Tales from The Trenches Archive

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Years ago I was working contract QA for a large corporation with a number of subsidiary development studios. I was a part of the build verification and performance testing team, and needless to say our job was fairly easy; check the newest and freshest build from the developer and create save points along the way, all the while logging performance issues and ad-hocing the shit out of the game.

Since the job came with a fair amount of “down time,” we were frequently asked to perform random jobs. “Play through the game for screen caps,” “provide saves for this team or that team,” “create unique scenarios for another team for marketing…” Fun stuff. 

Then one day we were given another task… one unique to itself and all-together scary (for someone relatively new to the industry at the time).  Three others and I were put into a shuttle and driven to an offsite building on another part of town. Once there we realized that we were standing in the shell of what was once a bustling and active studio, decorated with all things attractive and unique to a game studio. Arcade machines still plugged in, giant flat screens, whiteboards covered in gaming jargon and designer notes…and of course the free drinks fridge.

What was missing were the people. Not a single person was there. Controllers lay on the ground, placed there in haste as though the person handling it was forcibly removed from the office. Desks were scattered with random notes and pieces of technology, ideas still scribbled down on so many sticky notes as though they were going to be picked up later for a stand-up meeting to be relayed to some other “team.” 

Well…no team existed anymore.  This place was shut down and void of life.  I knew that we were there to “save the valuables”... dev kits, monitors, controllers…it all had to go.  What was once a hub of ideas was now a scrap yard of product to be recycled and re-used.  I thought long and hard after cleaning up that mess of a studio… Was I making the right choice working for a small hourly wage while performing a task that most other industry folk look down upon knowing that maybe, I could end up like this place in the bat of an eye? 

My answer: absolutely 100% you bet your fucking ass yes… this place may have now been deserted, but when it was moving full steam I have no doubt that it was a blast to work in and bustled with creativity and growth. The game industry will always have failed studios and horror stories about publishers shutting down projects.  From every one of these comes a new batch of talent, ready to re-enter the workforce or forge ahead with their own team as independent studios.  It’s been 4 years since I helped pick up the dead pieces of this studio, but I never forgot about it.

Rest in peace, FASA.