Inside the Vault: Jennifer Noland

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Today’s Inside the Vault is about Jennifer Noland, QA tester. Jennifer started out as an intern, worked her way to become one of the original five core testers on Oblivion, and she’s been an important part of our QA department ever since.

What’s your job at Bethesda?
I am a tester in the Quality Assurance department, currently working on Fallout 3.

What other games have you worked on?
Bethesda was my first job in the gaming industry. I started here back in 2003 and began work on the second The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind expansion pack, Bloodmoon. I have also worked on Pirates of the Caribbean, IHRA Drag Racing 2004, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The Shivering Isles expansion, and various downloadable content for Oblivion, including Knights of the Nine.

What is the best part about working as a tester? The worst part?
You know, I’m not sure there is just one thing I like the best about working as a tester, but I guess one of the top things I like is that I find it really interesting to get the chance to see how games get put together, slowly building up and changing into the final product. I like to think about how the game looked when I first began testing it and comparing it to the end product. I get excited about things that are going to be in the games, and then getting the chance to see them for the first time.

The worst part? The commute! It’s awful — it takes me about forty minutes on a good day with little traffic to get to work. On every other day, it takes about an hour or more. But more specific to being a tester, I’d say that the repetitive nature of testing can get to me sometimes. You need to play the same game over and over again, for months on end. Needless to say, once the project is finished, I almost feel like I could play the games blindfolded.

How did you get into the industry? Do you have any tips for breaking in?
I was actually told the company was looking to hire QA interns by my uncle and aunt — Steven and Christiane Meister — who both work at Bethesda. At the time, I was working in retail and hating every day of it. I immediately applied; I didn’t know what to expect, having never working in the gaming industry before, but I knew I had an addiction to video games and would love to have a hand in helping to make them, even just testing to make sure that they work properly. As luck would have it, I got the job and I quit my retail job as quickly as I could. I know — it’s not a very exciting story, but believe me, I was very happy to leave retail!

As for advice to getting in the industry — I am so awful with these kinds of questions, I never really know what to say, especially something that hasn’t been said already in the other interviews. I’d say be enthusiastic and passionate about the job. I think this is something very encouraging for your potential employers to see — of course they would want to hire someone who is going to love what they do!

What would you say is your personal favorite game of all-time?
This is a hard one — can I only pick one? I absolutely loved the old LucasArts games. Monkey Island, Loom (oh, the days I spent playing that game), Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle… as for more recent games, I’d say Okami, Bioshock, and Portal. I don’t really have a lot of time to finish playing games these days, but I made sure to make time so I could play through all three of those. However, if I had to pick just one — I would probably say Okami. I know a lot of people say it’s too easy, but I didn’t mind that much; the game-play was so much fun, the art style was pretty, and I loved the storyline — it was so heavily based on mythology and fairy tales, how could I not?

What games are you looking forward to?
I am very excited for the Indiana Jones Lego game. The Star Wars Lego games were fun, but I’m sure this one will be even better because it’s Indiana Jones and I don’t know if there’s anyone more awesome than him. I’m also looking forward to Spore.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
My alarm clock? Okay, that joke is probably old by now, but I’ll be honest — I get to go to work and play video games all day.

Worst job you’ve ever had?
Well, considering I have only had two previous jobs before working here… I disliked both of them. It wasn’t the co-workers, or the actual worked involved with retail, but those customers who felt they had every right to treat retail workers like crap — I’m sure everyone who has worked in retail knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy writing a lot. I have so much fun creating characters and stories, especially when I can write with other people, share our ideas, and give each other feedback — I guess a good way to describe it would be collaborative writing. While not my only hobby, I do spend a lot of my time writing! I’m involved in three fantastic writing groups right now. I also enjoy bad werewolf movies, the Harry Potter books, Asian horror films, and reading about lost civilizations, ancient buildings, legends, myths, ghosts, lost treasures and artifacts, haunted places, and other things like that — but I’m not really into aliens and UFOs. I’m currently obsessed with the Weird U.S. series of books and I’m reading through Weird England right now, but I’m always searching for new interesting things to read about, if anyone has any recommendations!

Reader Comments

  1. Hi Jen! Nice to read your interview and hear your story.

    I’ve wanted to play Okami for the same reasons you’ve stated why you like it – that’s the way it looks to me. Now I’m going to have try it!

  2. Great article, the commute may be hell but working for a company like Bethesda must be pretty nice.
    I definately have an addiction to playing games but i have no shame in that, currently i’m re-exporing Oblivion and making various different types of characters to change how they all interact in the world.
    Bioshock is a game i need to buy, i like what i’m seeing in that genre of FPS types with how the player can interact with the game world. Can’t wait to get in and explore Fallout 3.

  3. [ I absolutely loved the old LucasArts games. Monkey Island, Loom (oh, the days I spent playing that game), Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle…]

    Ooo some choice classics. Lucky you seeing the evolution of games from this golden era to the present greatness. I loved playing MONKEY ISLAND and the old KINGS QUEST series.
    FULL THROTTLE was pretty cool. Loved the artwork on it but never got too far in it.

    [I also enjoy bad werewolf movies, the Harry Potter books, Asian horror films, and reading about lost civilizations, ancient buildings, legends, myths, ghosts, lost treasures and artifacts, haunted places, and other things like that — but I’m not really into aliens and UFOs. I’m currently obsessed with the Weird U.S. series of books and I’m reading through Weird England]

    Nice tastes in the bizarre. I used to watch Leonard Nimoy all the time on his IN SEARCH OF show in the 1970s. Made the unknown feel pretty creepy. As for Werewolf movies am a big fan of the 1960s-70s Paul Naschy werewolf movies. He was the most savage werewolf I have ever seen while playing the exact timid opposite in human form.

    Gonna have to check out those WEIRD books they sound pretty interesting.

    Thanks for the informative interview and congratulations on where your life is now.

  4. I love the these interviews, but it seems like the answer to the “How did you get into the industry?” question is always “I had a hookup”. Gets kind of depressing :( .