Just what does a producer do, anyway?
Frank Simon, Senior Managing Producer at Sony Computer Entertainment America, was in Australia recently as part of a promotional tour for the upcoming Resistance: Burning Skies. Based in Foster City, California, Frank has almost 20 years industry experience producing videogames.
Responsible for identifying and developing new business opportunities through PlayStation first-party development teams, he's worked on marquee Sony franchises like Sly Cooper, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Resistance, Uncharted and Infamous.
Unusually, he also has a Chemical Engineering degree - which is just one of the things we talked about when we sat down for a chat last week...
So, Frank (may I call you Frank?) you've worked on a lot of successful titles, including Sly Cooper, Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Resistance, Uncharted, and Infamous. This may be like asking a parent which kid is his favourite... but do you have a favourite?
[laughs] Absolutely, it is asking that exact question. It’s like, how do you pick one game out of all the games you have worked on? I honestly really can’t answer, there isn’t any one favourite. When you have worked on so many... I stopped looking at each game as individual entities, because all the moments and stories that were told around developing those games; it's the collection of memories and the teams I have been fortunate to work with that makes me happy.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer! My focus right now is Resistance: Burning Skies, but as soon as I'm back on Monday I’m on Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, and a lot of my attention goes that way.
I have the best job in the world, I get to work on so many games and franchises with a lot of great teams, so I can’t say that I have a favourite. They are all my children, and while that may be a bit overly possessive, these are all cool things I have been a part of and I’m just really fortunate enough to be a part of all of them.
How did you get your start in the games industry?
I have always been a pretty hardcore gamer. I’m a guy who gets home from work and plays games until one or two in the morning, then get up and go to work again - and that’s now, as a producer.
I have a degree in chemical engineering, which as you can imagine is remarkably appropriate for the game development, as people tell me.
Before doing what I do now, I turned down a couple of jobs I was offered as a chemical engineer, because these were jobs where I was required to wear a class four hazmat suit - the big blue suits with the air hose coming out of the back. Anyway, I figured I would survive about a month, mainly because I’m the worlds largest klutz, so I figured “Um, maybe change might be good”.
As I do now, I played a lot of games at the time. My wife was pretty pissed at me - because I turned down several jobs - and she said “Here's something you can do”, she handed me the paper with a circled advert “Video game designer wanted, no experience necessary." So I replied “Fine, I’ll show you, I’ll go get that job”, and sure enough I ended up getting the job; that was about 18 years ago now.
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