David Wall is a game producer at Tag Games in Dundee, Scotland. Over the last decade, he’s worked on such titles as Pokémon Black and White, Disney Infinity, Snake Pass, Sonic and All Stars Racing: Transformed and Doctor Who: The Adventure Games. His favourite all-time game is Deus Ex, and he champions coffee and Marmite.
Dave was a difficult man to secure an interview with, and a long and bloody battle ensued between my people and his people before we could ultimately reach an agreement that would be mutually beneficial.
Okay, I’m lying through my teeth – Dave’s a friend of mine. I met him at university in 2007 whilst he was studying for his degree in Video Games Production. I was a Drama kid, but we were brought together through the magic of MySpace and a mutual love of Doctor Who. Since that time we’ve become the best of friends, and indeed in a parallel world we’ve formed our own book publishing business. So yes, asking him for an interview wasn’t thaaaaaat tricky; I may have to work harder for Peter Molyneux.
So when did Dave first realise that he wanted to work in the video games industry? “Just before I was due to go to university,” he tells me. “All throughout secondary school I wanted to go and study to become an English teacher. However just before I was due to choose university courses, I’d been playing Half Life 2 and I thought ‘wouldn’t it be cool to learn how to make this?’ And now I’m in my eighth year of being in the industry!”
Of course, in any creative line of work people often speak of peaks, troughs and ‘big breaks.’ For Dave, his defining moment came in 2010 when he noticed that a certain game publisher was hiring. “Just after I’d finished university, my friend’s aunt showed me a job listing for a language tester at Nintendo over in Germany,” he says. “I applied on the off-chance they’d want me, and a week later they’d offered me an interview over in Frankfurt. Getting back was a long story; I was interrupted by a volcano! However they offered me the position a few days later, and a month after that I was working for Nintendo as a QA language tester.”
This was the start of an exciting and varied career for Dave, who later went on to work at Sumo Digital in Sheffield, UK. It’s a company that has worked on (and indeed developed from scratch) a number of well-known video game titles, many of which I listed in the first paragraph. However, Sumo is also delivering this year’s upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog title Team Sonic Racing, which is due to launch before Christmas. In a way, it’s something of a spiritual sequel to Sonic and All Stars Racing and Transformed, the latter of which was something of a career highlight for Dave.
“It was my first title at Sumo Digital,” he notes, “and I’d always been a big Sonic fan, so to work on a Sonic racing game was a dream come true. We were also a launch title on the Wii U console so that was cool to be at the cutting edge as it were. Since then I’ve worked on launch title games for Xbox One (Xbox Fitness) and Switch (Snake Pass).”
As QA Lead at Sumo, Dave found himself with a number of responsibilities. “One of the interesting things about what I did at Sumo was being able to work on a couple of different projects at once. My day to day work was mostly setting up the rest of my team with what they needed to do for the day, for example making test plans – a list of things we need to check within the game – or scheduling out builds to be sent to our external partners, and talking to clients.”
I’m not going to lie, being friends with someone who works in the video games industry is very cool. When Dave left Sumo I went along to his leaving party at The Banker’s Draft in Sheffield, and it was a bit like dying and going to Gaming Heaven, as I suddenly found myself surrounded by animators, designers and programmers, including one man who’d had significant creative input in 2017’s Snake Pass. They were all lovely people, but I quickly realised that ‘man does not get into video games through networking alone.’ So what, then, should a person do if they wish to pursue a career in this field?
“It’s not necessarily your university degree that’ll get you noticed, it’s your portfolio,” Dave explains. “For artists it could be a portfolio of concept sketches, 3D models or showing how you got assets into a game engine. Same for programmers, any examples of your work, snippets of code or playable demos. Designers, showing any level designs, mods, game deconstructions to show you understand gameplay. QA, it’s your enthusiasm and passion companies often look for, attention to detail and quick-thinking problem solving. Companies often look for experience, but there are some who will look for the other skills.”
Thanks Dave for taking the time to chat! You can find out more about Tag Games here.
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