Production Roles Pros and Cons
Team projects tend to need you to fulfill an understood role. I used to fulfill the role of “artist” then I fulfilled the role of the “programmer.” Below are the advantages and disadvantages that I discovered.
Advantages of playing the “artist” role instead of “programmer” (in order of importance):
- Being an artist is more attractive than being an engineer. This may seem shallow, but never finding that person you want to spend your life with is kind of a big deal.
- You can listen to things with a narrative at work. Art tends to be more intuitive than programming, so you can listen to things like audio-books, podcasts, or a college lecture series while remaining productive. Not so with programming. With programming, I have to hear myself think. Music is better than silence, but a man can only rub his ears raw on three minute pop songs for so long. Then cometh the techno/electro/dubstep alternatives. WUB WUB WUB WUB WUB.
- Easier to show off. Programming is kind of a lonely art. Nobody will give you ass-pats when you write a sweet algorithm the way they will when you draw a sweet picture. I miss those ass-pats.
Advantages of playing the “programmer” role:
- Pays more. Also more resistant to outsourcing. Not that programming can’t be outsourced, but art is crazy prone to outsourcing (a Chinese artist costs 1/12th the cost of an American artist!)
- Creatively liberating. Artwork is all right there on the surface for anyone to see and know and judge profusely. Programming is a more personal medium. Code reviews only go so deep, and a lot of the most important decisions will remain yours and yours alone. I really love that.
- Programming is mindblowing. Art is pretty wild too, especially at first when you can’t even imagine how the old masters could possibly make what they made. But when you’ve learned programming, you’ve basically learned magic. All “reading the dark knowledge from the forbidden tome” type shit. When your programs come to life and produce results for the first time, congratulations: You are a fucking wizard, Harry. Welcome to this incredible secret world beneath the normal world that only you can see.
- Relentlessly challenging. You’re going to be asked to make the same kind of art over and over and over again as an artist. It can become hard to keep it spicy and interesting without breaking the consistency necessary for a collaborative art effort. I'll never forget the first day I was training the guy who is now head Environmental Artist, and he spontaneously exclaimed ”That’s all we do? But that’s so EASY!” Programming, by its nature, will keep throwing entirely new problems at you without end. It’s extremely satisfying in that way.