A report this morning from Rock Paper Shotgun paints a damning picture of a video game company following the seemingly industry-standard practice of treating their Quality Assurance staff like dirt. What makes the portrait more perplexing is that the company is a Swedish developer and publisher, Paradox Interactive.
It’s long been known within the video games industry that QA testers are the “entry-level” position for many people wanting to get into the business. The work is tedious, the hours are long, and the pay is usually a pittance compared to coders, artists, and design leads. But without it, the games which get released would be arguably worse (if not unplayable) owing to the bugs which usually get squashed before going gold. Sometime around April or May of 2019, Paradox Interactive closed down the QA department for their publishing arm.
Under Swedish labor laws, such a closure would require the company to offer the affected staff members other positions. From what former staff members are telling Rock Paper Shotgun, Paradox followed the letter of those laws, but not necessarily their spirit, offering positions which were “really bad opportunities,” as one former QA tester put it.
Paradox’s HR manager, Marina Hedman, defended the company’s actions, indicating that Paradox was working with staff members and labor unions when the publishing QA department was shut down and that they tried to make sure everybody was adequately informed. However, the reason given for the department’s closure was that it “couldn’t scale with future needs,” a rather nebulous justification which caused concern for those QA members still working inside the company.
At this point, Paradox Interactive has signed collective bargaining agreements with two labor unions. There are expectations from those within the company that things will get better, and the problems they’re seeing will be addressed. For the people who were laid off, it’s cold comfort.