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The memoirs of a (ex) Tester - The Gaming dream

In this first part, find out about the phenomenon I call the gaming dream and how I got my first job in the gaming industry.

 

Title

 

For years when I worked in the gaming industry I would lie about the kind of job I had. This wasn’t because I was embarrassed about what I did but rather because whenever I would tell people that I worked for a games company they would have the same reaction. Their eyes would widen and they would start saying guff like “That must be the best job
in the world”. Sometimes they would get jealous hence the lying.


This reaction is a common side effect of what I would later call the gaming dream. An idealised view of working in entertainment that is so strong that even when I tell people that is isn’t all that it is cracked up to be they don’t believe me. Although I have no personal experience on this, I am positive that this kind of thing happens in the music and movie
industry as well.


If don’t end up lying, one of the first things I always say when people ask me what the games industry is like is that it is ok but the pay is lousy. This is  especially true about testers but the entry level positions in any department are typically lower than in most of industries. But despite the leaner working conditions the supply of eager people seemed
endless, At Eidos we were receiving hundreds of speculative applications for testing jobs a week.

 Now working in gaming is a cool gig and can be very rewarding but it isn’t a gravy train. If often involves hard work, long hours and, until you get higher up the career ladder being treated like dirt by just about everyone.

However people either don’t want to hear about that or straight think you are not telling truth, their view is one of you sitting in a sofa doing playing consoles doing very little work all day eating snacks.


The gaming dream ladies and gentlemen.

 This dream is most common in the teenage boy
demographic but just about every walk of life has displayed signs of this behaviour. I wish I could say I was immune myself but back in 1996 I was no different when I had my first brush with the games industry.

A couple of friends of mine managed to get a temporary job at Bullfrog Studios testing the then unreleased game Genewars. I was still at university at the time and thus unable to take part myself, A fact that made me insanely jealous, which when I look back is a bit silly considering they were asked to come in to work full time for two weeks and they got nothing in return (well they got their name in the credits but nothing tangible).

This was the dream in action, these guys were more or less exploited for their eagerness but I didn’t care, I wanted in. To me it was a magical world where the old phase “getting paid for doing something you love” held true. I would have done just about anything to get a job there. Although it would take 2 and a bit years before I would get my chance I didn’t have to, I owed my new job more to luck than any herculean effort on my part.

I bumped into a friend of mine while shopping one Saturday morning and the brief conversation we had something like this (brought to you in surfer speak).

Me - Yo dude, what you been up to?
Him - I’ve working at this computer game
place.
Me - O’rly?

To say I was interested was an understatement of immense proportions. It took me all of about five seconds to ask him how he got the job and after a bit of prodding he was nice enough to give me details of the recruitment company doing the hiring. After briefly considering camping outside their offices for the whole weekend. I arrived there at 9:00am the following Monday asking for a job. A quick interview was held during which I was given a bunch of forms to fill out and asked some basic questions. The advisor made a phone call which resulted in me being invited into Bullfrog for an interview the next day.

I didn’t know it at the time but for the next six years I would be living the gaming dream.

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