Meet Rachel Levine, Jam City’s Associate Producer for the hit mobile franchise, Cookie Jam. In our latest Employee Spotlight, Rachel breaks down what goes into making the Cookie Jam franchise an ongoing success and delivers great advice to young women who are eager to jump into the gaming industry.
What drew you to Jam City?
During my tenure with FoxNext Games, I had the opportunity to work with Jam City on Book of Life: Sugar Smash, Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, and Family Guy: Another Freakin’ Mobile Game. My experience working with the amazing San Francisco and Los Angeles teams ultimately encouraged me to apply for the Associate Producer role at Jam City’s San Diego location. Jam City had already established itself as a powerhouse in the mobile game industry with its extensive portfolio of fun, colorful, and top grossing titles, such as the game I currently work on now – Cookie Jam!
Describe your role on the team.
As an Associate Producer, I lead a five person pod of engineers and clear the way for streamlined multi-feature production. More specifically, I remove as many development road-blockers as possible, prioritize development tasks, triage bugs, facilitate inter-discipline communication across the studio, work alongside the various discipline leads to flesh out our roadmap, and monitor the health of the released features with my fellow producers.
With so many levels, how do you keep Cookie Jam feeling fresh?
Outside of the 4000+ levels, Cookie Jam is updated with new features and thematic events that keep players engaged every month, which I think helps keep the game fresh! My team and I are a big piece of the overall puzzle that ensures that the new features we create are coded, implemented, and released on time to our fans.
In addition to our new features, such as Cookie Calendar, Teamwork Treasure, and Rainbow Cookie Time, we look for opportunities to update the visuals of various areas of the game so Cookie Jam can compete with current trends in the mobile game market.
What do you think keeps players constantly returning to Cookie Jam?
I believe the new features (There’s plenty more to come!), ongoing events such as The Great Airship Race, Treasure Jam, and consistent content updates, including new levels and Airships, are the biggest reason why people keep coming back to Cookie Jam. We’ve definitely set a positive example of how a great free-to-play game can be run, and with that I believe people re-engage with Cookie Jam every time we have a new update.
Returning players aside, Cookie Jam on its own is just a fun, colorful game that is super easy to pick up!
What advice can you give young women who are apprehensive about joining an industry that has been historically targeted toward young boys and men?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other women to learn more about their experiences in the industry! You’ll find that women in games are eager to help and support each other, especially when they’re looking to join the industry.
The varying social media platforms played a huge role in the development of my career. These platforms gave me the opportunity to join online communities that were created with the intention to meet other female devs, share job opportunities, ask guidance and advice from other women, and more.
In addition, get involved with game-focused networking events, conferences and associations! Women in Games International, the International Game Developers Association, and conferences, such as the Game Developers Conference, all provide opportunities to interface with industry vets! I’ve learned so much from the folks who attend the mixers by simply participating in a conversation or by going to a panel at a conference.
What do you find most rewarding about your role?
The opportunity to learn something new, everyday! There is a consistent level of ambiguity that comes with working on a live product and working closely with disciplines that you’re not super versed in understanding. My pod makes it a point to provide issue feedback in a digestible manner which not only helps me understand the problem but also teaches me more about engineering.
In addition, it’s incredibly rewarding to be part of the wider cultural change of empowering and encouraging women to join the game industry. As the only female on the production team in Carlsbad, I have the opportunity to remind other women that our opinions, insights, and experience are equally valued and that it’s possible to break into this industry as a female.
What resources (free and paid) can young kids utilize to get a jumpstart in entering the tech and gaming-related fields?
There are definitely a whole bunch of new events and organizations popping up! Here are some great examples, below:
Girls Who Code: (Free) A non-profit organization which aims to encourage more women to join the Computer Science field.
iD Tech Camps: (Paid) A summer computer camp with a focus on gaming, engineering, 3D modeling, and more.
Black Girls Code: (Free) A non-profit organization with a focus of encouraging diversity and empowering young black women in the Computer Science field.
Girls Make Games: (Paid) A series of summer camps full of workshops and game jams designed to inspire the young women to be designers, creators, and engineers.
What do you think makes Jam City stand out as a trailblazer in the gaming industry?
As discoverability gets harder and harder on the different mobile platforms, Jam City pushes past the competition by bringing talented studios in the Jam City fold. Jam City’s internal development teams are bursting with talented folks and include devs from all facets of the industry!
Additionally, Jam City places a huge emphasis on culture, more specifically good culture. We routinely have studio events that let us take a breather and have fun with everyone in the studio. I feel like we’re a studio that constantly strives to create a positive environment and encourage a good work-life balance.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned while working at Jam City?
Remembering that it’s OK to mess up from time to time! It’s super easy to get overwhelmed when you’re tackling multiple things or slowly being consumed by tasks. It helps to remember to take a breather, go for a walk, or talk to another person as a sounding board to push past the mistake and get back on track.
What advice would you give other employees about how to succeed in their role?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I’m the baby of the Production bunch so, I would definitely not consider myself an expert. My fellow Producers are all significantly more experienced and have been Producers for much longer than myself. However, I know I can rely on them to help me make more informed decisions. This also applies to the other disciplines across the studio. I know I can turn to my pod to help me understand an engineering issue, or turn to the design, art, and QA teams when I need something clarified in their respective fields.