How does one get started in the games industry? If you’ve got no experience besides playing games, how do you get your foot in the door?
One way of doing it is through QA. For some reason unknown to me, QA jobs often hire by advertising by saying “play video games all day and get paid!” or something like that. Technically you’re not playing a video game; you’re playing a tiny section of one repeatedly. You get paid though. Anyway, I saw and ad like this for–let’s say, Company X–on Craigslist and replied. There was a link that led to a google docs-type page where you submitted your details and a resume. Within an hour, I was contacted by the recruiter and asked if I would be free for an interview at the end of the week. I wrote back and she sent me some information for the interview location.
As standard interview preparation, I did a little background work on Company X. From what I understood, Company X basically has an army of QA testers which get farmed out to “Client companies”–the actual game studios. Since the client companies don’t need to have lots of QA testers on hand permanently, when they need a test a section of the game, they contact Company X. That makes sense to me. What I don’t know, though, is how much the client company hires Company X for. I’m sure I can find that out later.
I also always prepare a bunch of questions for the interviewers, so I had a bunch ready to go, including questions about opportunities for advancement, why they’re hiring (which is a standard you should ask at ANY interview), and then ones specific to the position and what stage of development the games I’d be testing were at.
Anyway, interview day came around. When I arrived, Company X was a pretty small one-story building in a business park. There were a handful of people in the waiting room, and beyond that there were probably another 3-4 rooms and a bathroom. When I signed in, I was given a questionnaire to fill out before the interview. The questionnaire had some pretty standard things on it including:
- Why do you want to apply for this position?
- Do you play PC games?
- What do you know about this position?
- What percentage of time do you spend on each console (PC/Wii/PS/Xbox)? (This one require me to actually do math to make it equal 100% but okay…)
Then there were the more technical-type questions, like:
- Define a console game hard lock (yes, not technically a question; on the form it has a question mark on it. I probably should have pointed this out but I didn’t. )
- How would you define a hardware issue vs. a software issue?
- What are the first three things you would do in order to test a toaster?
After I had completed the questionnaire, it was just a waiting game to get to actually talk to an interviewer. There was a guy also in the waiting room and had been there for over an hour. When I finally got to go in and speak to someone, I showed the interviewer my resume and he spent a few minutes looking at it. He did say that it was pretty impressive, but not because I had a Ph.D. or had extensive writing or communication skills, but because I ran a blog about gaming. Hello, readers. The interview was basically done at that point. However, as a formality, the interviewer had to tell me what the job entailed, and (as a standard question, I guess) asked what my favorite game was. Obviously, there’s a sense in which my answer doesn’t matter since it’s just a question demonstrating one’s interest. So I told him about a game I could discuss the gameplay, graphics, narrative etc. for, and that was sufficient and he said I had the job and to go to another room to fill in paperwork. I asked the questions I had prepared and the interviewer said he didn’t know what stage of development the games were at, and they were hiring because a client needed QA testers. So… not much information gathering happening there, I guess.
All up, the interview literally took five minutes. After that, I was given some governmental forms to fill out while they printed my contract. As an ex-lawyer, and also knowing that this sort of grunt work was potentially exploitative, I thought it was pretty important to read over the contract carefully. There was an anti-compete clause, which basically means that if I were to leave Company X I couldn’t work in competition with Company X in a (pretty large) radius of Company X. That seems a bit sketchy to me, but when I asked about it I was told it meant I couldn’t work under the same manager for a different company. (Technically though, that’s not what it says in the contract.) But whatever, it’s unlikely I’d want to make a career out of QA so I didn’t push too hard on that. So I signed all the stuff, got a copy of my contract (which I thought was pretty important, but I didn’t see anyone else do this?) and was on my way.
Apparently Company X interviewed 40 people that day, although they advertised less jobs. I can’t imagine that anyone got rejected from the gig, either. While I was there I saw five other people in various stages of interviewing, and basically everyone was offered the job. I suppose when you advertise that your requirement is that applicants “have a passion for games”, the threshold is pretty low. Anyway, the upshot is that I’m in, and once I pass the (online) background check I get to do induction to be a fully-fledged grunt. Whee!