We may not always think about Quality Assurance (QA), but the games we're making and playing would not exist without it. Anthony Price knows this firsthand, and is here to share five important truths about QA—and why you should join his December Masterclass.
Building Excellent Teams and Culture in Game QA is a two-day course December 9-10 from Anthony Price, Private Division's Director of Quality Assurance. Anthony started in video games two decades ago, having worked as a truck driver before answering an ad for a tester at EA in 2002. Since then, he's spent decades as a QA team leader, director, and educator, helping developers around the world build their perfect QA teams.
We talked with Anthony about what it's like to work in Quality Assurance, and five things current and future devs should know about QA.
1. QA is more important for game development than ever
"The thing with QA is that there are more boots on the ground, and they spend more time in-game than anyone else. With that, they're also consumers, so they're providing that feedback and letting people know how the game feels.
I really want to stress quality here. Some people think QA is all about finding bugs and entering a lot of bugs. No one cares about that—for the most part. People make sure they get a good game. They're not saying, 'Well, this game has 3,000 or 20,000 bugs in it.' All they really care about is having a good experience. I think the only way that really happens is if QA is involved with the development team and giving them feedback on how their game is responding, and just meeting the goals or the vision of the creator."
2. QA can be the gateway to a game dev career
"If you want to be an engineer or you want to be a producer or you want to be a designer, you can have a gateway to come into QA based on the entry level being—I don't wanna say low, but you don't really need the degree to to come into QA. But you can start building your relationships, understanding how games are being designed and having conversations and communications with developers and engineers that you might want to see if that's really the field that you want to get into.
Once you get into it, there's a lot of great people higher up in those fields that are really wanting to help and mentor folks to get to that next level. One thing I can really say for the last couple years is that a lot of people from the dev side are really trying to help folks who want to get into the industry, and be in the production or development or even community managers and stuff like that, to help them get to those positions.
A couple of years ago, I actually had a tester go from being a temp tester to an assistant marketing manager, and that was great to see that happen."
3. Biggest misconception: "How did you miss this?"
"What most people don't realize is that QA finds a lot of issues, but they don't have the last call if we're going to fix a bug or not fix a bug. All we can give is data to folks who can make a sound decision. Sometimes we don't have enough time to fix it or whatnot, and we play a gamble on some bugs as well.
I think when people make those remarks and feedback, and ask us, 'Hey, how did they miss that?' They don't really understand QA."
4. QA teams are built on strong, compassionate leaders
"If you have strong leadership or great leadership to understand how things are operating, you don't have to have those challenges in your studio. If you treat people like people, provide leadership for them, and make sure you care about your people, I think you can reduce some of the problems that are being discussed about labor in the studio.
When I was putting teams together, especially staffing plans, it was making sure I had the right people—so that way I didn't have to worry about laying off 30 people because I didn't staff correctly.
I just wish that we have better leadership, stronger leadership, and making sure that we are treating people like people and not just something that can be tossed away. People have lives. People have families. People have passion for the games they're testing in QA.
You see so many people on LinkedIn, celebrating a new job and loving it. We want to make sure they maintain that that same high level of commitment that they brought into the industry, and not exit the industry with a bad taste in their mouth.
That all comes down to leadership."
5. Current and future QA leaders should join his Masterclass
"My Masterclass is for anyone who has dreams of being a QA director, or someone who's dreaming of running their QA department. I think that would be a great benefit for them—understanding and setting your vision, and what you're trying to do with your culture. The hiring processes, having the right people, making sure your leadership is understanding your goals, and pushing the team to to get those goals. And then actually, like I said, treating people like people.
For those who really want to build effective teams, I really want them to understand what I did and what I was thinking about, because I've been thinking about this for years.
When I got into QA, I wanted to head my QA department. I've just been collecting data and processes and executing and trying things, and found out what I felt worked for my beliefs and my goals of trying to run a department."
GDC Masterclass delivers high-level training with industry experts in several game development fields. One of the Game Developers Conference's unique professional offerings, Masterclass is comprised of small-group workshops that deliver in-depth, hands-on training from top professionals in video game development—addressing some of the most important challenges facing developers today.
GDC returns to San Francisco in March 2023! For more information, be sure to visit our website.