QA & EA: What does it mean to be a Game Tester?

The passion was there, I wanted to be a part of the revolution.

By AlexM, Posted 04 Jun 2013

I had applied for a Game Tester position at Electronic Arts’ testing facility based in Bucharest, Romania. How did I get there? Simple, I grew up during the golden age of gaming – an age in which games, pixel by pixel, stopped being pieces of software designed to merely entertain but became a strong medium of expression. The passion was there, I wanted to be a part of the revolution.

As most young individuals who want to make it in the industry, QA seemed like a reasonable shortcut to gaming paradise. Little did I know what I was getting into. It turned out that I had signed up for a life changing experience.

Join us for an inside story split up into chronological parts, a tribute to three wonderful and nightmarish years of working in the deep bowels of games. You will find stories of teams rallying together only to emerge victorious and tales of utter defeat, the ascension of a trainee to a veteran and the grizzly departure from the scene.

EA, QA, Game Tester

Introduction

The interview

My journey began back in June, 2010. The test center is located in a futuristic looking building, in a business complex, surrounded by little patches of grass and benches, just perfect to relax when you take a break. Very smart looking and appropriate to the gaming individual.

I had set up an interview for a Friday and was very excited but very nervous. At the age of 19, fresh from High School, my knowledge of gaming was limited to playing a game and very limited understanding of what actually drives it. I knew what a bug looked like but I did not have the necessary understanding to pin-point it or its cause. The night before the interview, I searched for everything and anything related to EA and QA so I could have an answer for any question.

The interview consisted of an open dialogue about what games I played, what my favorite game was and examples of bugs I had encountered in the past. At the moment I was hooked on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 so most of my examples and discussion was about that one game. It amused my interviewer when I mentioned Activision as my favorite publisher, right there, in an interview in EA’s own lair. Amusing but I stuck to what I liked and presented some valid points. I was asked to illustrate some bugs I had seen in games. I easily remembered examples of crashes to desktop, clipping issues, elongated rag dolls and I was happy to know that I understand what a bug is and what a clear design choice is. After 45 minutes of sweat, the constant feeling of impending doom, the interview concluded with a positive remark about my answers and the phrase I was afraid of – “we’ll be in touch”.

On Monday, the following week, I received a call that I should present myself for three days of training at the test center. And so I did.

EA, QA, Game Tester

First week of QA Boot Camp

During a Wednesday morning, at 09:00, I was sitting in a meeting room, joined by 10 other people who were in the race for a job at EA. Our trainer was a QA Test Lead and was tasked with taking in new recruits and instructing them on security, knowledge, tools and about everything that was being used in that period. For a test center, security is vital. Every asset that is present and has not been revealed, officially, stays behind those heavy glass doors that require special cards to access. Also, he would be responsible for the development of terms, language and vocabulary.

Logically, it is highly important that communication with the developing team should be quick and easy due to the extreme high amount of work load per project. No fancy writing, you find the bug, you report it.

During our first day of training, we were taught the common types of test cases and bug types, severity and logical testing. There are two types of testing that are very efficient: scripted testing and unscripted testing. Scripted testing (commonly known as tasks) refers to a simple test procedure that is more of a template: follow these steps, reach this area and verify if is operational or not. Unscripted testing is where the real talent shows – it implies taking a game area and hammering it until the game begs for mercy and more memory. This requires creativity and an understanding of game elements as well as using tools to trigger a desired scenario.

After two days of theory, it was time for one full day of practical training. The test project was a title called Black, released by Criterion in 2006 for the first Xbox and PS2. It was very easy to pick up bugs due to technical limitations. The target for each tester composed of as many bugs as possible. I submitted around 5 bugs of different impacts but I really wanted to impress by making the game crash. It did not. 

At the end of the day, we had all passed and were assigned to different projects running throughout the test facility, back then. I was assigned to Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit on the Wii on the night shift and thought to myself “I have never played on a Wii”. This was intentional as the first project was very important for training purposes and, as it turned out, self-confidence.

On the very last day of training, we celebrated our success and buddied up, anxious to work together on our very first game. We were confident, excited and ready. We were ready for the future of gaming.


Coming up next: Part two of "What does it mean to be a Game Tester". Can you step up your game when you are working on your first official project? The pressure is immense. There is little room for mistakes.


Alexandru-Valentin Mirea, NoobFeed
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Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, Switch, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, WII, 3DS, Vita, Mobile
Publisher(s): NoobFeed
Developer(s): NoobFeed Editors
Genres: Artcile
Themes: Feature, Editorial, Interviews, Opinion Pieces
Release Date: 2009-02-14

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