Q. What were you doing for work before you signed up for the gaming industry gig?
Dave Gasca has some great advice for you if you happen to be out there looking to break into gaming by taking the test route. In short order he's gone from gamer to graduate to a full time Lead working on Bungie's Test team. If you're looking to do the same yourself and carve out a career in the gaming industry, pay close attention so you can repro the steps Gasca took on his way to scoring a gig at Bungie.
Q. Who are you and what do you do for Bungie?
A. Dave Gasca. I'm a Test Lead here at Bungie. I'm responsible for making sure a lot of the behind the scenes bits of the game get tested right. For Halo 3, it was multiplayer, networking, and interactions with Bungie.net. Now, I focus more on Bungie.net integration with the game. You can also find me at a press event, fanfest, or trade show helping to set up and test the hardware.
Shameless plug: I also help save girly parts. I help my girlfriend with the Fight Like a Girl Charity Tournament
every October. It’s a Halo tournament to raise money for breast and cervical cancer research. I'm going to be there. Go sign up!
A. I really love asking people about how they got into the gaming business, and I get this question a lot during interviews and such. So I'm going to change the question a little. I graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Informatics. WTF is informatics? Yeah, I get that a lot. Go look it up.
Nobody knowing what my degree was coupled the dot com crash made it really hard to find tech jobs. To try and gain some experience, I ended up volunteering at a church doing IT work. After a few months of that I got offered a dream job testing games. I was a huge gamer in college to the point of almost failing out my sophomore year. Avid gamer is a bit of an understatement.
I thought testing games would be sweet. I was also a big Halo LAN guy in college, so when I found out I'd be working on Halo for the PC I was stoked. Dream job it was not, but I loved it and I worked hard. I apparently made some sort of impression and was asked to stick around and do some work on Halo 2.
After that gig was up, I did some more interim IT work for the City of Shoreline and eventually got another call to come back and work on Halo 2 again. I busted my ass at that job. I was proud to be working on a great game with great people. I was given the opportunity to learn. I took it and I came out with a wealth of knowledge. After that, I began applying for non-contract test jobs at MGS. I caught the tail end of a big hiring spree and landed a sweet test job. I worked there with the Rare group for a while then moved over to Bungie to work on Halo 3. I busted my ass yet again and duped my boss into hiring me. Now I'm here, living the dream (the real dream this time).
Q. So what makes working for Bungie so much more dreamy than all of those other gigs?
A. A wise man told me “If you're not hiring people smarter than you, you're doing it wrong.” I’m paraphrasing just a bit, but it's totally true. It’s the people and the culture that set Bungie apart. At Bungie, everyone around you is smart, motivated and passionate. It’s contagious. I get caught up in the fervor and it drives me to want to do my best.
It’s also a great feeling to be treated like a first class citizen. A few places I’ve seen, testers get brought in at the very end of the project like 1,000 monkeys at 1,000 typewriters. At Bungie, we’re involved with almost everything from the planning phase. I feel like part of the team here and that makes me want to work even harder.
Q. What's something you've been involved with at Bungie that you won't ever forget?
A. I first started working at Bungie around the Halo 3 Alpha. My first week experience sorta went down like this: "Hey Dave, welcome to Bungie! We have this huge milestone that we just finished, we have some new features that need testing, and an extra team of testers here from Microsoft. They get here at 6am. Also, your PC doesn't quite work yet. Oh yeah, and the test team is all going on vacation. Here's some email in Jevanese (It's a hybrid copy/paste language that you have to use the Force to decipher) that gives you a rough idea of what to do. Later!"
I was basically living one of those horrible prioritization interview questions. It was about as thrown into the fire as you can get without actually being on fire. I was not used to that much work all at once, all on me. It was terrifying and exhilarating. I loved it.
Q. That does sound like a lot of work. How do you make sure you don't burn out in the face of all that fire?
A. It's really easy to be swept up in the Bungie passion. There’s all this enthusiasm for the upcoming game. All through the development cycle you’re excited about what the game is going to be and you want to help make it amazing. As you crunch and crunch that enthusiasm gives way to sleep deprivation, but once the game ships it’s an amazing feeling to watch people get excited about playing something you just made. Then the next project starts and you get excited all over again.
As for stuff I’d have done differently – I probably would have spent less time playing games in college and more time studying. Actually, screw that. I’d have spent more time playing fun games and less time playing MMOs. I also probably would have kept up on my programming. (I may also have used fewer buzz words in this interview.)
Q. If you could issue one ominous warning to upstarts looking to weasel their way into the industry and ultimately plop themselves down into your very own decadent seat of power, what would it be?
A. My seat of power is far from decadent (not quite Noguchi-esque though). Right now it's covered in packing foam, random wires, and old game discs. But if you want it, you need to learn as much as you can about everything you can. You'd be amazed at how much random knowledge I've picked up over the years comes into play. And stow that attitude. One of the biggest things about Bungie Test is being flexible. Work ranges from writing test plans, to picking through game code, to rewiring test labs, to writing test tools, and even packing boxes and moving desks. We help any way we can to get the product out the door.
Finally, quit skipping school and study hard. It's not a necessity to have a degree, but it sure as hell helps a lot.
Q. Experience, work ethic, or talent? Put 'em in the order you feel makes the most sense for Test.
A. Work ethic, talent, experience. It definitely differs by discipline. Test is all about being a work horse. Talent definitely helps get the most out of all the time you’ll be spending working. Experience, err, comes in time, with experience. Crap. It's last anyway.
Q. Pretend that you're considering me for a Test position. What three pieces of advice would you dole out to make sure I had a fighting chance?
- Dress up in a costume. Seriously. Dressing up may show that you're enthusiastic about the product, but that might also mean you're enthusiastic about shivving me in the parking lot after work.
- Don't lie on your resume. The gaming industry seems like a big knitting circle. Chances are someone at the place you're applying for knows that you consistently fall asleep at the controller, or that you constantly smell like anchovies. 2a. Ok, smelling like anchovies won't get you blacklisted, but it doesn't help first impressions. It might also get you that uncomfortable talking-to. Nobody likes that.
- Tell us that Mario and Luigi are your parents. Then slip us a post card of a cat eating a bird when you leave. Actually, wait. Do that. It got one of our testers a job.
The costume was supposed to be my ice-breaker, Dave, but thanks for the advice. If you've just read through Gasca's interview and you're armed with an honest resume, you're ready to be a work horse, and you're not too
enthusiastic about the product, slip on over to our Career Opportunities
page. We're hiring.