The games industry plays host to a colourful cast of diverse individuals, from artists and coders to narrative designers and studio heads.
The skills to pull off these roles, however, are complex and differing, with each position requiring mastery in its field – especially in these complex times we are all living through at the minute.
To highlight some of the brilliant work that goes on behind the scenes as well as how employees around the world are adapting to the life of remote work, PocketGamer.biz is reaching out to the individuals who make up the games industry in our Jobs in Games: Remote Working series.
PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?
Sebastian Reuther: I'm currently working as the QA lead for Kolibri Games' Idle Factory Tycoon. Generally, in the QA team, we are making sure that everything we release to the player works as intended and meets the quality standards that people expect coming from Kolibri Games. For me, that means creating the testing strategy and workflows, managing the team and testing the game.
How did you first get into games and how did you progress into this role?
A great passion for the medium, followed by a basic understanding of every area in game development is a good starting point.Sebastian Reuther
Games have always been a part of my life. I remember playing Tetris on the Game Boy, lots of real-time strategy games on PC, Digimon on the PlayStation, and getting hooked on games like Dota, Clash Royale, and Hearthstone.
My first game-making experience was with the RPG Maker. Nothing came out of it, but the creative process behind building games fascinated me. During my bachelor's, I then participated in a lot of game jams and really got into the teamwork of making games.
A little later, I applied for my first internship in a small mobile game start up and made my career in QA through companies like Flaregames, Envision Entertainment and, of course, now Kolibri Games.
What did you study (if anything) to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?
I studied media science, but I obtained my first job in the industry before graduating. Most QA positions in game development don't require a degree – usually understanding of the position and game knowledge is considered more important.
A great passion for the medium, followed by a basic understanding of every area in game development is a good starting point. Being able to dig deep when it comes to issuing reproduction, having clear communication skills, and not minding repetitive work are key skills you need when working in QA. Then depending on the direction of the QA you want to develop in, you need to specialise further.
An automation engineer will need programming skills, while manual QA will need to work on documentation and planning. Depending on the company, a QA might also be used to test in-house tools or data and backend, which also requires a bit more specialised knowledge. For a leadership position, you will need to manage people, processes, and make hard decisions about the game while taking full responsibility for the quality of the product.
Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?
Professionally, QA is getting treated better every year thanks to teams showing repeatedly that a low-quality release will directly affect KPIs, and a bad update can ruin the experience for large parts of the player base.
I was lucky to have only worked for companies that consider QA an asset to the company and the game, but there are also the overworked and underpaid horror stories you hear from elsewhere.
A well-integrated QA team will do a lot more than finding bugs. It will create a knowledge base, can predict bugs before features are even developed, will make sure the product team gets a user perspective, and can even automate large parts of your testing. They can help with finding edge cases in designs and provide valuable feedback.
What advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?
To get started you need a strong interest in game development. There are a ton of learning resources available. Also, make sure you become familiar with the direction you want to go in: mobile game development is quite different compared to traditional game development.
I recommend everyone to read up on game QA. Find a company that interests you and check sites like Glassdoor to find out if this would be a place you see yourself working at.
How has the shift from office to remote working impacted your role, if at all?
QA benefits from an office for equipment reasons - having a big pool of devices is just easier to manage in an office space. In the office, we have over 100 test devices, while at home I'm down to five devices, which limits our capabilities to do compliance testing. Eventually, we had to adapt like everyone else and just split up the hardware in a way that made sense.
For more complicated issues and tickets, we find that it's often easiest to demonstrate the bug on a device. To compensate we are doing more recordings and screenshots, with clear communication a necessity here. Every time you forget to mention important information, the bug will need more time and effort to be fixed.
What does your typical day look like when working remotely?
One of the advantages we noticed quite quickly is that our meetings are done faster remotely.Sebastian Reuther
Usually, my day starts by checking with the community team, reporting the release state, and getting to work on some tickets that were finished on the previous day. We are using Zoom to have syncs, stand-ups, and meetings.
While working, I make sure that I get up at least every hour, maybe do a quick meeting while walking around the neighbourhood or do some work standing up. Also, I love cooking, so I usually take the opportunity to quickly cook something during lunch breaks. It's like meditation.
What do you think are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of remote working?
One of the advantages we noticed quite quickly is that our meetings are done faster remotely. There is no need to walk to the meeting room, waiting times for other people are quick and ending a meeting after a few minutes does not feel like a waste of time, since joining the call just takes a few seconds.
On the downside, casual conversations are now missing and natural breaks like walking to the coffee machine or to a meeting room are no more. Personally too, I very much prefer to discuss serious topics with people in person.
Is there anything you wish you had known before moving to remote working?
Basic chores like grabbing a daily bottle of water are something that I have to force myself to do now, while they were just automated in my brain when working from the office.
Additionally, I didn't prepare my home for a longer remote working setup. Obtaining a proper desk, chair, cables and connection all play part in that.
Lastly, I quickly became aware of how bad sitting down for long periods of time is for your physical and mental health. Learning to take breaks and leaving for some fresh air can really improve your mood, focus and health.
Do you have any advice for others who are struggling to adjust to remote work?
Try not to overwork. With the workplace now found in the living room, it's easy to do a little extra, which quickly turns into an hour more every day.
In QA it really helps to stay in contact even with people not working on the same project. This is true even when there is no virtual office, but a lot harder under current circumstances. Listening to other people's struggles and solutions can really improve workflows.
After the pandemic ends and if you were given the choice, would you prefer to continue working remotely or go back to working in an office?
I love working with a team. It's part of the reason I decided to work in games. This gets lost when always working remotely, so I would rather go back to the office and enjoy this process with the team in person. On the other hand, I have learned to enjoy the benefits and advantages of working from home which I will carry forward and use more frequently in the future.