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ALEXIS: Hi, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Open World. In this episode, we have a very special guest with us. We have Nadine Martin from PlayStation, and as always, my lovely co-hosts Lara and Meli. Welcome, everyone.
LARA: Hi, hi!
MELISA: Hello, everyone!
ALEXIS: So a little bit about our guest today. Nadine Martin has been a Senior Manager for Test Services at PlayStation Studios and she has managed Localization Testing and Functional Testing functions. The teams that she handles are responsible for providing testing support to PlayStation Studios, including games such as Gran Turismo, The Last of Us, Uncharted, Horizon and God of War. That’s amazing! So, Nadine has been working in the game industry and quality assurance for over 20 years, while also being an active in game software development and localization community as advisory board member. I can go one and on, Nadine, but can we start the interview by you doing some sort of professional journey walkthrough for everyone that’s watching the episode?
NADINE: Of course, no problem. Hello, everyone. Yeah, so my journey, like you said, over 20 years in the industry. So I started as a… after studying business, after university, I was looking for temporary jobs, and I started as a humble German Localization Tester in the UK shortly after the PS2 launch in the UK. I came from a non-gaming, non-technical background. I studied business. I didn’t study a game related topic. And… Yeah, really, I found what I thought was a temporary job that really suited my sort of interest in high quality and being that sort of eye for detail. And the industry suited me because it was very young, it was growing, there was always something new happening, always a new challenge. So I progressed in my career fairly quickly because there were lots of opportunities, the team was growing. So I had various roles. I guess some of them, a sort of test lead role, supervisor, manager and so on. And I think, along that journey, one of the things that I really enjoyed in the industry, and maybe it’s more a UK-centric thing, that it wasn’t really about the qualifications you had or what you studied at university, it was really about how well you communicated, how well you collaborated with other people, how you got results done in an effective way. And that really helped me in my career. And ultimately, I moved from, I guess, more localization-centric roles into more managerial roles, and eventually I became Senior Manager. And that was for Localization and Functional Testing. And these days, it only covers Functional Testing.
LARA: That’s amazing. I mean, PlayStation 2 is dear to my whole heart. I have a tattoo of a joystick because I grew up with a PlayStation 2.
ALEXIS: Best console ever.
NADINE: [inaudible] industry, yes.
MELISA: I love it that we keep hearing this about like professional journeys, how they start somewhere, sometimes, like not conventional, or like where people think is the typical path. And we’ve been hearing it in different episodes. So I think it’s a great message for everyone listening, like everything you’re doing, it will be part of, you know, all your learning, like all the experiences, you’re learning something from it, and it can form you to be the professional you want to be in the field that you want, even if it’s not the typical or conventional path.
ALEXIS: And the importance of soft skills too, right? That’s the constant lately that we’ve been hearing from our guests, you know? Be a good person, be a dedicated professional, then also your technical knowledge and everything, right? But that’s lovely to hear, Nadine.
LARA: Yeah. I was wondering how have things changed since when you started to do localization to nowadays? Because you went through, like, a lot from PlayStation 2 and nowadays with PS5, like, oh my God.
NADINE: Oh, yes. Yeah. I mean, it’s a huge, huge change looking back. And I haven’t done that for a long time, actually. So thank you for asking that. I mean, when I started, it was, at Sony, it was French, Italian, German, Spanish only, the localization languages. Now it’s probably about 20 languages as standard. And at the time, it was very sort of… sequential, right? So you had the Japanese game that got localized and then released in another region, or the English game or the American game that was released in one region and then translated and released in another region. And that made the testing that I was part of very sequential. There was a lot of time. I remember, for example, testing GT3, I think. And I think we had three weeks, something like three weeks to actually test the game on one build, not like the whole game in three weeks and then you’re done. It was like one build.
LARA: Oh, my God.
