The Bergman Files: So You Want to Work in Games, Huh?

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[Editor’s note: For the next week or so, we’ll be running a series of posts from Jason Bergman, senior producer at Bethesda Softworks. Jason’s a nice guy and an unique game industry figure because he’s worked as a journalist, a publicist and has been on the developer side for a few years now. He’ll be gracing Techland with his wit and wisdom about everything from breaking into games to behind-the-scenes glimpses of the making of Fallout: New Vegas. We’re super-glad to have him on board and think you’ll enjoy his insights.]

Video games! Who doesn’t want to work in video games? It’s cool! You get to work on awesome stuff with awesome people. You get to sit around and play games all day and get paid for it. What’s not to love?

(More on Techland: Fallout: New Vegas Drops the Bomb on Sin City)

And hey, you know what? That’s all true. But there are a few things you should know about working in games if it’s your lifelong dream.

#1: Making games is hard work.

No, really. Making games is very, very hard work. During crunch time, the hours are exceedingly long, the workload is immense, and weekend work isn’t just requested, it’s expected. Most games have a month or two or three of crunch, but some games can have twice that. Yes, there are studios that swear they don’t do crunch time, but they’re rare. Most developers will tell you crunch stories that will turn your hair white. It’s best to suck it up and assume crunch is part of the job. If you can’t handle it, the video game industry might not be for you.

(More on Techland: The Playstation and Me: Scott Rohde, Part 1)

#2: They get the least respect, but QA is the backbone of the industry.

Nobody ever plays a game that’s super-polished and thinks, “Wow, <DEVELOPERNAME> has awesome QA testers!” But, the fact is that behind every game is a QA team. And these guys work like madmen, doing the grunt work that absolutely powers the industry and all the games we release.

So what do they do? You know that game you played for six hours? They played it for six months. Or a year. Or more. And they didn’t just play it, they absolutely devoured it. They played every level. Over and over again. They walked up to every texture and examined it. They played it in every language. They started a game and ripped the network cable out of the back to see what would happen. They checked every object from every angle. They put in a memory card (remember those?) to make sure it worked with corrupted data. They plugged four controllers in and tried playing a single player game with the third one. And that’s just for starters. You should see some of the insane test cases we had on Fallout: New Vegas, where every character (but one!) can be killed.

(More on Techland: America’s Top Game Tester: Sony Announces the Cast of Its New Reality Show)

QA is hard, hard work. People assume that QA testers play games all day long, and that’s not entirely untrue, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The hours are long (even by game industry standards) and the pay is entry-level, but boy does it make a difference.

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