5 Questions for a Video Game QA Tester

John Clark is a Quality Assurance Tester for Square Enix, Inc. in El Segundo, California. That’s in L.A. county, and I suppose I could’ve just said that the company was in Los Angeles, but El Segundo is too much fun to write/say. Say it aloud with me, “El Segundo.”

Anyway, John is also my brother. And he took some time to chat with Geek Force Five about what he does, who his favorite Nintendo character is, and how he does (or doesn’t) know Heroes star Hayden Panettiere.

  1. A lot of younger geeks out there would probably kill for a job in the video game industry. What exactly does a QA tester do?
    Well, it depends on where you test video games. Since we mainly localize Japanese games, our focus is on assuring the proper translation of the text. That means, we play through a game and examine every bit of text in it, to make sure that it is legible and coherent. We make sure that no text is left in Japanese (unless desired by the Dev.), as well as insure that no ridiculous translations make it through (like “All your base are belong to us.”) We do test some functionality of the game play, but since we are testing games that most likely have already been released in Japan, we usually have little to worry about. Now other companies have different subsections of QA testing, such as text, game play, legal issues, graphic collisions and clipping, etc., etc. I’ve heard horror stories from other companies where a tester had to run into a specific wall for 2 hours a day after receiving a new revision from the Dev., just to make sure that the wall remained impenetrable. That would suck. Fortunately, I just stare at commas all day (jk). A lot of people think it would be a blowoff gig, like art class in high school, but it is a lot of work. I do get to play a video game all day, but I am responsible for making it as good as possible, so that (hopefully) millions of others will enjoy it, even if it’s just an ounce more.
  2. Does working on video games all day long change your after-hours video-gaming experience?
    Since I began working in the industry I have played video games a slight bit less. I still am addicted, and I need to get help for that, but when I used to play games I would try and be a completionist. I no longer feel the desire to do everything in the game, since I do look at games a slight bit differently. It’s all just numbers. At work I am sometimes required to use debug to get through impossibilities that have yet to be fixed. Knowing that debug exists, defeats the purpose of me trying to complete everything, since it would be so easy with just a few button clicks. Plus, who am I going to impress with my skills at finishing something that isn’t that important. Whoa. Sorry about that. What is this, therapy? Anyway, in short, yes. I still enjoy them just as much, but they are now solely for entertainment, as they should be (I’ve lost my ADD ^^b.)
  3. Since it’s Nintendo week here on Geek Force Five, I’ve got to ask this: Who was your favorite old-school NES character? Mario? Link? Samus? Simon Belmont? Someone else? And why?
    Damn, that’s a tough one. Mario is great for trying to score with a princess named Peach while tripping balls on mushrooms, but he was violent towards innocent animals. Samus is the hottest in her suit, but all that flippy action didn’t leave much to the imagination. Link was pretty badass back in the day, but through the ages he got younger and less harsh. I’m surprised you missed Mega Man. He was the only major NES character that I think you failed to mention (well at least out of the games I played alot). He was cool and all, but he had to steal bubbles to win his second game. Seriously…bubbles? Anyway, the music alone from Castlevania would make me choose a Belmont. That Indiana Jones whip action is a big plus as well. Although the Belmonts really didn’t finish the job ever (i.e. killing Dracula), they always did their best. So, Simon Belmont FTW!
  4. Any advice for a kid looking to get into the industry?
    There are many avenues into the game industry. I would say if you want to be involved in the development of the game, you should study programming, most likely through a computer science degree. With luck, and depending on the market, that would land you a job, in which you could work your way up to lead programmer. If you wanted to be involved in the creation of the game, I would recommend writing. Most creators do come from inside the development team, but with a strong writing background, a good idea, and a solid connection in the industry (friend, family member, or a guy that you call all the time, even when he says not to), you may be able to get your game off the ground. Also, brown-nosing really helps (but smells bad). But I digress. I only really know about the QA department. You should have a love for games, and a compulsion to make them better. You should have above average grammar skills, and the ability to work in a group with your magnificent “interpersonal skills”. I got lucky and was hired as a temp. I showed dedication to quality and got lucky with company expansion. I hope that anybody who wants to help entertain gets to do just that. Good luck!
  5. The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a trivia game based on the “small world phenomenon”. The idea, as you may know, is that you can connect any actor in the world to Kevin Bacon through his or her film roles. A dude at the University of Virginia expanded the game by creating a Webpage that could show the link between any two people working on a film or TV show, or even a video game. So, that being said, is IMDB correct in listing you on the credits for Kingdom Hearts II? Because, if they are correct, then that means you have a Hayden Panettiere number of 1. Right? So, you, like, KNOW her, right? Can you get me an autograph?
    I don’t think I should wake her up. Yeah right! I’d have a better chance with Goofy…and then the tears come. Thanks dude :(