• Jemima & David

Roll Call Interview Series - David Jenkins (Lead QA)

Name: David Jenkins

Job Title: Lead QA

Time at Roll7: Just over a year

Fav classic game: Yoshi’s Island

Pets: Have had cats, but none right now

Hi David - tell me a bit about working in QA here at Roll7 - what does your day-to-day look like?

Hello! Well, the job of QA in general is to assure the quality of the game - as the name suggests. I think that’s very much true of QA at Roll7, in a way that it maybe isn’t so much elsewhere - QA here isn’t just about fixing things that are broken, it’s about genuinely making the game the best it can be. So if it’s going in the game, QA is involved in some way… and actually, sometimes we’re involved in things that aren’t even going in the game at all! We jump in with various bits and pieces, like recording in-game video to use for marketing footage.

QA isn’t only about logging the bugs we find - it’s also important that we can help suggest possible fixes or reasons for a bug. It’s a bit of a Sherlock Holmes job, in that way.

I know you’re involved in the nitty-gritty of QA a lot of the time, but as the lead, you also have a management role which is part of your work - what does that involve?

Mostly a bunch of meetings! I end up being the point of contact between QA and all the other teams fairly often, and if somebody needs to pop in on a design meeting or see what the coders are up to, it’s probably going to be me. It’s my job to keep on top of where all the different teams are at and to make sure that QA can be proactive about investigating any new additions to the game - new mechanics, levels, art… all of that. My speciality is in Compliance QA, and if there’s one thing that’s taught me, it’s that it’s best to preempt an issue early on - rather than trying to fix it all at the last minute! So as a lead, a lot of my role is just oversight and time management for myself and my team.

I think I speak for everyone at Roll7 when I say we couldn’t function without the amazing work you and your team do - what makes a good QA tester?

As a QA tester, I spend a whole lot of time trying to work out what weird and wonderful things gamers might do - what speedrunners or people who love to find strange exploits or bugs might be able to run into if they really put their minds to it. And, in a nutshell, those are the very people who we’d love to see working in QA! Other than that… Tin-Tin (one of the QA team) often says ‘I don’t find bugs - bugs find me’. I think that’s an experience many of us QA tester types have run into over the years. So if you like breaking games, and you seem to wind up running into all the annoying bugs your friends manage to miss… maybe QA is for you!

You know, I do tend to end up with games crashing a lot myself… but I think that has more to do with my poor beleaguered five year old laptop than my QA qualifications! What was it that made you want a career in games, and in QA specifically?

So, before I got into games as a career, I was actually a professional kickboxing instructor-

Ok, that’s definitely the coolest origin story anyone has shared in this blog segment so far.

Haha - well, yeah, I still love kickboxing and I’m on the Board of Directors of the British Kickboxing Council, so it’s stayed a big part of my life. But when I was looking to switch career paths, games were just something I’d always loved - I’d been playing them since I was a kid - so it seemed like a natural choice. And QA was something that felt like a good starting point, but I actually did a lot of research into all sorts of careers in games - I taught myself 3d modelling, level design, a bit of audio editing… all sorts! I think that knowledge and understanding of a bunch of different aspects of the game creation process has really helped me be a more effective QA tester and now lead. That’s why I feel like it’s really important for me to be doing a job where I have a genuine interest in the field - I have this capacity to focus really deeply on the work I do because I love games so much. I was recently diagnosed with autism, and I... retrospectively I can see how much that has been something that has really made an impact on my career choice.

Yes! Right, because this was the other thing I wanted to talk about - I myself was diagnosed with ADHD a couple years back, and I’m always really interested to talk to fellow neurodivergent folks in games.

There’s definitely a lot of us here - I think especially for certain disciplines like QA or coding, it’s something that can be really beneficial. For me, I’ve found that my attention to detail, and my ability to focus really intensely on-

The ability to focus? Man, I wish I had that...

Ha, well, it only works for stuff I really care about!

Ok, now we’re on the same page. Totally get that.

Right! Anyway, yeah, the point is, there’s definitely an overlap of common autistic traits and traits that are really handy to have when working in QA.

I can totally see it. How have you found working from home?

Oh, I love it. Honestly, at this point, Roll7 has practically been medically prescribed to me. Everything about the setup, the people, the work - it’s perfect for me. Especially the way that if I try to crunch I get told off (nicely!) - it’s so easy as an autisitc person to end up doing way more work than you should when you get focused on what you’re doing! Everyone here has been very welcoming and supportive. I think - you know, it’s great being surrounded by fellow nerds who have a lot of the same interests and reference points as me, because I find I tend to use a lot of references when I talk. And when you’re with a group of people who are already on the same page about those references, it makes communication so much smoother. Also, for me, I do like to meet up with people and see them in person sometimes, but it can be very overwhelming, especially in a large group. There’s a huge amount of work I have to do to unpick everyone’s social cues, and the more people around the more complex that gets. Whereas with Slack - with text chat - I can sit and read and process the information and tone, and if it takes me a minute or two it’s not a problem, because you don’t have that same expectation of immediate response. Plus, emojis are amazingly useful tone indicators.

They are! You know, I had never thought about how much text chat sort of puts everyone in the same boat with the same level of clarity about tone and intention and stuff. That’s really cool. I guess that ties into the stuff Austica Play is talking about with friendship day.

Oh, yeah, we were going to talk about that - we got a little sidetracked, huh?

Don’t worry, I’m gonna cut out all the stuff where we just threw references at each other and talked about cats, lord of the rings, kickboxing, memes… we can pretend that we stayed on topic.

Haha - great. Ok, yes, so - friendship day! Autistica have been raising awareness about the importance of online friendships for autistic folks, and how games can bring people together. It’s interesting because, for me, I don’t really play online games much at all - gaming is an escape from the pressures of socialisation. But I do find, like I mentioned earlier, that a mutual interest in games is definitely something that can help me forge a friendship with somebody. And, yeah, definitely to me online friendships are important. I don’t feel like I need to meet somebody in person to be their friend. For the last 18 months, online friendships have been something that pretty much everyone - neurodivergent or not - has been having to cultivate. So maybe that will bring about a bit of a change in attitude and a better understanding of the fact that an online friend can be just as ‘real’ as any other!

I sure hope so! I’m going to pop a link to Autistica in this article, so that people can go check out their work and maybe even donate. It’s a great cause.

It is! It’s been great talking to you.

It’s been great talking to you too, David! Have a great day. Learn more about Autistica Play: