me to work it with Michael and himself. While working at MEGA my sole objective was to get people to play our game, REACH classic. I stood in front of our booth asking everyone around me if they wanted to play our game. I even got some time to talk to a few Champlain alumni. Crowds were never something that I felt really comfortable in. Seeing as this was my first convention I was faced with a few options; either I can only ask people to play if I could see that they were interested, or I can just ask everyone. I chose the latter and had a better time because of it. The best tie at the booth had to be hands down when this small family came over to the desk. This father brought his two daughters over because they like the colors, I simply handed them the tablet and phone. I barely had to explain the game and they knew immediately how to play. They had played for close to twenty minutes. The father immediately downloaded the game and thanked us. From this, I learned that being proactive has its upsides but sometimes you will not need to draw people in because they will naturally like your game.

My experience at my internship has been one of a kind. My other tasks were budget-writing and research for our upcoming games. These tasks were so interconnected with writing the project plan that I almost forgot to mention them as separate tasks. My main takeaways from this internship are that a producer needs to be the man of many hats. I need to be able to communicate with my peers regardless of specialty. My whole job is to provide clarity to my team as wells as my stakeholders and in order to do so, I need to understand them all. Another thing I learned is to be proactive. My peers won’t message me unless I message them first. Above all else, I learned that communication is my most useful tool. Whether it is on paper or spoken, communication can solve most your problems. This internship was awesome, I suggest doing it.