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Q&A: Kari Toyama and Anthony Price on Why QA Is Key for Every Studio

Quality Assurance (QA) is vital for testing and perfecting your game—and building a great QA team requires more than a one-size-fits-all approach. Private Division's Kari Toyama and Anthony Price are here to help your studio build and grow the perfect QA team in this upcoming virtual GDC Masterclass

Executive Producer Kari Toyama and Senior Quality Assurance Manager Anthony Price talked with GDC about their GDC Masterclass, Building Excellent Teams and Culture in Game QA, taking place on Thursday and Friday, June 16-17, from 2:00pm to 6:00pm BST (9:00am to 1:00pm ET)

This Masterclass will introduce ways to identify the needs of the studio, company, and project, and build a QA team that fits within those goals. Additionally, there will be a heavy emphasis on ways to advocate for the QA team early, ensuring that the team is set up for long-term success. This course will cover hiring, growth, collaboration, and advocating for a QA team in any size studio or company.

This course is great for anyone currently building or looking to build a QA team at their game studio or publishing label. It's taught from the perspective of a QA Manager and Production Manager who have worked together to build QA teams from scratch. 

Below is an edted, condensed version of our interview. 

GDC: The QA team is an essential part of video game development, but we haven’t always seen that reflected in how they are viewed or treated. What are some of the challenges you’ve seen, and how does your Masterclass address them? 

Anthony Price, Senior Quality Assurance Manager at Private Division: The biggest challenge is changing mindsets, both within the QA team and the rest of the studio or company. For years, I’ve heard QA described as glorified “pizza delivery people.” Because of that, people on QA teams can at times fall in the trap of thinking, “We can’t do that because we are QA.” We also see QA budgets cut, often resulting in cutting staff because “entry-level work” is not valued at a leadership level. By offering tips on how to grow and evolve your QA team and beyond, we can help address how to build your culture and how to champion your team.

Kari Toyama, Executive Producer at Private Division: I have personally experienced a lot of challenges in my early days in QA—particularly being part of an undervalued team separated from the rest of the studio. Mix that with a very white male-dominated hiring culture, and you get a very toxic work environment, especially for women. Anthony and I are challenging the way QA teams have been traditionally built and we really put an emphasis on a holistic approach that focuses on advocacy across all disciplines (starting with leadership). We are looking forward to sharing this process in the Masterclass and how it has impacted our team. 

GDC: What’s your response to any studio or game dev who insists they don’t need a QA team because “I can just test the game myself”? 

Anthony: First, I would try to reshape their assumptions about QA. The QA team is a resource that ensures the vision and quality of a game. And I would explain the great pride QA professionals have for the titles they work on.

Secondly, I would confirm if the team really had the bandwidth to test without dedicated QA resources. The scope of testing can vary and some features or systems can take 2-4 people many hours to verify. Other tests may require multiple machines and many configurations. Certification and compliance testing for each major platform requires training, consistent communication, and exposure to fully understand.

Kari: I agree with what Anthony shared. I would also encourage anyone who wants to test their own products to go for it! As long as they have clear goals and incorporate that time into their game’s production schedule. They’ll probably learn a lot about what it takes to be great at testing, providing feedback, ensuring issues are tracked/resolved, and prepping a game for release. 

GDC: What’s something interesting that you enjoy or do that most people might not know about you?  

Anthony: I am pretty open with my team and peers, so I don’t think there’s a lot they don’t know about me. But, if I had to take a stab at it, I would say most people might know how much I love doing jigsaw puzzles.

Kari: I had no idea that Anthony loved jigsaw puzzles and now I know what to get him for his birthday. As for me, I have really nice penmanship and I own a large pen collection for all writing occasions. 

Be sure to head to GDC Masterclass for more information on Kari and Anthony's Building Excellent Teams and Culture in Game QA course, which runs June 16-17. Please note this course is happening virtually, not in person. 

GDC returns to San Francisco in March 2023, and the call for submissions opens this summer! For more information, be sure to visit our website.

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