Interview with Peter Rambo – Bulge’s Quality Assurance Game-Tester!
Q: Hi Peter, could you tell me a little more about yourself?
A: I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and I went to Penn State for Computer Engineering but later switched to an English major.
A: I wasn’t doing terribly well in Computer Engineering. Computing was okay but the higher-level math was hard so I switched to English as I was good with words. After graduation, I taught as a Teaching Assistant and Substitute for a year at technical schools in New York. I worked with HVAC (Heating, Ventilation & Air-Conditioning) and Woodworking, then spent about 5 years as a copyeditor at various newspapers – The York Dispatch, In York Pennsylvania and Gloucester County (in New Jersey).
Q: Journalism is very relevant to your English major. Why did you switch from the journalism industry to the gaming industry?
A: I didn’t like the instability and the weird hours at the newspapers. I was working from 4pm to midnight at Gloucester County and even though I was living in Philadelphia, I didn’t really get to see the city as I would sleep till 4pm and then go to work.
I started looking for other jobs and found one as a software personnel at a place called PC Helps. Companies call them for help if they need help with any PC Application.
Q: Any PC Application?
A: Most. Most of the more common stuff you’ll use at work.
Q: So what brings you to Shenandoah Studio?
A: I first saw a job for the Philadelphia Gaming Lab to start a QA lab there for freelance QA work. Through that, someone at the Shenandoah Studio asked Nathan Soloman, who runs the Philly Game Lab, if the QA lab was ready. He said that it wasn’t ready yet or when it would be ready but he forwarded my name to Shenandoah.
Q: Do you face difficulties given that you didn’t complete your Computer Engineering degree?
A: Occasionally I get a lot of bug reports from people where I can’t read the code on it but my main job is to describe what happens as things fail. I’m good at describing the problem and suggesting how to reproduce it, and I think that’s where my strength lies. I also pay a lot of attention to details.
Q: Could you give me an example of how you would approach a bug on the game system?
A: Well, earlier today, I found a bug. It’s pretty easy to overlook this one because it only happens once throughout the game. So unless you’re playing many games back to back, it’s not easily noticeable. I don’t know how long it’s been there but I only noticed it today. So I had to go and look in Game Center at face-to-face games and see if it happens there as well. I also had to play a dozen AI games to make sure it isn’t some random fluke.
Q: While in college, did you imagine that this would be what you would be doing after graduation?
A: This was certainly not what I had in mind when I was in college. But then again, when I was in college, I never really thought about what I would do after I graduate.
Well you managed to find a job that lies at the intersection of both of the things you were studying in college. And they say that is when innovation happens – at these intersections.
Q: What kind of games do you play?
A: At home I play First-person shooter (FPS) with my girlfriend because FPS is good co-op stuff. When I’m by myself, I like strategy games like Fallout or X-COM. Once a month, usually on a Friday, my girlfriend and I have a regular board-gaming night with friends and that’s anything from casual games like Zynga to deep strategy games like Race to the Galaxy or 7 Wonders. It starts around 7pm and lasts till about midnight. There are usually a lot of people. Some are casual gamers, some delve into strategy games, and some just mingle and talk.
Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: My favorite book is Up in the Old Hotel, a collection of the best writings published on The New Yorker by journalist, Joseph Mitchell. It’s a collection of non-fiction profiles of people, not celebrities or anything – just people. My favorite part of the book is when Mitchell follows a homeless Harvard-educated madman, Joseph Gould, who carries around a book that he writes in all the time and goes to diners and eats a meal of a compilation of several ketchup packages squeezed into a bowl. The collection of 20-30 stories there are all deeply fascinating. It’s a great book!
Q: Besides quality assuring games, you also write sketch comedies.
A: I do sketch comedies with a group called American Breakfast and we perform around Philadelphia. Our next show is December 6th at Camp Woods Plus in South Philly. We’ve been writing and performing sketch comedies together for almost a year now. We all took a class through the Philadelphia Improv Theatre and after our final class, somebody asked if we wanted to keep doing this and the four of us stuck around.
Q: What are your thoughts regarding Shenandoah’s Battle of the Bulge?
A: I think Pat’s done a great job of making the board and all the pieces look like it’s really simple to understand but there’s a lot going on in the game mechanics.
Q: Why do you like playing games?
A: I like solving problems. Games give you problems that you will have to figure out. Not necessarily like puzzles but good games gives you a problem and provides you with the tools to solve it and then promptly sets you free and you’ll have to use the tools to explore the game more.
I think games have been really helpful for me. It’s very rare for me to get frustrated in life and I attribute that to playing games and having a Nintendo. In the midst of a gameplay, you feel that it is futile to get angry at obstacles as it doesn’t help you get pass to the next stage and that experience has made me a very patient person.
Q: So your girlfriend is a gamer as well. What are your thoughts about that!
A: It’s great that my girlfriend loves to play games a lot too. It’s not like she plays because I play. She played long before she met me. It’s nice because it doesn’t feel like I’m ignoring her when I’m playing games. She can always join me if she wants.
Q: And does she also work in the gaming industry?
A: She’s in school obtaining her Masters in Education to become a teacher.
Q: Any additional comments?
A: I recently saw the movie, Wreck-it Ralph – it’s a Disney movie with a lot of video game references. Gaming knowledge is a nice to have but not essential to falling in love with the movie. It’s a great movie regardless about how you feel about video games. It certainly helps you connect if you know Kill Screen or Pac-Man or Sonic the Hedgehog. But the core of the story is one of friendship and people accepting you for you; it’s not about getting a high score.
And I think Bulge is in a great place right now. We don’t have a lot of fears of it crashing in the player’s hands. There’s not a whole lot that needs to be done. It’s running well.