Observations On Management

Senior Show, the event where we will showcase our final game (my huge Capstone project), is happening Friday. Everything is a complete mess, half of our game is broken with no hope of repair, and the question “will we be done in time” is still up in the air. My team has collectively put in over 3,000 hours on this project over the last eight months, all while taking four other classes, working at jobs or internships, and trying to figure out what our lives will be after college. We have been trying to create something beautiful, meaningful, and functional out of nothing, all while trying to create the same out of ourselves. Will employers want us? Are we ready? Are we going into the right field? Will we be happy? These and a thousand other questions swirl around in our brains as we beat our heads against the computer screen, trying not to freak out and scream “why won’t it just WORK?!”As the producer, there is only so much I can do to help. I am the manager, not the creator, and so when we realize that Player 2 can only move objects two feet before they snap back to their original position, all I can do is encourage, pat a back and say “just keep trying, I know we’ll find a solution soon.” The inability to ACT and do something constructive that can directly assuage the problems we are having makes me want to tear my hair out. All I can do is wait, and watch, direct, and pray.

I always thought that being a manager sounded like a pretty sweet job. When it comes down to it, what do you actually DO? Well, I’ll tell you. You stress. A lot. And you inwardly panic but have to outwardly appear calm, cool and collected. You have everything riding on other peoples’ work – something I find extremely difficult – and you have to trust that they are going to deliver something awesome, on time. Believe me, this doesn’t always happen. You have to keep the team together through setbacks, burnout, exhaustion, sickness and disagreements. You have to keep an eye on dozens of moving parts all at once, all while trying to figure out why so-and-so is working on Thing B, when you asked him to do Thing A two days ago and now he’s saying “oh, I just thought this was more important.” Deep breaths.

Me, keeping calm like a boss.

Being a manager means being ‘on’ 24/7. I remember things while I’m at work and covertly text a question about that hugely important thing that I haven’t checked in on in three days, all while my heart is beating fast at the thought that I’ve ruined the entire project with my ineptitude. I jump out of the shower with shampoo still in my hair to write down the idea I just had about the trailer. I go to the school dance and boogie down the whole night with my phone in my hand, in case there is a criss. I carefully balance shielding the team from the executive producers and letting them know of our struggles so they can help us.

The mental strain of managing is something that I never expected. I didn’t expect to become so invested in this project and these people. To care so deeply about their joys and sorrows, their pains and triumphs. I didn’t expect to feel like I was on tenterhooks, lying awake at night, unable to turn off my overly stressed and underly sleeped brain. I didn’t expect to be up until four am only to get up at eight am night after night, desperately trying to fix problem after problem with no time and the words of my executive producer “effort is not rewarded, only results are” ringing over and over in my head.

Here’s a picture of an adorable ferret
to make it all seem less dire.

This has been, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done. I have spent almost 200 hours on this project this semester, in addition to my other classes and my job. It’s all coming down to one night next week, when I will have to walk out onto a stage in front of hundreds of people, with hundreds more watching on their computers at home, and try to make our game sound as good as I can. There will be nine industry recruiters watching me, judging my every move, and deciding whether they should circle my name on their ballot to indicate that they would like to interview me. My parents and Brandon’s parents will be there, expecting I will make them proud, believing that I will be awesome. The pressure is crushing, the stress all-consuming. I hardly know what I will do with myself after this project is over, indeed I find it difficult to imagine a time when I will not be thinking about this, worrying about it.

But at the end of the day, I have my team around me. I know they have worked their hearts out, and I know that they have come together in ways they never thought they could. They have faced problem after problem, faced getting cut multiple times, and some days realized at midnight that the game as we know it is not going to work when we needed x, y, and z done by 9:30am. They always found a way around these problems. They discovered fixes that have never been done before, pushed the technology farther than it was designed to go, and now are able to present what they’ve learned to the gaming community at large. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of people, and I couldn’t be more honored to have worked beside them. For better or worse, we will hand in that build on Wednesday at noon, give the best presentation we can on Friday, and finally be able to look back on our memories of this project with fondness and relief.

Some teasers of the epic game that is to come:

Gemini XIII

Solar Panel

Hydroponics

The Common Room

Our game poster. Not going to lie, I get a
little thrill when I see my name on it.

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Filed under college, Gemini XIII, Management, Senior Team, Stress, The Game, Thoughts

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