Hello, my name is Charles Weiss and I am a Production Coordinator at Raven Software. This article was originally written when I was a QA Tester but was never published. I have been in the industry for almost two years and would like to share my experience with you.
How did you get into the industry?
This is going to sound a lot worse than it actually was. I was one year out of college, unemployed, living with my Dad, and basically clueless as to what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. A lot of my free time was spent playing video games so my father suggested that I should get a job testing video games. He had seen ads online stating that you can work at home and make good money. I informed him that these were bogus websites trying to get you to pay money to get leads on jobs. Still, the idea of testing video games was appealing and with no other job prospects lined up I decided to check the internet.
It turned out that Raven Software was hiring for a QA Intern. I decided to apply, and the next day I received a phone call from a recruiter who invited me to come in for an interview.
My interview was scheduled for the day after the Green Bay Packers lost to the Arizona Cardinals in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs. I was an emotional wreck, but managed to pull it together for my interview. My interview was with Senior Producer Keith Morton and must have went well since one week later I received a call and was offered a job at Raven.
What is it really like being a QA Tester?
Being a tester at Raven Software is all about "Assuring Quality". We do perform a lot of the standard "functional testing" where we make sure the game loads, levels can be progressed, and make sure all the game’s mechanics work as intended, but we are also relied on to provide a lot of feedback on the quality or "fun" of the game.
Every day we hold multiple company-wide play tests and feedback sessions where we play the game to see if it is fun. We then have feedback meetings where we meet with the designers and discuss what is working and what we feel should be addressed to improve the level. Our feedback is looked at as being extremely important in the overall development of the game.
Of course we still write a lot of bugs and play through the same few levels for hours on end trying to find a showstopper, but this is all part of the process of making the game better. And luckily we are working on multiple projects that allow us to break up our days nicely so we aren’t stuck playing the same level for eight hours.
How relevant is Sony’s show, The Tester to actually being a member of QA?
I only watched the first episode of The Tester so I do not feel properly educated on the relevancy that show has to actually working in QA. I do know that the winner received a $5000 signing bonus which I would welcome.
What is your most and least favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is the company of the people I work with. Everyone at Raven is incredibly welcoming and there has not been a single day that has gone by when I didn’t honestly want to come to work. Every day is a chance to learn something new. I love to learn and working in a studio of intelligent, creative, and motivated individuals is a great way to soak up knowledge.
My least favorite part of the job would have to be when I’m stuck replaying a single level for hours on end trying to reproduce a single bug. I remember we worked six hours of overtime one day to continuously play new builds and verify a single bug. It would appear with every new build which meant we had to wait for a “fix” in the next build. This continued on until about midnight when the programmers finally decided to call it a day. The fun of that day came because I got to hang out with everyone after work and watch everyone slowly fade into a tired madness.
When I first started at Raven I wasn’t really sure what my role was. Our project didn’t need bugs entered in on a daily basis and I was the only tester on the project so I didn’t have anyone saying that this is how it was done. There was a lot of trial and error my first few weeks and months. I would give a lot of feedback on what I felt worked in the game and what I felt was fundamentally broken. This was met with positive and negative responses. On the positive side I was showing initiative and an understanding of the product at hand, while on the negative side I ended up creating long email chains and got a lot of people questioning the direction of certain parts of the game. I was told to continue to provide this feedback but to simply take it to the leads for digestion instead of broadcasting it out to the entire team.
Another challenge has been shifting priorities within a game studio. I have been at Raven a little over a year and am working on a variety of different projects. I now manage a group of eight QA testers and the biggest challenge is balancing all of our time between various projects. Testing priorities change within a game studio all the time. Week-to-week or hour-to-hour we may suddenly need to focus our attention on something totally different, and my job is to make sure our transition is smooth.
What is your advice for others looking to get into QA testing?
- Make sure you include your gaming experience on your resume.
- Spell Check
- Communication is key.
- Type and speak clearly.
- Peanut Butter Sandwich.
Where do you hope this job takes you?
I love my job, I love my co-workers, I love my bosses, and most importantly I love video games. I would like nothing more than to remain in this industry for the rest of my life. My long-term goal is to become a producer. With no formal training in design, art, audio or programming, my options were somewhat limited from the start, but I am extremely passionate about helping talented individuals make really fun and exciting games. I have a long way to go but I am happy doing what I do and hopefully I can continue down this path for the rest of my career.
Thanks for reading.