The cast – 7. QA

At the few companies that have enjoyed my employment QA, or Quality Assurance, has been remarkably absent as a department. That is not to say there was no bug checking at all, but that it was usually outsourced and done by the team itself.
A tradition of Japanese development seems to be to dump a devkit on the desks of those that have or are about to finish their tasks for the project and have them check for bugs; not only their own parts but the whole game. I personally have no qualms about testing my own work, but if the project lingers on you’ll find yourself playing the game for weeks, if not months, and that is a very soul crushing experience.

When QA is outsourced it seems to go to regular outsource companies, that also provide art assets or FMV, and occasionally to smaller, befriended companies that need some extra work to remain solvent. There is a danger therefore that if you apply to tiny companies your services may be hired out as a tester when times are slow.

If you’re planning a career in QA in Japan you may be barking up the wrong tree. Like back in the west general QA staff are usually graduates and work cheaply. If you’re going for a managerial QA position your Japanese will have to be very good (read and write reports, communicate with the development team or their producer, etc.) that you are probably better off using your linguist skills in a better paid position in, for example, localization. Or climb up the career ladder back home, get some development experience and try your hand in Japan in planning or producing.

As I said, few companies have in-house QA departments, so you’re limited to smaller development houses, for which you’d need another applicable skill, or outsource companies, of which I have little experience other than dealing with them indirectly. As for salaries, that’d be anybody’s guess but I’ll be very surprised if it amounts to anything much.

The quality of QA in Japan is good enough though. I wouldn’t say it’s due to professionalism but rather a sense of duty that bug reports are filled in properly, and are usually stamped (signed) by multiple people to track back the chain of command. As a result you are mercifully spared the “silly arse” bugs or the “hear ye my opinion” bugs. Again, as a developer, your dealing with the bugs will probably go through an eXcel file and will tax your Japanese abilities.

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