- Free Range
Employee Spotlight: Sam Miller
What is your discipline/ job title?
I am an Associate Producer, and recently celebrated my 1 year anniversary of being at Free Range Games! My main roles include making sure the team and materials are organized, scheduling meetings, note taking, and keeping everything on track so we make all of our deadlines and milestones.
How did you get into game dev? What did you study in school?
I majored in Film Production with an emphasis in Production Design and a minor in VFX. I come from an entertainment family– both of my parents were talent agents in the 80s and 90s– so I grew up around that energy. I love film and TV, but I've found I’ve played more games than I’ve watched movies, so it seemed like a natural fit to go in the gaming direction. I love the atmosphere of being surrounded by games and designers, that’s my true passion.
How would you say being a game producer differs from being a producer in the film industry?
There are a lot of similarities: you’re working with a lot of people in different roles, it’s fast-paced, and communication is key. The main difference is with movies there’s a script, it feels like you have a game plan in front of you. However games are ever-changing and evolving, so you have to be able to be dynamic and adaptable.
What do you love the most about your job?
I love being able to talk with everyone and connect with people every day. Everybody is so busy, but I really like being able to take time to talk to others one on one or have a little small talk in meetings. I think it brings out a human element in work by reminding everyone that we are all real, creative people and not just a talking box on Zoom.
What do you think is an important part of your job?
I think it’s really important for a producer to be able to connect with others. You kind of have to be a people person. I learned from Alissa, my senior producer, that a producer is a cheerleader for the team in a way. You have to be able to motivate people and know how to help them where they may need it. This doesn’t mean you have to necessarily be the loudest in the room, but taking the time to get to know your peers and check in is really important.
What is the biggest lesson/ piece of advice you’ve learned?
One piece of advice I’ve found to be true at every job I’ve had: don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you move forward without a proper understanding of what you’re doing, it’ll probably end up being worse than just asking a question.
What do you wish you knew when you were entering the workforce/ in school?
I wish I had more knowledge about computer science or programming courses that were out there. If I had known they existed I probably would have sought them out. Even if I didn’t pursue engineering as a career, it would really help me in my position as a producer to better understand the different roles I collaborate with.
If you'd like to learn more about computer programming, Khan Academy provides free online courses using a variety of languages and concepts. They also have some advanced lessons where you can learn more about game design and development.
What are some of your favorite games you’ve worked on?
While I was at Lionsgate in their Interactive Ventures and Games Division, I conducted playtests of The Blair Witch. I also had the opportunity to work at a booth at San Diego Comic-Con and E3 to promote The Observer. It was great to meet different indie developers, in particular, I had so much fun getting to know some of the developers at Bloober which is based in Krakow, Poland.
What’re your top 3 video games of all time? These answers are permanent and cannot be changed.
I would say my personal favorites are The Witcher 3, Skyrim, and Resident Evil 4. The Witcher has a great storyline and narrative, I just really enjoy that series. Next is Skyrim. I don’t know how many times I’ve played that game, I think I bought it on PS3, then PS4, PC, Switch, and Xbox. So I guess I’ve bought it 5 times, but with how much I’ve played it and how great it is, they deserve it. Lastly, Resident Evil 4 was my first real horror game. I love zombies, and it was my introduction to the horror genre.
What’s your dream game to work on?
I would imagine something similar to Until Dawn or Heavy Rain. I love narrative-driven games, and my favorite genre is horror. So combining the two would be really fun to work on. You re-read a good book, just like you replay a good game, that’s why I like games with a storyline. I love horror games like people love roller coasters, I enjoy the thrill and the shock.
What do you try to keep in mind when making a game?
Tell the story you want to tell, but be open to criticism. In both work and life you would want to stay true to yourself, but also listen to what other people are telling you and try to find that balance. Follow your passions and do what you think is right.