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Hello, I’m a producer …

July 22, 2009
Arnd Beenen

In his blog posting, Guido already commented about how challenging it is for him to give people he meets a description of his work. I can definitely relate to that – the same thing happens to me. It’s even a little worse, because the next thing for me to explain is my function in this company, given the fact that I’m apparently not a game author. Although I must admit that during the first few seconds I enjoy the appreciative look I get from the person opposite me, I finally say, “Nope, it was my boss who invented it.”

Well, I’m a producer. Got it? No, not quite, in the majority of cases. And I can absolutely understand that. At best, people know the term “producer” from the movie industry, where it has given rise to some myths.

“So you’re the Jerry Bruckheimer of the board games, right?” No, not really, but the activities of a producer are quite similar across different industries. I’d like to use my first blog posting to give some insight into my work and, thus, into the work behind the scenes of Catan GmbH.

First it should be mentioned that Catan GmbH has no offices in the usual sense. Of course, there is our “headquarters” with Klaus in Rossdorf, Germany, but basically each of us works “from home.” The advantage of it is that I was able to take up residence in the wonderful city of Hamburg and, thanks to the Internet, work with Klaus and my colleagues as if we were sitting in the same building. Okay, the coffee breaks are a little more solitary, but you get over it. In addition, on average once per month we meet in Rossdorf to talk about current projects, test prototypes, and discuss future planning.

catan runde 400 Hello, Im a producer ...

Game round: Gero, Arnd and Guido (f.l.t.r.)

But let’s get back to the job description of a producer. A producer – and this is quite similar in the movie industry – develops and leads a project, which means that he basically is a project manager, although with much more authority and a “more extended view.” A producer plans and coordinates the individual tasks necessary to get the project going and carry it through. Since we are a small company, my responsibility includes a much wider range of activities than it would be the case in a bigger company with more diversified areas of activity. To my delight, this also allows me to participate in the development of Klaus’s board games among other things, but first and foremost I’m responsible for the area “electronic gaming,” that is, computer games, online world, Catan shop, etc.

If we decide to put an idea into practice, Klaus and I develop a concept, and the ideas and comments of colleagues and users are often incorporated. In this context, it is also my job to keep an eye on feasibility and costs. Afterwards, I take care of selecting the required programmers, graphic artists, musicians, writers, etc. and hiring them for the project. Once the project is running, I’m the chief coordinator and responsible that everything stays within the set time frame and budget. Apart from pursuing our own projects, we also grant licenses to third parties, which is why – in the area electronic gaming (e. g., Catan for mobile phones, Nintendo DS, XBOX 360, Playstation 3, etc.) – I’m also responsible for these projects. That is, I participate in contract negotiations, I help with the elaboration of the concept if need be, and I’m the primary contact for the licensee.

Well, and how does such a workday look like? My wife once said that I was just on the phone all day long. That’s definitely exaggerated, but it’s not entirely wrong either. Communicating (be it via phone, Skype, or e-mail) is somehow the main task of my job. There is always something that needs to be discussed, clarified, directed, mediated, or also appeased. But this often means that I have to pitch in and, for example, convert graphics, write texts, carry out tests, or answer a service question. However, this makes the job so interesting and varied, and that’s why I wouldn’t trade it for any other job in the world.

And how do you grow up to become a producer? Well, although I developed an early interest in board games and especially fantasy role-playing games, it wasn’t necessarily a given that one day I would emerge in the gaming industry. After growing up with the first home computers, like many others at the time I wanted to “do something with computers,” so I studied business IT. Right after graduation, a friend asked me if I wanted to join his computer games company. Much to my parents chagrin, I said yes, thinking that later I could still change over to IBM, SAP, and the like. That, of course, was a misapprehension, because once you work in the gaming industry, you’re usually lost for the reputable world of banks and software companies. However, when given the choice of either producing games that (hopefully) will bring joy to many people or developing a database for an insurance company, the decision is mostly an easy one.

I came to Catan about 7 years ago, after meeting Klaus during a joint project (“Catan – the Card Game for PC”); he later hired me as the first staff member of his newly established Catan GmbH. He had the idea of creating an online world for Catan players, and he was looking for someone who would take care of Catan’s electronic gaming projects, that is, a producer. I gladly accepted the offer and have never regretted it. And by now, my parents are quite happy with my career choice too.

Arnd Beenen