NADINE: So it was a lot of time. Obviously, in hindsight, as a manager, very inefficient, right? It was just very different because there wasn’t that rush for simultaneous release. So things obviously changed, it’s a much more globalized world we live in now, more languages, all the consumers want the content at the same time. So over time, the localization testing time got squeezed, so things had to change in terms of how can we do testing smarter, right? My skills were not in actually games testing, they were on a linguistics side. So at Sony we focused over time on how to use our linguistic skills in a more smarter way, using more tools, using automation, you know, tools, even like project management tools or localization assets management tools so that you can track what you’ve seen. Previously, it was all in Excel, right? That doesn’t work well when you’re a global team or you’re working with external partners. So a lot of the pipeline of localization and localization testing changed over time just to make things smarter. And the turnaround times have to be a lot faster. And that’s where we are now really. So it’s, I think, the more recent changes that I’ve seen, when I was still involved with things, there’s much more emphasis on localization being involved much, much earlier in the game. So it’s not only… not just slotted at the end, but a lot of the project planning or the project management happens at the early stages so that there’s more support and advice to the studios and the developers to make things faster and easier at the later stages and to work more in a partnership, I guess. So, you know, previously, the sequential model really supported a “us and them” kind of relationship in the industry, I guess. And now it’s much more, “We need each other, we’re experts, let us help you.” And, yes, it happens much more early in the discussions at the project planning and… tool planning stage.
ALEXIS: And, sorry, I love that you said work smarter, right? In that process over the years of working smarter, are there any… We don’t wanna break any NDAs, of course, but are there any good practices that you can recommend for a localization team or a testing team that you know that they work?
NADINE: Well, there are… We have presented publicly quite a lot about the proprietary tools we’ve developed to help ourselves. So we have an asset management tool for the text and audio and video aspect of things. And that links into… Also we’ve talked about automation tools that helps… What’s the word? [inaudible] artificial challenges in terms of have a character run through the game, an AI character run through the game and trigger messages. So, as a tester, you don’t have to do that. You can just, you know, fast forward through the footage and, you know, do it in that way.
ALEXIS: That’s like the ultimate, like, the ultimate cheat code.
NADINE: Yeah. It’s things like that. Using AI for multiplayer games so that you have a bot, you know, that populates the number of multiplayers you need to trigger messages and so on. So you don’t need to rely on a lot of people power. So it’s, I think there is a lot of, I would recommend working really more closely with your engineering or development partners. So we invested in creating a QA-centric engineering team that creates these automation tools from a QA platform, I guess. Because the developers will focus on what they need and that’s their focus, right? So we really worked on that. And it was important for us in terms of how our team was structured to have localization and functional as part of that umbrella team. Sometimes I think it’s an organization that’s separate, and they’re separate for good reason because it works for them. But I think, in this case, it really helps that we are all part of the same team. We’re all very aware of those tools and we make sure those tools fit functional test needs and localization test needs and all the, you know, business needs as well. Localization. We work with our localization teams as well. So I think that close relationship is really important. And I think investing in tools and automation where you can is another one. And I understand that, in the industry, it’s very creative, every studio is different, every engine is different, right? There isn’t really that standardization that maybe you see on mobile platforms or PC platforms and so on, but it is possible. And it’s possible not only by a big company that has money to spend on those things. I do get that feedback as well when I talk about it in public. “We’ve got these tools,” and they’re like, “Well, we’re a small company, what can we do?” I think there is a small adaptation you can make from off the shelf systems that will help you be smarter.
MELISA: That’s great. I love it. Like using technology to your advantage as much as possible. So, yeah, great advice. And can you walk us through a day on your work? What are your duties like? And…
NADINE: Okay. So my current role is… Obviously, localization is not really part of our responsibility anymore. But I think in terms of, as a senior manager, my focus is more on, I would call it leadership and people strategy. So it’s looking ahead, what does Sony Studio needs for the future? So, the growth, for example, we’ve seen it in PC and PC testing. My team needs to support that, so we had to come up with processes and resources and equipment needs and getting budgets approved for all of that. It’s the boring management thing. I guess with drawing on those business skills from university over time that I didn’t need at the beginning, I need it now. So it’s a lot more operational in those areas. And in other areas, it’s all about the people really. It’s still making sure that staff are growing and developing. Like I said, we always have new challenges. I’ve been in the industry for a long time and, when I interview people and they ask me about it, oh my God, that’s a long time. It’s because it’s changing all the time. It’s not actually the same, each year is different.
ALEXIS: You don’t have time to get bored.
NADINE: Yeah, you don’t do the same thing. So even as a senior manager, yes, you might have, you know, there’s budget season and there’s goals and annual reviews, and all those things that big corporations tend to have, but it really does change all the time and it’s a different challenge each time. So that’s what I enjoy about it. But I think that, once you get to manage a level at any organization, a lot of it is about your people. And that was a big lesson for me as well actually, that, when I was in localization, it was a lot that I could use my background. That was kind of where I came from. I knew what the processes were or the tools were. And as soon as I stepped away from that a little bit more, it was clear that actually, as a manager, my job isn’t to be the expert. That’s the expert’s job. My job is to help the people become the experts, to work through them and enable them, to give them the tools or the skills that they need to be successful to deliver the services to our studio. So a lot of it is about investing in that and spending time in that. And yeah, I, again, wasn’t at the start of my career able to see that that was gonna be an enjoyable part of the job, but it is.
