When you think QA in this industry, you (most likely) think one of two things: bottom of the barrel employee at a studio who is worthless, or game tester. Sadly, both things are true with the majority of the gaming industry. QA Testers are worked inhumane hours – 80 hour work weeks in crunch at AAA studios – and paid a buck or two above minimum wage, which in California is currently $10.50 an hour. QA employees almost always work contract jobs – meaning they’re on one project for a few months (contracts usually max out at a year), and they’re back on the grind to find a new job.
At Gazillion, this is not the case. Tester Natalie Nguyen defined QA as “taking content and playing through it, attempting to break it in various ways. That way players don’t experience any issues or problems when it is released.” Testers are treated fairly, and are with the project from the beginning, which prevents the need for those long work weeks and insane overtime. Working on the project from day one helps assess and fix issues as they pop up, instead of one big pile at the end. Developers are willing to help them with projects and communicate directly, whereas at most studios they are fenced off and prohibited from seeing what’s going on in other departments.
QA Testers at Gazillion are encouraged to make recommendations, as tester Ross Pastones explained: “.. I feel a part of the creative process. Yeah, our specific job is to try and test and break things, but whenever someone is looking for advice on how to create an item, or the next part of the story, everyone has a voice and valued input [from any department] and I think that’s great. As far as I know, that is kind of unheard of in other video game companies where everyone has legitimate, valued input. I can look at things in the game and say ‘hey that was my idea!’ That goes for everyone in QA. I also appreciate when other departments look to QA when they have new position opportunities within the company.”
Gazillion’s entire QA team is full-time, which is definitely not the norm with gaming studios. Not only do they have job security, but they are encouraged to learn from others and explore different paths. With a smile on his face, QA Manager Will Busch went into detail: “Gazillion is one of the most vertical companies in terms of promotions. Three people have gone out of QA [since I’ve been here] and into design and work in various design capacities. Even from a general “entry-level” position, typically QA, people move up to be head of their departments. In the last two years, six employees have left customer service, QA and IT to different departments within the company.” Natalie Nguyen is actually temporarily working in the content department (and QA is her first job in the industry) as of last week.
Stay tuned this week for our interview with the QA Manager, Will Busch, and the rest of the testing team!