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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Issues : Games : Zeal



Shadow Warrior 2 is a game about rose-colored dystopias.

A relatively short time ago I was video game QA. I guess I still am, it doesn't go away. It was my job to discover and document defects in gaming software. When I started the job I truly sucked at it. I only knew how to play video games, I couldn't find a bug to save my life. There was no formal education or training for the role at the time so you had to learn everything on the floor.

Learning on the floor is hard because a QA test floor is not designed for teaching or learning. You will receive no alms from your fellow testers because that is tantamount to them literally handing your their job, and woe is he who approaches the bosses. All quality assurance leads are sociopaths. It's not a job requirement, but a critical soft skill.

Test is a very laissez-faire environment. I found this state of being perfectly fine, preferred; actually. If asked to describe me in one word, I'm pretty sure the last word anyone that has ever met me would use is "conversationalist." But nonetheless, the first two weeks I tried to make friends with the other testers, mimicking the ways I had seen it done on television sitcoms and serial dramas.

I tried to eat in the cafeteria, only to find no one ate in the cafeteria, instead, they ate lunch at their desk while playing games with headphones on. I tried to ask the guy working next to me what music he was listening to, he said the track was called "Eat a dick,"performed by the "Fuck offs." I said "Oh yeah I heard of them! They put out some new shit?"

After a few go-rounds of trying way too hard to attain something I didn't want, I decided to keep to myself and figure out how to run bugs. Turns out the best teacher in QA is time and the lesson is patience. After weeks and weeks of staring at the same thing over and over again, twelve hours a day, six days a week, I started to kind of gravitate toward issues. Turns out the issues I gravitated toward weren't in the game, but inside the system running the game.

I would pull the SD card from the system during a cutscene, I would pause the game during a boss battle and read a book for three hours, I would pull the power cord from the system end, not the wall after just pressing the power button. That kind of stuff.

After a while of turning in those issues, the lead would call me into the office to walk him through repro. Every lead tester I've ever met had his own unique personality and a really menacing name, this one was called "Taint." Face tatoos down to the neck. Gun parts littered around his office. Played Jet Set Radio incessantly, it's all I ever saw him do.

I'm from active environments, not a lot of "bad hombre's" scare me. They are usually just dudes and ladies that missed out on going to Baskin-Robbins with their parents and have a hard time letting go. But I know a gutter punk when I see one though, and I'm sorry, I'm scared of those guys. Unpredictable as humans can get.

Turns out the whole building shared my feeling. Most test leads talk a big game but when a developer or producer came down from on high they would bend the knee. All yes sirs and right away's. This guy had none of that in him. He would mix it up with anyone that dared knock on his door, he expected his crew to find him bugs or find another job, he never talked to anyone unless it was about work, he never took a day off, he expected his team to do the same.

I figured the only way to get on his good side was to follow his lead. I did exactly what was asked of me and more, never took a day off, steered clear of the interpersonal politics of the office, and focused only on the work.

He made me the technical requirements floor boss on the second title I worked with him on, and I made a spectacular mess of it. The title was going gold, which is the part of development right before the game gets pressed to disk and gets sold to the public. The game gets sent to a third party test team to double check our work, and that team found something really bad with the system requirement. I don't know what happened, it was part of our test plan, we tested the section every day. I just... didn't find it. I fucked up.

It stopped development on an AAA title. The development team lost thier minds. The executive team wanted heads to roll. I knew that head would be mine, and shit, I deserved it. It was about two in the morning when the issue was found, and about three when word got to us. I left the bay and headed to a bench in this Japanese garden across from the parking lot for a smoke.

Out comes the gutter punk who sits next to me and lights a blunt. I figure I know what he is here for, I figure the blunt to be my severance, so when he passes it to me, I take it. We sit there for a while before anything is said.

Then he stared out into nothing and tells me about his lady. Who she is, where they met. He showed me a picture, and I did that thing guys do where we say "Damn, your lady is hot! Why is she with you?"

He took it as the intended compliment. Then told me they have a daughter. He told me his lady was at a clinic putting their daughter to sleep at that moment. Told me he wanted to run there like in the movies before 9/11 when you could go right up to the loading area of an airport and talk to someone.

He said he won't though. Because he understood why she was doing it, because he isn't ever there and that wasn't changing soon. He said he would have been a great dad, just not right now. When he had enough to support them, when he had done enough, he was almost there.

He told me they had fixed the issue, and it wasn't just my fuck up, it was his, and he told the production team as much. He told me to pick a skeleton crew to work post-launch, everybody else was getting fired. Then he left.        

A week later the game team had a launch party in the cafeteria. He and I happened to wander in there to forage for food around the same time. There was a guy standing in front of the group holding those little translucent cups with wine in them. He said, "Every single person in this room is responsible for this game, your hard work, dedication, and sacrifice made this a reality. I'm incredibly proud to call everyone in this room my team, and my friends."

They cheered and went about their revelry. The guy turned around to find us. He didn't know me from Adam, but he sure as shit recognized my lead. The guy who made the speech said to my lead, "Hey! didn't know you were... you guys were... still here! Want to join?"

My lead grabbed his bag of chips from the vending machine, stared a hole into the guy, and walked away. I said, "Ummm. I'm good! Thank's though!" Then I tripped backward out of the room, smiling like an idiot. I knew who that guy was! He was famous!

Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh, Shadow Warrior 2. The game is fuckin dumb. A lot of people are going to say it's good. Maybe it is. I don't think so. Just play Gears 4, or Serious Sam, or even Postal. The fuck do I know?

If information asks me one more thing about the Nintendo Switch I'm gonna... I don't know what to do with that information right now. I've been hurt before. Can we just wait and see? Also Jerbz.

The Protoculture Mixtape : Issue : People : Avidity

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