LARA: I love that.
ALEXIS: That’s inspiring.
LARA: Yeah. That was beautiful. I have a question for you regarding like, your day to day life at work and outside of work. What is your passion? What are you most passionate about?
NADINE: Well, I mentioned that I come from a non-gaming background.
LARA: Yeah, that’s why I’m asking.
NADINE: Yes. So I have to admit, I probably would still class myself more like as a social gamer. That’s not my go-to form of entertainment, you know, when I go home and need to chill. I know the products and, you know, the industry and, when I stay at home at night, I recognize I need that. But then I’m not the expert, I’m not creating the games. I don’t need to, you know, know that this game mechanic is more successful than this one or, you know. So I feel that I’m okay with that. And I think the industry has become more inclusive with that.
NADINE: When I started, you know, it was very much about you needed to be a gamer to succeed. And for many years, you know, that was something that I was a bit more quiet about that. Okay, maybe that’s not where my heart is. So I think my, my sort of, I guess, interest outside of the office tends to be coming from the background I’m in. So I’m originally from Germany and I moved to the UK. I studied first here. And that was all about languages and different cultures. So I still love languages and different cultures, and traveling and all of that, you know, reading books about different cultures or, you know, from different authors and so on. So I still enjoy that and everything that comes with that, the history. And I’m still, even though I’m now an UK citizen, I’m still, you know, exploring the UK and love reading about the history of the UK. And the other part that brought me to the UK at the time, the reason why I chose to come in the first place other than the language was the music. So I…
LARA: Oh, my God, love that.
NADINE: Yes, I came here sort of at the prime Britpop era.
LARA: Oh, my God, that’s amazing!
NADINE: So I still enjoy going to see live music. I’m going to a gig tonight. And yeah, so I just, wherever I can, I go and see music.
LARA: Oh, my God, I love it. You know, I asked this question because I met with a lot of translators that are interested in working in localization and video game localization, but they are not gamers and they are like super worried about it. And, no, it’s like you don’t need to be a gamer to work in this industry. You can totally adapt. It’s just a matter of having the technical part in it and then the passion of, like, creative translations and everything, that’s just it. That’s why I asked. I know that you don’t relate to gaming, but, I mean, I love music too. I’m a huge fan. Yeah.
NADINE: Yeah, and I would encourage that as well. I’ve done a lot more mentoring in the last few years, for especially women that are new to the industry. And I would also feel more comfortable challenging sort of attitudes like that. So sometimes, I’m sure you still come across developers or programmers or producers that demand a certain, you know, 20-year background in games and all of those things. And I want to challenge that because you don’t need it in other industries, and it just seems to be very sort of… it creates a barrier to entry, you know, to the industry as well. And, again, we’re trying to be much more inclusive and diverse in the industry to represent our customer base. And I know our younger customer base grew up with games, like you did. And that’s changing now. But there definitely is an element here that’s, you know what? You don’t… You just include people by doing that, you know. We’re welcoming all the viewpoints or the…
ALEXIS: I love that.
NADINE: Or the experience. And I think actually a lot of women, you know, are gamers, for example, maybe the translators that you speak to are gamers on mobile, you know?
LARA: Yeah! And they don’t even realize it. Yeah. Absolutely.
MELISA: All of this is resonating so much with me, too, because, like, I play some games, I’m not such a hardcore gamer, so I always feel a bit of an outsider. But, yeah, it’s a great message to spread, because you can be part of the industry, even if you didn’t grow up playing a lot of games and you’re an expert. And… Yeah. Well, now I have another question and it’s about, you know, we’ve heard all these like really impressive titles that you’ve worked on, and we’re a bit curious if you have any anecdotes or like memories, something that happened during these projects, something that…
ALEXIS: That’s a good question.
NADINE: Oh, wow! Um… I do have just good memories about when I was a tester on projects. I do enjoy getting a first glimpse into games, you know, when they’re kind of not announced yet and so on.
ALEXIS: I imagine, yeah.
NADINE: Yeah, I’m trying to think of a good anecdote. I did enjoy, for example, when Sony was working on the EyeToy games. Do you remember the EyeToy games?
