Thunderbirds – Vivendi Universal Games – 2004

Start new career?

My first job in the video game industry was as a Game Tester at what was then called Vivendi Universal Games, a company in Los Angeles, CA. I had graduated in March 2004 with an Associates degree in Graphic Design and Multimedia, but quickly realized that the traditional freelancer role was not for me. I preferred stability and a regular paycheck, not to mention avoiding problem clients. I’d decided I wanted to work in video games and that I’d start as a tester.

I remained at my part-time college job for three months while I searched for something that I liked. It was harrowing. I knew I couldn’t continue in a retail job but if something in video games didn’t materialize I’d have to move into some other type of office role. Fortunately, my dad was a delivery driver for a print company and through his interactions with clients in the media industry he discovered that Vivendi was searching for testers. He passed my résumé along and I got the call soon after.

There was a week of training in which all applicants were required to test builds of games that were in various states of development. Test leads reviewed all bugs and critiqued them, guiding potential testers in the basic best practices: write well, provide detailed reproduction steps, be clear about the result and the expectation. And do not write duplicate bugs, ever.

One amusing part of this process was I was given an early build of The Cat in the Hat for GBA. The game left no impression, but I do remember that the cartridge contained save data for later levels that were not meant to be accessible to tester trainees. I took advantage of that to skip ahead and discover bugs that the others would not discover during their time with the build. I was guaranteed not to write any duplicate bug reports. Was it unfair? I wonder to this day.

Once finished with training I was assigned to my first project: Thunderbirds. The project itself was brief. I joined a handful of other testers in helping to test and final a small GBA game with an accordingly small budget. We were done in two weeks, but it was the longest two weeks of my career.