We can’t talk about the work we’re doing, so we’re talking about the people doing the work. I met CPH, as we call him (although I started calling him Crispy at some point at a game convention in a sleep-deprived haze) when I was visiting the home office for some meeting or another. The rest of the permanent QA team was gregarious and talkative, and then there was him. One word answers, totally calm and serene. The only things giving him away as a true QA guy were the twinkle in his eye and the deadpan humor that’s worth a million bucks when we’re under pressure. Whenever you all send me a DXDIAG to examine, CPH is the one who sees it. See what he’s like by reading his story. — Sanya
by Chris Paul-Hayter (a.k.a. CPH)
Psy*cho*lo*gy. Noun. 1. The science of the mind or of mental states and processes. 2. The science of human and animal behavior.
“Psychology. Yep, that is definitely the plan, I’m going to make a career in psychology.”
Some time later…
Okay, I have this paper that says I can psychology…now what?
This is not how I expected to start my career in video games. Let me back up a little bit. I’ve had two passions for as long as I can remember: psychology and video games. Psychology was something I discovered when I was relatively young, around 12-13. That was the first time I ever heard the term and had the concept explained to me. The other passion of mine I discovered much younger at around the age of 6, when my uncle placed me on his knee and showed me a game and series I would end up playing for a large portion of my life…Warcraft.
From that point on I was obsessed with video games. I got my first system a year later, a Sega Genesis, and proceeded to work my way up through all the systems I could get my hands on. I was playing games on console and PC; the platform didn’t matter, I only wanted to play games.
By the time high school rolled around, games had long ago become a constant part of my life. However, at this point I was also focused on getting into college to pursue the other passion in my life: psychology. As it would turn out I was accepted into a school and proceeded to spend my time involved with my two passions, learning about the human mind and spending way too much time playing video games (my WoW addiction was very real at this point).
The plan was always to get a job in the psychology field, to work in counseling. I graduated from college and they gave me that bit of paper that said I sort of knew what I was doing. I knew who Freud was, I knew the brain was located somewhere above the neck, I was basically good to go.
“I don’t want to work in psychology.”
It was a strange sentence so hear myself say, and a hard realization to accept. Leaving school, getting into the real world, and really taking a long look at myself, I realized psychology wasn’t the right career for me. I was lost. It was always my plan to work in psychology, and now suddenly I had no path and no idea what I would do next.
It was at this point in my life that the great and obvious smacked me in the face.
They were my other major passion in my life, something I have been steeped in for as long as I could remember, and as it turns out, I was in a major hub of game development. For some reason my brain assumed video games were magic, that they just appeared on shelves, placed there by some kind of magical video game fairy. I had never really thought about the industry it took to make all these games I loved, but I was now determined to be a part of it.
Things did not go as planned. My first job after deciding I wanted to work in games was actually customer support, but it was at a video game company (Big Fish), so that’s got to be a step in the right direction…right? My next gig was at Microsoft, working as a tester. Now this is definitely a step in the right direction! I worked on a few games, but eventually those games finished and a large portion of the testing department was let go due to lack of work. This would become a bit of a theme (and likely a familiar one to anyone who has worked in QA), but one that would not deter me.
I managed to find work at several other studios, mostly on smaller kickstarted titles, helping to make some really amazing games with some amazing teams. One thing about working at a smaller studio is that you have to wear multiple hats. It’s not enough to just be able to do one thing well, you have to be able to do multiple things well. This is where my psychology degree ended up making a surprising return. Having a strong understanding of the way many people approach problems, view and absorb information, and other skills I learned with my degree was a massive help. It allowed me to contribute in more than just testing needs, and as such I learned a lot…at the same time I also basically burned my sleep schedule to the ground.
I never wanted to stop working in games though, no matter how difficult things got. I love my job, every single day is different, and every single day brings new challenges and puzzles to solve. On the outside, it may not sound that way to the average person. My job is to spend hundreds of hours in the same game, playing it over and over again until I can see it in my sleep. However, those games are always changing, new content is being added, new systems developed and refined, and it’s my job to make sure they all work as intended. I need to know the rules of a given system so I can think of ways to bend or break them.
Working in QA, I get to support my coworkers. I do this by trying my absolute best to destroy their hard work in as many ways as I can. I break it and they rebuild it better and stronger than before. I do this over and over again until they’ve built something I can no longer break. I do this so when we release a game it can stand strong through the hundreds, thousands, even millions of players’ hands.
QA works behind the scenes in most cases. If I’ve done my job well, no one thinks about it, they get to play the game they love. If I do my job poorly, their experience could be ruined. Working in games is not all sunshine and rainbows; it can be challenging, stressful, sleep depriving and scary. That being said, it is without a doubt the best job I have ever had. I work with an incredible team of developers here at Undead Labs, veterans of countless games with a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience. I spend my days with these amazing coworkers, trying my hardest to break their work so that hopefully the player never has to know I was here.