Cold Dark Heart

Cold Dark Heart
I Got A Golden Ticket?

Mur Lafferty | 3 Aug 2010 12:58
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I feel the need to speak my mind. At the extremely advanced age of thirty-seven, I want to share the benefit of my experience even if I worry none of the kids (and by "kids" I mean "early twenties," ya whippernappers) will listen. Still, I must say these things, and then I can die happy when death from "washed up and no longer aware of what's cool in gaming" hits me at forty.

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Listen, children. Jobs in the videogames industry are ... jobs. They're hard work. And boy, can they suck. Although I know people in several fields, I will speak specifically on the realms in which I have the most experience and understanding: quality assurance and game reviews.

I'll address the obvious plusses first. Yes, I know that E3 is amazing (you should have seen it Back In The Day a decade ago, when people still thought Duke Nukem Forever was going to be amazing - I still have a picture of myself with the Duke Nukem look-alike booth bohunk) and Nintendo was trying to make a Pikachu big enough to create a noticeable gravitational pull into their acres of booth space. GDC was also interesting, more of a meeting of the minds of highly creative and somewhat subversive people than a drunken media-fest. They were good times; that's all true. Traveling when I worked in videogaming was much more fun than when I traveled for any other job.

There's also the sex appeal of telling people of your profession at parties. Around the Raleigh-Durham area, you'll find people saying they work in pharmaceuticals, or technology that I'm sure my everyday life depends on, but I sure as heck don't know what it is or how to pronounce it. When you say that you work in videogames, everyone gets quiet and looks at you like you got the Golden Ticket and all they have are ten pounds of extra chocolate weight, and Monday when you go to Willy Wonka's factory, they're starting their all-celery diet. (Or they look at you as if you're a teenaged slacker and ask to see your fake ID, but that's a subject to be discussed at a different time.)

Ten years ago, I worked at Red Storm Entertainment, specifically with marketing and the web, but since I was a gamer, QA allowed me to work with them on the beta tests and in-house testing. I was also the connection to our fan community through the web and our forums, so I helped get our QA people in touch with the fans to do the beta tests. Watching them work made me realize I never want to get into their jobs, ever.

Let's look at what QA actually does. QA stands for quality assurance. They assure the games have enough quality to go out the door. So they test the game. This means two things (everyone realizes the first but rarely considers the second): 1) They play games all day. 2) They play broken games all day. 2a) They play broken games all day trying to find out what circumstances led up to break the game. 2b) They log, track, and figure out how the game breaks, then take it back to the team.

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