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Hey guys,

I've just finished uni and am looking to get my career started in the game audio. Just a quick question to ask any Game Audio people who have worked in QA or as a Game Tester: Is this a path worth taking? Or should I focus on building up experience as a freelance?

Or Both?

Thanks, Eric.

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7 Answers 7

up vote 3 down vote accepted

My thinking is:

IF you have the means to support yourself for a while, focus solely on audio projects (indie games, post, personal sound design projects) and hold out for the full-on audio gigs. Testing is not a super direct route in. Audio testing maybe.

However, if you need to pay bills in the meantime, you could probably do worse than a testing job in the 9-6PM hours. You'll be in a studio, learning their tools, build processes, and depending on how high up on the QA chain you are / how visible you are you may get to cross paths with the audio department specifically. If you keep your desire to eventually move into sound known (many QA testers leave the role for the 'real' development job they want after a while) you may get your shot.

In the meantime you could keep your audio skills sharp in the afterhours.

Full disclosure, I just picked up a testing position a week or two back (situation #2 describes me), so I'll let you know how it goes.

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@Luca You hit it on the head. I need to pay bills and this seems to be a suitable option. I think it will be a great opportunity to learn how game developers work, first-hand. I'd love to know how it goes with your new job. Let me know! –  Jinksi Feb 29 '12 at 22:01

Games testing is a really good way of learning about games development processes and realities. Even better if you can land a job as audio tester, you will get to work with the in-house audio tools and be in direct contact with the sound team. I started as a games tester myself and it's been invaluable experience. It's not a guaranteed path to becoming an employed audio designer, but if you're focussed it won't hurt your development at all.

Obviously, you should still keep doing freelance audio work and what not on the side.

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@Daan I have just graduated from uni, so I do not feel confident enough to tackle a freelance project at this stage. I need to learn more about interactive audio in my own time. So working on this, while working as a game tester, can only be a step forward, right? –  Jinksi Feb 29 '12 at 22:21

I got my in through a combination of being a tester and knowing the right people. While I don't think it's necessarily the best way in any more you do gain a lot of knowledge of how development works that you won't learn anywhere else. Overall I always like working with people who have been testers since they know all sides of things. It will also make you life a little easier once you are doing audio. Being able to find and repro your own bugs is invaluable. Nobody will know your games audio better than you so it can help to be your own tester at times. You're still going to need to set yourself apart so don't stop doing freelance work if your contracts allow it.

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@Matthew you make a great point, I can only learn new things from this position, and that's not a bad thing. Thanks for your opinion. –  Jinksi Feb 29 '12 at 22:07

You should be thinking about the CV perspective of things. Working in game-audio requries you to be competant with audio engines, game engines, audio production, audio glitch hunting/fixing etc. Whilst "Have a passion for gaming" will be on every job-listing you see for permanant vacancies and a role in gaming QA will certainly prove this, "a passion for gaming" is not a skill and isn't the highest priority on job-listing requirements! A role in something a little more audio-focused would be a better starting job to look for whilst building up a portfolio and working on projects etc in your spare time.

I agree with Mviljamaa that general game testing isn't quite the route in if you're doing QA and bug-hunting. However, this depends on the material that the developer/publisher you'd be working for focuses on. If you got a position QAing audio-focused games or specialised in audio glitch hunting etc then that'd be a pretty decent entry on your CV. But again, as mentioned by Mviljamaa, you can't rely on it leading to an in-house sound designer position.

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@ Skarik As a software QA technician, I find your claim that quality assurance is not a skill quite offensive. There are many skills involved in QA, and many people have built their careers on their mastery of them. However, I suspect that what you actually meant by "not a skill" was "not a skill very relevant to landing a job in game audio development." Still, it'd be nice if you could rephrase what you said in a way that isn't dismissive of a whole professional field –  Joseph Harvey Feb 29 '12 at 4:11
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@Joseph Erg, sorry, I meant "Having a passion for gaming" isn't a skill, sorry if it sounded differently. Of course QA is a skill! I personally work in broadcast video and audio QA so I'd be insulting myself too if I said otherwise! –  Skarik Feb 29 '12 at 7:37
    
@Joseph Rephrased accordingly, sorry for the confusion. As I said in the original post, certain relevant skills are of course required in game-audio sound designer positions as "audio debugging and glitch finding" often appears on job-listings. –  Skarik Feb 29 '12 at 8:02
    
@ Skarik Thanks for that. I wouldn't normally nitpick something so small, but there's a widely-held and inaccurate impression that "people working in the games industry don't have real jobs," and another widely-held and inaccurate impression that "software QA guys are wannabe developers who didn't have the skills," and I tend to be a bit of a worry-wort. –  Joseph Harvey Mar 1 '12 at 0:53
    
@Joseph Haha, no problem, I completely understand! –  Skarik Mar 6 '12 at 18:27

Absolutely yes. I've been testing for half a decade now, the past two years of which have been exclusively audio testing. About 18 months ago I started work as an embedded tester working side-by-side with the audio team at my studio. I got hooked up with a private office and a nice 5.1 system, wedged right in between five audio devs and the audio project manager. They include me in meetings and weigh QA opinions and perspective into their decisions.

Granted, I got damn lucky. Before I started testing audio exclusively, I managed to snag an internal temp position helping with audio design and voice implementation near the end of the production cycle. That helped a lot, both the experience as a developer and learning the tools. Since then, the studio (and industry) has moved from XACT to Wwise, but I've learned the latter thoroughly just from testing and picking up tricks from the sound guys themselves.

Now, I'm still an audio tester, but I did apply recently for an audio design job here at the studio. I was turned down because we're in the middle of a project and understaffed already, so they needed an experienced veteran to drop right in and hit the ground running. I'll definitely apply again once things slow down, but in the meantime, the audio team has offered to help me learn more of what I need to know to get the job eventually and boost up my portfolio in the process.

I'd definitely recommend trying to find a studio tester job rather than work for publisher QA... the pub guys are often generalized, worked into the ground, and never get a chance to move to full-time or even specialize in a specific field when they're on a project. Studio QA, on the other hand, are often fewer and more focused on their individual areas of expertise. Jump in, express an interest in audio testing, and boom. It'll happen before you even realize it.

Good luck to you!

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I would personally vote for no. Reason for this is simply because game testing has very little to do with game audio production. As a game tester you might get an in-house position or sort of, which COULD in turn allow you to interact with other people in the company e.g. the audio team. However, I really don't see how being a game tester or having the experience of a game tester would make one any more employable in audio, which is what you're really trying to pursue.

It's a personal choice, but I would focus on audio projects rather than playing games.

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Haven't read all the posts, but I can only presume its the world saying NO. Game testing isn't at all glamorous. And is less to do with playing games, and more about trying to repetitively break them, in the exact same way, writing reports, then doing it again. It's not at all the best way to get a foot in the door, it has worked for some I know, but by the time they are in the door, they regret not finding another method. :P Also much like alot of the in house games business the hours are poor, I recently visited a 24/h game testing facility. The people lucky enough to grab a smoke break, did not look pleased. aha

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@Cam I have just graduated from uni, with a Bachelor of Audio Production, and I barely worked at all over the course. So I'm ready for a bit of hard work! Never killed anyone right? ...right? –  Jinksi Feb 29 '12 at 22:11

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