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QA testing as a stepping stone

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A friend of my wife's family is a systems architect and ex-programmer, and he discussed briefly with me about getting in to a programming career (specifically, game programming). He suggested I look for a Quality Assurance position to get started, that way future employers could see I have experience as an end-user. However, after reading a site on gamecareerguide.com, they talked about how many expect it as a stepping stone and don't do well. Is finding a job as a game tester a reliable way to get your foot in the door for a future game development position? I'm currently in my second year towards my A.A. degree, eventually going on to get my Bachelor's in Computer Science. ***EDIT*** I know I should have poked around the site a bit more before posting this thread, but I just read Tom Sloper's article on his site which answered many of my questions. However, any other input would be appriciated :)

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No, getting a job as a game tester is not a guaranteed way to get your foot in the door for higher positions. But I understand, you've already seen my advice, you know I think it's one of the good ways to break in, and that's not good enough for you. (-_-)

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Any experience is good. If you're still in school, getting into QA during the summer break is a great way to get some experience and make connections. Lots of companies hire short-term QA guys, so do send in your resume.

I've known plenty of developers that have made the jump from QA to design, production or (to a lesser extent) code.

At the same time, once you graduate with a degree and a kick-ass demo, it's not actually that impossible to get a job in this industry. You'll rarely find job adverts for fresh-grads, but that doesn't mean that people don't hire them.. just that they get enough unsolicited requests that they don't need to go trawling.

Smart, hardworking developers willing to relocate will always find opportunities; the problems set in when you lack one or more of the above :)

Allan

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Quote:
Original post by __ODIN__Lots of companies hire short-term QA guys

I disagree with that statement. Most companies would rather not have "summer only" testers. But yes, one should check with one's local friendly neighborhood videogame company to be sure.

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Quote:
Original post by tsloper
Quote:
Original post by __ODIN__Lots of companies hire short-term QA guys

I disagree with that statement. Most companies would rather not have "summer only" testers. But yes, one should check with one's local friendly neighborhood videogame company to be sure.


We'll agree to disagree then :)

I've found that quite a lot of companies will hire short/medium-term student QA.

Whether it's EA, which hires up fairly large student QA teams during semester breaks, or smaller companies that will try to hire local QA guys (whether student, or other short-term contract labor) towards the final 6 months of development.

Back when I slaved it out in AAA, we used to have 2 guys full-time, and another 3-10 guys depending on where in the release schedule our games were.

Down here in Singapore we also often see companies using students at Industry Attachment in their QA teams. I'd imagine it's the same elsewhere.

Your millage may vary, as always.

Allan

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Hear it from Paul Barnett, Creative Director at EA Mythic:

http://media.video.ign.com/ev/ev.html?dlURL=http://pcmovies.ign.com/pc/video/article/792/792352/HowToGetInto_Part3_-Designer_20070525_flvhigh.flv&article_ID=792352 Clicky

-cb

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Not in my experience.

Getting to know people is always a good way to get your foot in the door anywhere.

That said, QA work is (imo) horrible, monotonous, braindead, thankless, unsatisfying, low paying work. In my (non-game industry experience on both sides of the wall) it has nothing to do with development work, and the skills you gain do not translate.

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Original post by tsloper
I disagree with that statement. Most companies would rather not have "summer only" testers. But yes, one should check with one's local friendly neighborhood videogame company to be sure.


I've found the opposite. IIRC that in california anyway if you have someone as a full-time employee for longer than X months you have to offer them benefits. As such our entire QA staff gets laid off after those X months (except for a few managers). It blows ass for us developers because every X months we have n00b QA people who suck at testing for the first couple months; by the time they get good, they're fired. Hooray.

Anyway, if you have good skills in whatever discipline, there's no need to go through the QA route. It can be a good toe-hold but IMHO the job sucks. Far better to just apply straight in to a developer role at a big publisher.

-me

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So, my best bet would to try to find an internship somewhere until I complete my Bachelor's?

I understand that fresh grads still get hired regardless of what experiences they may ask for on the job advert, but I'm just very fearful of coming a long way, only to realize I could have done more to secure a solid start in my career.

I guess the only thing I can do now is start making a "kick-ass" demo. :)

Thanks again for everyone's input.

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Original post by capricious
So, my best bet would to try to find an internship somewhere until I complete my Bachelor's?


An internship is the best way I've seen to get a job. Assuming that you're a good intern you're almost always guaranteed a spot on the team when you graduate.

The trick of course is getting an internship. They tend to be about 10x more competitive than getting the job itself.

For istance, the only engineers I've seen get internships had pretty amazing hobby projects. One guy developed a system from scratch for the procedural generation of entire cities from a small library of component parts. His cities looked a lot like actual cities: road layout, building size, etc. Another guy had made a game that was picked up on the XBOX Live arcade and featured in gamasutra.

-me

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Quote:
Original post by capricious
So, my best bet would to try to find an internship somewhere until I complete my Bachelor's?

I understand that fresh grads still get hired regardless of what experiences they may ask for on the job advert, but I'm just very fearful of coming a long way, only to realize I could have done more to secure a solid start in my career.

I guess the only thing I can do now is start making a "kick-ass" demo. :)

Thanks again for everyone's input.

An additional option:

Don't get the industry job until you have your diploma. Stay focused and do extremely well in school, becoming very well educated on game related topics. Spend at least 40 hours each week on your academic program, ensuring you get the most out of it. Do it right and you can get full scholarships and grants to pay your living expenses.

You don't even need a demo to get your job if you go that route. Recent graduates with an appropriate background and who know the game industry buzzwords can find a job easily, especially if they are willing to move anywhere in the country and aren't too picky about what companies and games they're willing to get involved in.

And if you discover that you don't like the industry, you'll have a great education to fall back on.

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