This week’s Industry Insight features Michael Winte, Lead Tester for Neversoft. It was really important for us to get a tester’s perspective as many people in the industry begin as a tester, and many people feel that the way to get their foot in the door is by becoming one. As with all of the Industry Insight articles, the same questions will be asked so that the reader can see just how each position varies.
Marooners’ Rock: Hi Michael, I’d like to first thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. For the readers out there who might not be familiar with you or your work, would you mind giving us a brief introduction?
Michael Winte: I am a Lead Tester here at Neversoft. I have worked on multiple Guitar Hero games from Guitar Hero: Metallica all the way through to Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock.
MR: What is the first game you remember playing?
MW: Color vette on my dad’s 486 mac work computer. 10 frames a second but it had vehicle damage that had an impact on steering which is pretty impressive for its time. Also, launching cars off the hills of San Francisco is fun!
MR: When did you first realize that you wanted to work in the gaming industry?
MW: I never gave it much thought until my friend started working for Activision. Once he started he would tell me stories about work, everything he told me about working there sounded better than every other job I ever had.
MR: How did you get into the gaming industry? Did you have any friends who helped, or was it all based on your credentials?
MW: I had a buddy working in the test department at Activision in Santa Monica. Shortly after he left to go back to school I applied and used him as a reference.
MR: When you did start looking around for jobs, were there any companies you were hoping to land a job with?
MW: I knew a fair amount of people from Activision already so I was really hoping to end up working with them.
MR: What was your first game related job?
MW: I was a QA tester at Activison. My first project was Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland. Before that, I did a number of focus test groups for various companies.
MR: If you could give one piece of advice to our readers who are looking to get into the industry, what would it be?
MW: Make as many connections as possible. Like other industries it’s not only the work you do, it’s who you know.
MR: Did you have to go through any special training, or obtain any specific degree to help land you your first gigs?
MW: No real special training aside from hours of playing video games and developing a keen eye for detail and an inquisitive nature.
MR: Would you mind telling us what kind of duties and responsibilities your current position entails?
MW: I currently am in charge of a team of testers. I create test cases and help manage the bug database. I act as a bridge between the testers and the developers by relaying information back and forth to ensure that all parties have all the details they need to do their jobs.
MR: There are a lot of people out there who think that industry jobs are glamorous, or that not a lot of work is involved. On average, about how many hours do you work in a single week?
MW: Our normal work week is 40 hours. However, in months leading up to a submission and release, that number quickly doubles and on occasion triples. It is not uncommon for a test team to work 14-15 hour days 7 days a week for up to a month or two at a time. Nice for overtime pay but you become a ghost to all of your friends and family and simple things you don’t think twice about doing such as laundry or getting a haircut now need to be squeezed in to what little free you have.
MR: Other than what you’ve helped work on, do you have a favorite game?
MW: Currently, my favorite game would have to be Bioshock. The first time going down that elevator and seeing that amazing city gave me goose bumps. Before that, my favorite game would have to be Day of Defeat, I must have put hundreds of hours into that game.
MR: Is there a particular game, or franchise, you wish you could’ve been a part of?
MW: I think it would have been really cool to work on Scribblenauts. They must have had so much fun coming up with all of the different combination of things to complete each mission.
MR: Who in the industry do you look up to?
MW: I look up to the guys who are able to take their visions and get them actually made into games. It always blows me away to see the creation of a game, from a basic idea to the concept art all the way through to the final product. The men and women that are able to see their idea through to fruition are the ones I look up to the most.
MR: What are some of the perks of your job?
MW: Working on games that millions of people play, I can go anywhere and say that I worked on a Guitar Hero game and people will know what that is. Aside from that, people in our industry are super creative and fun to be around, even during crunch times there is rarely a day I actually dread going into work.
MR: Are there any drawbacks to working in the industry?
MW: The only real drawback I see is long hours that come up around submission time. When you spend 15+ hours a day 7 days a week for weeks on end with the same group of people, it starts to get to you.
MR: What is one of the most memorable moments in your career?
MW: Getting hired on as a full time test lead, anyone who works in QA knows how hard it is to go from a temp to full time. I have worked with people who went years without being hired on. It’s usually a case of one or two spots that come up every other year for 20-30 applicants.
MR: Do you have any final thoughts for our readers or anything you’d like to plug or promote?
MW: Nothing to plug or promote at this time.
MR: Thanks again Michael. It’s been a pleasure to ask you these questions. We appreciate your time and perspective.
Check back next week when we’ll have another great Industry Insight interview!