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Tales from the Trenches

PTSDeez Nuts!

I got my start in the Video Game world the way most people do…QA.

I started testing following a 6 year enlistment in the Army and 3 years spent in Afghanistan. I should clarify that the reason I got out was I was awful sick and tired of getting shot at.

I went to work among the masses at a AAA Studio testing a popular multi-platform FPS. First Person SHOOTER…I wasn’t really happy with it at first. The sound of gunfire made me very nervous, even knowing it was not only virtual, but sounded like shit during that build didn’t really help. On one of my very few days off I managed to sneak in an appointment at the VA. After some time with a head shrinker I was told I have “One of the most obvious cases of PTSD he’d ever seen”. Fuck it. Went back to work. Never had time to go back to the VA for treatment…I had games to test! Now that you have the background let’s move on.

I pulled the typical testing shifts described by so many before. 12-16 hour days, 6-7 days a week for months. The entire time surrounded by digital gunfire and explosions. I got around it for the most part by just turning the damn audio off. Somehow no one noticed.

We had this really awesome QA Lead. He did his best with what he had to take care of us. Everyone on my small team knew I was a Vet and they did me a solid by keeping it quiet and among just our little group. Our Lead, after a few months, suggested I should apply for a Production job within the company…so I did. I guess the only other applicant was another tester who happened to be somebody’s nephew. By somebody I mean my boss’ boss who was a huge ass. We’ll call him Joe. Joe was one of THOSE managers. You know the type, had only been doing it a short while so the power was located in his head and he had a special hatred for testers.

A few days later our team was assigned the job of doing a complete playthrough and making sure all of the Audio was right….shit. I didn’t want to lose the job with my application for a possible dream job on the line so I toughed it out. Well, Joe was apparently very unhappy that I had put in an application for the same job as his (completely inept) nephew. So unhappy in fact that he came over to my station first thing in the morning to command me to take my application out of the running. I flatly refused. He was pissed. Our highly apathetic HR manager (aka Firing Guru) didn’t care.

Fast forward about 8 hours. I’m exhausted, I’m really wigging out from all of the sound effects, I’ve been mistreated and now told that I wasn’t “allowed” to apply for a dream job despite doing my time in the trenches (twice, technically). I was nearing the completion of a playthrough, and in the middle of a pitched battle against digital offenders needing to taste some of my hot lead. My head was partially in the game and partially in a hazy, sleep deprived, PTSD driven stupor when Joe decides it’s time to come give me a piece of his mind. Suddenly there is a rather aggressive hand on my shoulder, and someone yelling something at me…the words “I order you…” are all I remember. The next thing I know my hands are around his neck choking the life out of this poor unsuspecting tyrant. Once I realized what was happening I released him…but I followed with a tirade about how this Nerf herder had no idea what I had gone through to get to this point and that no amount of ordering, which he had no right to do, was going to get me to take back my application. I went on a several minutes long rant at the top of my lungs about the frustrations of testing, working under him and the frustrations of PTSD and what led me to it. When the dust settled the entire room (read: dungeon) was staring at us. He ordered security to remove me. They didn’t wanna, neither did my Lead or any of the other testers in the room. Finally someone from across the room piped up “I’ll take him”

It was the Production team lead, there to talk to the very man I’d just choked about the Production job…he didn’t take me outside. He took me upstairs…to the holy land.

His reaction when I asked why: “You had the best application…and also because we make games about war…you know about war…and because I’ve wanted to choke that little bastard since the first time I saw him.” His only condition was that I enter and exit via the side door, and not enter the dungeon while Joe was present. He didn’t want him knowing I was still around.

I still work here helping people’s crazy ideas be a bit more realistic. Joe got fired when the project wrapped. Sometimes there is a happy ending. I got to choke my boss and get promoted for it. I fucking love this industry.