If you are not in the games industry yet but hope to be, I beg of you one thing: If you read this article and find yourself agreeing with the author, then for the love of god, please don’t try to join. (Also, thanks Kotaku for continuing on their ongoing quest to write articles designed to grab clicks more than to actually be fair or informative).
There are a lot of places in the industry where QA sucks. The games industry continues to be insane. I have no idea how good or bad a studio Certain Affinity is as an employer. For all I know, their upper management could all have Hitler mustaches. That being said, what he describes in his call-to-arms sounds like… well, a fairly typical-to-good experience in the games industry.
The Penny Arcade Report’s response is a good one. To which I’ll just add this: the boom and bust cycle for game development is likely here to stay. By this, I mean that a company needs dozens or hundreds of employees the last month before a project has shipped that they don’t need a month after they’ve shipped. And by don’t need, I mean can’t afford. Personnel are hugely expensive, and if you are lucky, the company that you are working at has another project that it can slide you directly into. If not, the company has a responsibility to itself and its remaining employees to let the contracts expire of their excess personnel. A lot of these jobs are contracts directly SO a company can let them expire gracefully. This hopefully can minimize a need for a mass layoff.
QA is hit most hard by this, typically. You can need a very large QA team in order to deal with the final days of the project, when you’re trying to ship a DVD off to certification multiple times a week to get the project on shelves in time for Christmas. But once the project ships, the need for QA shrinks dramatically. If a company has a second project running, they may be able to find the need for some of the programmers and designers on a recently shipped project. That won’t be true for QA unless the second project happens to be 6 months from ship.
Is this good or fair? No. And QA remains one of the toughest, most grueling aspects of the games industry. That being said, I’ve seen plenty of people in QA earn permanent jobs, or even moreso, leave QA to become designers, producers or programmers at their company. That being said, everyone doing QA looking to move up a rung needs to know that theyre competing with about 30 other QA peeps with similar aspirations — and that the company that they work for may not be in a position to immediately do so, even if they WANT to.