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The Magic Behind Making Games

Bugs are pretty much the bane of anything they infest. Homes, picnic baskets, video games.

Game Art & Design alumna, Jordyn Holland, can tell you stories. A recent graduate, she’s already a veteran of the bug extermination wars, working as a Quality Assurance (QA) Tester for Insomniac Games in Burbank and, before that, Infinity Ward in Woodland Hills. She cut her teeth in the QA realm early on, as a QA Tester Intern at Code Headquarters, LLC in North Hollywood.

It was Mark Zuckerberg who famously said, “move fast and break things.” While Facebook’s founder may not have had video games in mind, the adage has applications in the game business. On the receiving end of broken things are specialists like Jordyn, who finds herself moving deliberately to detect and squash bugs well before final code. Of course, that means playing games for a living.

“QA involves testing and ‘breaking’ the game in order to ensure that everything is working properly and reporting any bugs or issues found through this process,” she says. “In a lot of ways, it involves puzzle-solving and figuring out not only what the problem is, but also how to reproduce it. Although QA procedures can vary between game studios, I was able to learn the basics of QA and what it entailed through the Woodbury program, which definitely helped when I was first applying for jobs.”

Jordyn initially considered majoring in Animation but switched once she realized Game Art & Design could actually be a viable career option. “I always loved the idea of creating games, but learning about the actual process of creating them furthered my desire to work in the field,” she says. “Being able to pursue a field that combined two of my favorite things—art and games—seemed like a perfect fit.”

For Jordyn, game development includes a dimension that Hollywood doesn’t quite touch—yet. “There’s so much work that goes into making a game, but unlike a film or animation, the end user is not just passively viewing the game—they actually get to be involved and have agency in how they play the game,” she says. “When making the game, you have to take into account what the player might do, which presents its own unique set of challenges and is why QA is so important.”

Although she hasn’t worked as a game artist yet, Jordyn has joined a mentorship program at her current studio, which has enabled her to work directly with an environment artist to learn more about that process and practice. “My hope is to transition into the environment art field, with a focus on 3D modeling and texturing, within the next few years,” she says.

And what about after hours? Does game play cease when it’s quitting time? For Jordyn, decidedly not. “I definitely consider myself a gamer,” she says. “I enjoy so many types of games that it’s often difficult to choose which I like best. “The Legend of Zelda” is one of my favorites. I’ve loved the worlds and characters, and the multifaceted nature of the games. There is always so much to do, from puzzle-solving and collecting new equipment, to combating unique enemies and exploring huge open worlds. Each game provides such a great sense of adventure.”

Learn more about the Game Art & Design program