Welcome to Dames Who Make Games, Gamerwife’s interview series with the lovely ladies who make our video games. Whether you’re a QA tester or a company VP, we want to hear what you have to say. And remember to click “Continue reading” for the whole story.
In an odd twist of fate, this month’s interview subject is the lovely Jana V. who actually took over my old job as a localization editor at a certain game company here in Montreal. An avid gamer from a young age, Jana has recently made the transition to game maker with her participation in the GAMERella Game Jam and the Pixelles Game Incubator. You can even play her Pixelles game, Survivalist, online (work in progress).
Gamerwife: Let’s start at the beginning: what was the first game you ever played?
Jana: Like nearly everyone else of my generation, Super Mario Bros. was probably the first for me. At school, I played a lot of Zork and the Carmen Sandiego series. The first game that made a significant impression on me was King’s Quest V. My frustration with King Graham’s relentless deaths in the desert motivated me to figure out how to use the family PC to dial up BBSes for game hints. I had no idea that I was placing actual long-distance calls, and managed to rack up a $300 phone bill in a single month! I date my love of fantasy RPGs back to my experience with KQV.
GW: What made you decide on a career in games?
Jana: I didn’t decide; it found me. In 2011, I was working in fundraising for Centaur Theatre in Old Montreal, and had been looking for freelance work in editing. At a May 2011 Rapture barbeque, I ran into a guy who had worked at the Centaur box office for a season. He added me on Facebook and posted a job opportunity in the Localization department at Gameloft a week later. I submitted my CV through him, and after completing a four-stage application process, I got the gig. Even though I came to the industry purely by chance, there’s no place I’d rather be.
GW: Where did you go to school and what did you study?
Jana: I completed a BFA Honours degree at Concordia University in 2004. As it turned out, my theatre studies were great preparation for working with stories in a video-game setting. I got a strong grounding in the use of narrative structure and character to generate dramatic tension and emotional resonance. Story plays a similar role in video games and in theatre because of the audiovisual aspects of these mediums. Also, theatre and game development are both project-based, and the composition of a theatre production team is similar to that of a game creation team.
GW: What are the best/worst things about working in video games?
Jana: Since I work for a company that produces mobile games, I sometimes get the opportunity to see people playing titles I’m credited on while they’re on the metro or waiting in line, and that never fails to give me a thrill. On a larger scale, I find it really exciting to be part of a field that is constantly evolving in relation to both technology and culture. I’m very interested to see how gaming will grow in response to innovations in hardware, and how it will incorporate the results of the fierce discussions about ethics and values that are occurring among industry professionals right now. The changeable nature of the gaming industry is also the worst thing about it; I’m concerned about the long-term security of industry jobs.
My favourite part of being a localization tester specifically is playing early game builds that contain wonderful text written by developers who don’t have English as a first language. I sometimes tell people that my job is to eliminate phrases like “All your base are belong to us” from games, though I often wish I could leave them in! The most difficult part is seeing major flaws in a game that are not related to text, and not being able to do anything to fix them.