Alumni Spotlight on… Dustin Kochensparger, GDD-BS (2014) @ Bungie
Alumni Spotlight on… Dustin Kochensparger, Game Design & Development, BS, 2014 Production Coordinator, Bungie
Current Job Title/Company
I currently work at Bungie as a Production Coordinator, producing several art teams across the studio
What’s your current job like?
As a producer, my job generally includes helping teams of developers with organization, communication, and time management. I am responsible for assisting the team and its lead(s) with scheduling and planning for key dates, maintaining communications inside and outside the team, and generally helping out with any other needs the team may have. There are so many duties that producers may be responsible for, it's hard to build a comprehensive list. Production is a very service driven job, with producers acting as part of the team's voice in the studio. I represent my teams in a variety of meetings and discussions, making sure their needs and concerns are brought to light. It's a complex job that requires thinking on your feet, as any two days are rarely the same for a producer. But every day I get to help extremely talented people do their very best work, and that reward is worth the challenge.
What skills do you use on a day to day basis?
For starters, communication skills are a big part of my day to day - from hosting meetings with team leaders, to following up on design details, I spend a fair amount of time talking with other developers over email, chat, and in person. Time management is another key skill, as I am responsible for helping to schedule much of the work my teams will be taking on. Understanding the bigger picture of how the game is coming together is critical to making good decisions about what tasks we can and cannot do. I'd also say that having a general knowledge of how games are built, front to back is critical for my position. I'm responsible for working with teams across the company, so being able to understand their workflows and the types of challenges they face is key to keep things moving forward.
What’s your most memorable moment from your time in IGM?
Picking just one memorable moment is going to be a challenge - from late night game jam wins, to running from zombie hordes of my peers, there were a multitude of awesome experiences I had while at RIT. One thing that comes to mind right now was a scavenger hunt put together by the department as part of the Just Press Play initiative from a few years ago. It was quite a brisk day out, and I wasn't sure if I would even go for a bit, but a group of friends convinced me to make the trek, so I bundled up and marched out with the rest of them. The premise of the hunt was simple - follow clues which lead around campus to stations crewed by various professors. The clues were challenging, and it was a lot of fun to walk around various campus hot spots and see friendly faces. At the end of the journey, we were promised a surprise like none other - and after an hour of searching, we arrived at the final destination - Andy Phelps’ office in the IGM suite. We walked in, shivering from the cold, and were greeted by a sight like none other - President Destler and Andy standing tall in Game of Thrones costumes, holding their weapons of choice - a banjo and electric guitar, respectively. We all posed for photos, and went on out merry way, but it always has stuck with me how awesome it was for our faculty (and amazing president!) to take the time out of their lives to do something so fun for the students. I cherish that scavenger hunt, and many, many other experiences as some of the best things to come from my time at RIT.
What helped prepare you the most for your current position?
Two things - the co-ops I did, and the extracurricular work I undertook while working on my degree. I worked for 3 different companies across my co-ops, each time holding a different position (or two!). I worked as a developer, a QA person, an interface designer, and yes, even as a producer. These experiences were invaluable for me, both for the skills I learned on the job, as well as for the practice working as part of a team. This second bit is a critical skill for students to pick up on early, as there it is almost a guarantee that they will be working on a team, big or small, both in their studies and in their career. Learning about norms, rules, habits, and even just how to get along with people has been absolutely critical to working in the games industry, so using my co-ops to learn these skills was extremely valuable. The other piece that helped more than anything was the multitude of extracurricular opportunities I participated in while at RIT. As a student, I tried to do as much as I could to learn and grow through channels beyond the classroom. I participated in game jams, attended conferences, spoke on panels, and even founded a startup with several of my peers. These experiences all contributed to my abilities as a game developer and producer. The games I made allowed me to improve my team leadership skills; the conferences I attended allowed me to build a network of connections that I can call on across the industry; the panels I spoke on allowed me to grow as a speaker and share my experiences with others. By taking advantage of a myriad of extracurricular opportunities while at RIT, I was able to graduate with an even greater set of skills and experiences that helped me get where I am today.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to current IGM students?
Make a lot of games, especially some outside of class. It sounds silly, I know, but making games is one of the best ways to get better at it! You'll make plenty of games in class, it's true, but many times, you won't have enough time to take your ideas to their full potential. By working on games outside of class, you gain the ability to be more ambitious with your ideas and see them through to completion. You can also try out new skills and disciplines, some that you may not get to do as often in class. I was able to spend much more time working as a producer by making some of my own games after class. You also get a great chance to confirm that the job you believe you want in games is actually what you like to do - if you love something so much that you want to spend your spare time doing it too, you've probably found the career for you! As a game development major, making games is what you are trained to do, after all. So get out there, grab some friends, and make some crazy awesome games!