Pete Leonard on strict criteria and quality over quantity

worker drawing on a piece of paper

"Always compare your portfolio to where you want to work and what you want to work on. If you want to be work on a Marvel production, then aim for Marvel quality. It is also vital to be disciplined because on any portfolio, quality beats quantity. Remember, your portfolio is your calling card."

Wise words from Pete Leonard, outsource producer at Liverpool-based Lucid Games, whose most notable games include Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions and Destruction AllStars.

Pete is also a ScreenSkills Select Industry Evaluator, one of a team of 40 screen professionals who judge whether a college, university of vocational course meets the strict criteria for being Select endorsed - the gold standard for screen courses in the UK.

His wide experience and career path gives him a real insight into the needs of the games industry in terms of those newly joining or those wanting to – and the important role educators play in the student journey.  

Pete didn't start his journey to becoming an Outsource Producer in games through a ‘traditional’ education to industry pathway. Uniquely, he started as a games recruiter. Because of that role, he gained a deep-seated knowledge of the industry which he then added to through a real commitment to self-study. This allowed him to move directly from games recruitment to games production.

The outsource producer role is pivotal to the success of any game. It is responsible for creating and managing the relationships with outsourced developers. It is central in making sure key production elements such as art, design and technical solutions are delivered on time and to the right specification. The very best like Pete, is player, product, quality-focused, an empathetic problem-solver and organiser.

Coming into the industry through this route has given Pete a real 360 degree view of the technical and soft skills students need to find a role and then make it a success. This also includes having insight on the vital role educators play. This makes him a perfect fit for the industry evaluator role.

For educators, as well as preparing students as best they can, he “believes that holding quality relationships with industry is key. Like with a students’ portfolio, quality is better than quantity so I recommend fewer deeper industry relationships rather than a wide, and inevitably shallower, range of relationships. That way you will be better and more deeply informed on the latest developments in the field.”

For students, being technically proficient and understanding the basic fundamentals is key. “If you join a games company as an environmental artist you need to know about 3D modelling, texturing, the process for setting up materials and what a real-time gaming engine is. The other part of the equation is soft skills. Respect for colleagues, understanding the team dynamic and workflow is important, as is how the communications process works”.

He believed that the more this is assimilated through education, the quicker someone joining the industry will fit in. The message that comes across from so many industry evaluators, including Pete, is the importance of students having knowledge about ALL of the roles that make a game, not just their own role. That way, new recruits will appreciate the skill, craft and dynamics of those they will work with, and understand their needs and what they need from them.

With the games industry in rude health having grown from a $90 billion industry to £200 billion through the pandemic, there are lots of opportunities for new talent to join. Picking the right course which gives students the best chance of success is still vital.

Pete became an industry evaluator because he is passionate about the industry and wants it to continue to be a success in the UK and high quality educational pathways are essential.

Given higher education is so expensive nowadays for students, as he said "probably the biggest financial investment young people now make in their whole lives", having the confidence of being on a course that will heighten their employment prospects is a must. Pete’s final thoughts on the value of ScreenSkills Select are: "This is the crucially important role ScreenSkills Select plays. It gives a student confidence they have made the best choice they can."

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