Video game testing company Sculpin QA has been based in Charlottetown since 2007. The company has about 35 staff in Canada and has been hiring steadily in the last few years.
The company focuses on quality assurance and services such as email customer support and community management for its sister company, Other Ocean Interactive, and many other game developers around the world.
“With our customer support service, we help game developers who don’t have the time to focus on talking to players,” says Max Knechtel, Business Development Manager. “If they are constantly answering players’ emails, then they are not working on a game. It’s been a good service for us — we have found testing and customer support goes hand in hand.”
Game testing can happen as late as a few days or a few weeks before the game is released to the marketplace, or from the beginning of a project over several years of development. “Our goal is for clients to have the best product, game or app possible, and catch issues and bugs that may be confusing or frustrating to users. We work on different kinds of products, games and apps, so the work is always interesting.”
Company job titles
- Testers and Lead Testers
- Quality Assurance Project Managers
- Quality Assurance Supervisor and Manager
- Business Development Manager
- Game Services Manager
- Senior Management
Max says Sculpin QA has recently hired an Office Manager and is looking to hire a Project Manager for its development team in the near future.
“Hiring is ongoing,” he says. “The projects we have in the works determine the number of new employees we hire. We post jobs on our own Sculpin website, Other Ocean Interactive, the Job Bank and Work PEI among others.”
In 2018, approximately 10 Testers were hired. Some Testers started right out of high school. “While Tester is an entry-level position that doesn’t require a college diploma, the more specialized roles in game development typically require a post-secondary degree or diploma.
“They are the ones making the games. However, we have hired Testers who want to pursue a career making games, and they choose to start with a testing role to see how the game development cycle and development team fit together,” Max says.
“We have promoted many employees from within. Typically our senior test positions are testers who have gone up the ranks here. Many have been here since the beginning of the company.”
Education and skills required
Sculpin QA has hired people from Holland College’s Video Game Art and Animation program and from UPEI’s Computer Science program, which has a video game programming specialization. “Our Technical Director for the development division is actually a professor for the UPEI program.
“The contribution of Holland College and UPEI has really helped the PEI video game industry expand in the last 10 years. Our industry experience has been valued by those institutions and as a result many graduates have gone on to work in the industry here.”
The company occasionally takes on-the-job training students from Holland College and UPEI programs both in Testing positions and more specialized development roles. “It depends on what we have on the go and our capacity,” he says. “We also visit schools, including K-12, to discuss the different career paths in the industry. We like to show there is work in this field on PEI.”
Generally speaking, critical and analytical thinking, clear communication and a passion for the games industry are valuable things needed for starting out as a Game Tester. “We all work closely together, from the testers on up to the management team, to solve day to day problems we encounter and to make sure our clients’ needs are being met,” says Max.
Application and interview process
Applicants for Tester jobs go through an interview process where they field situational questions on what to do when encountering different day to day scenarios, and in general about the applicant’s familiarity with the industry and technical knowledge. Sculpin will sometimes also bring in community volunteers to act as focus groups for different projects.
“We look for technical expertise and personality,” Max says. “You can stand out by showing your knowledge, enthusiasm, and passion for the video game industry.”
Spreading the word
Sculpin QA has dozens of clients from all over Canada, the United States, and Europe. Senior staff regularly attend major game developer conferences in Montreal, San Francisco and Europe to meet existing and potential clients and learn about the latest trends in the field.
In March, a consumer conference called Island Entertainment Expo (IEX) will be held at the Delta Prince Edward Hotel in Charlottetown. “We like to try to have a presence there (via industry group VideogamesPEI) to show the local community that PEI has a thriving game industry,” Max says. “Considering the small size of this province, we have some major world-class studios here. It’s a real success story I like to share with people locally and within the industry.”
The company is a founding member of VideogamesPEI. This industry association was developed over the past two years to give the province’s game studios the chance to promote each other’s work, share information such as hiring practices and industry opportunities, and develop the local industry. The group meets once a month.
“The association is a great sign of the industry’s growth,” Max says. “We work together to tackle things like how to get youth interested in careers in video gaming, keeping education streams current, and policies to hire underrepresented groups in the industry as well as keeping up with global industry trends.”
For more information on Sculpin QA, visit www.sculpinQA.com.