ALEXIS: Yeah! Yeah, yeah.
NADINE: It was really an industry first with the camera, the EyeToy camera and motion…
ALEXIS: Very groundbreaking for the time, yeah.
NADINE: Yes. So I remember it was really fun watching our test floor, which was very male-centric still at the time, testing the… There was a game called EyePet, where it’s a virtual pet. So all these…
LARA: Oh, my God, yeah.
NADINE: …various burly males were testing or jumping around the floor testing the games. I think there was a game with pom poms, where you had virtual pom poms. That was just fun. I think with Sony, sometimes… it doesn’t seem to do those fun games at the moment, right? Where you have more social elements and more fun. I did enjoy watching the test floor test the EyeToy games and the pet game, more the cute games. Maybe it was a good juxtapositioning with the mix of testers that we had at the time.
ALEXIS: Yeah. And I imagine that just picking one anecdote in so many years it must have been… it must be hard. That’s a lovely memory.
NADINE: My anecdotes are really boring, they’re mostly about operational challenges and how we overcame them. I don’t think that’s that interesting, really, to the public somehow.
ALEXIS: Yeah. So we’re coming to a close. Can you share some advice for anyone that’s interested in working in the industry, whether it’s in localization, in testing, in the video game side, in the localization side? I’ll leave it up to you. Can you give it a close with a piece of advice?
NADINE: Hopefully, I’ve got several pieces.
NADINE: This is popping, again, in my mentoring, I focus on a lot… we also do a lot of sessions with young people who may be underrepresented in the industry or maybe struggling at school or getting a job, and we’re trying to really encourage to think differently about their career. So some of the things I focus on is like the soft skills that I mentioned earlier. It’s really about articulating yourself and working well with others. But it’s also, I think, knowing yourself and what you’re good at. And I think, when I look back at my career, that’s definitely something that it was a happy coincidence ending up in QA because it suited my personality, how I like to work. And I think that’s something that I encourage young people of any backgrounds, in any careers, any industries. Figure out what you’re good at and focus on that and how you articulate that in interviews or in resumes and so on. And actually, don’t be shy in telling people, “This is how I like to work, this is how you get the best from me in this circumstance.” And to try different things. Most people, when they’re young, don’t know what they wanna do, don’t have this career… Or even those people maybe who are really focused, “I wanna be a level designer in five years’ time.” I think, be open to opportunities. Like you said, there’s many people who have very different paths into the industry, in their career, and sometimes… yeah, be open to that, try different things and don’t, maybe, decide too soon, because you actually will probably figure out what you want and what you enjoy much later on. I think for women, especially, one thing I did learn and I do pass on as well in my mentor sessions is to be mindful of the… when the opportunities arrive, that you don’t need to tick all the boxes, right? I did that early in my career, I would only apply to roles where I can do that, I’m ready, you know? I’ve done it, I’ve got experience in this, I’ve done that, I’m ready, so I will apply and feel confident. And it’s only later that, with more experience and more confidence and encouragement, that I realized that, actually, I have transferable skills. I might not be able to do this, but I have ways to develop skills I have and be able to achieve it in a different way or in the future with different support or experience. So it’s a confidence level sometimes as well to, you know, just go for it and think about what transferable skills you already have that will help you to get there for the next role.
LARA: I love that. I love that, yeah. Just like…
MELISA: Applause, applause!
NADINE: It’s very much a learned experience, it’s something I hope somebody had mentioned maybe earlier in my career. So definitely, anybody listening or watching, hopefully, that helps.
LARA: So inspiring.
ALEXIS: Very inspiring, I imagine…
LARA: Oh, my God, did we lose Ale?
ALEXIS: I know that it did for us three, that’s for sure. What?
LARA: I think we lost you for a minute.
MELISA: Yeah, can you say that again, Ale? Because you…
ALEXIS: Yeah, I disappeared for a second, right? This isn’t live, but it’s been live recorded. I said that I’m sure that it did help our audience and then that it surely helped us. I can’t think of a better way to wrap this up than with your words, Nadine, so I want to thank you for being here. I know that we’ve been trying to schedule this for quite a while, so I’m very happy that we finally did it. Thank you, Meli, Lali, for being here with me today. And you on the other side of the screen, on your phone or in your computer for sticking around. And we’ll be seeing you next time. Don’t forget to follow us on our social media. And see you next time. Bye, everyone. Thank you.
LARA: Bye-bye! Thank you, Nadine.