How Becoming a Game Tester Changed My Life by Marcin RomaniukPosted: 15 Dec 2022
A note from PTW:
The following essay was written by Marcin Romaniuk, a member of our Glasgow Localization QA team. It’s a very personal account of their experience with mental health and how they were able to find joy through their work in games. This piece was written as part of PTW’s Writers Program, which encourages anyone from any of our teams to write about what PTW means to them, their work, their life, and their experience. We are incredibly proud of our teams and incredibly grateful for team members like Marcin who take part in this program. Our thanks to Marcin and all the other participants in our writers program.
Trigger Warning: This article is about one person’s experience with mental health and speaks about the writer’s experience with depression.
In the 21st century there are many countries where mental health is still being neglected, not only in personal life, but also in the work environment. Before I moved to the UK, I lived in Warsaw, Poland, and through the years I have worked at many different companies in different positions. In Poland the topic of mental health is taboo, especially in the workplace. You can only discuss it with your close friends and family. Other people (including colleagues at work) will simply listen to you, and then use the things you said against you in the least expected situations. I have learned to keep these things to myself; it felt like no one really cared. It felt like struggling with mental health was something to be ashamed of.
Let me tell you a bit about my background. Back in 2011 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, personality disorder, social anxiety and depression. And yet, I still had to live a relatively normal life, do my part in society, pay taxes, etc. While working, I wasn’t allowed to speak about any of these things with my supervisors, mangers, etc. My job was stressful by itself, not to mention that pretending that I was okay was making things even harder for me. There were days when life was simply overwhelming, but I still had to go to work and earn a living.
There was no other way to survive. In winter 2019, I said “Enough is enough” and decided to quit my job, move abroad, change my environment, my career path, and turn my life upside down to finally get rid of all of that stress and anxiety I felt every single day. Start my life anew, so to speak. But the reality was a little more complicated than just making that decision.
I moved to Glasgow, Scotland, in February 2020, just before COVID started. At that time, I didn’t know how mental health was perceived in the UK. I simply had to survive, against all odds. I did what I could, learning how things work around here. At my first office job, I saw a different approach to mental health and finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I worked in debt collection which was an extremely stressful environment, but the amount of support I received was much better than I’d ever imagined.
However, I’d been so drained by that job that I said that my next position wouldn’t be any sort of customer service. I felt like I was stuck in a continuous loop of trials and failures. It was dragging me down again, to the point where I couldn’t see any hope.
Just like back in Poland, I was neglecting my mental health. But I did have a therapist, who mentioned the term “high-functioning depression”. High-functioning depression, also known as persistent depressive disorder, is less severe than major depression but persists for a longer period of time. Although people with this type of depression can still function, they are often only going through the motions.
I discussed this term and my own symptoms with my therapist and she advised me to think about things I enjoy doing, and to search for a job that is somehow connected to my interests. For many years I was forcing myself to work in places I hated just because I needed to survive. That wasn’t the best life for me. My approach to job searching completely changed after that conversation. My mental health and personal needs have become my number one priority.
I did some research and spent a good couple of days considering what I actually like doing, what makes me happy and what helps me during my bad days. I decided to try something completely new. It was scary at first; I was feeling anxious and unsure if I could do anything new. I had been applying to many different places—including PTW for an LQA position—that were connected to things that I like doing. When I got the job, I was still skeptical that it would change anything for the better, but I decided to give it a try.
BEST. DECISION. EVER. I have always loved video games, and I felt like I could contribute to making games better. Here I am now, 10 months in the company (it’s still a relatively short time), and I enjoy the work and can honestly say that my life has changed for the better.
Normally after 3-6 months in any other job, I would think about quitting, because it was simply too stressful or depressing. I hated getting up in the morning just to go to work again. It may sound unreal, but at PTW I don’t feel that way anymore. I am working on a casual contract, so there are sometimes periods of 2-3 weeks without any shifts, but that doesn’t bother me. I have plenty of time to rest, develop my other interests and do whatever I feel like doing. Playing guitar, working out at the gym, traveling… you name it! Even when I am scheduled to work for a couple of weeks full-time, it’s a good thing. The people I work with are very helpful and nice, and on top of that, I enjoy my daily responsibilities and I have never been so relaxed during work. I couldn’t believe that was possible, to not get stressed at work!
This is a very important factor, as it changed my daily routine. The amount of anxiety and stress has decreased to levels that I didn’t even think were possible at any job. There are still days when I don’t feel like doing anything, and yet I wake up and go to work… to the desk across the room! I am working from home, and I don’t have to interact with people in-person when I don’t feel like doing it. That’s one of the most important factors on my bad days.
Life is not all sunshine and rainbows, especially when you struggle with any kind of mental health issue. But when your work is something that you enjoy, it feels like pieces of life’s puzzle finally fit. It’s like your place in this quickly changing universe was waiting patiently for you to discover it, and after finding it you want to stay there. Of course there will be changes here and there, but this is a place where I feel that I belong.
People say that happiness cannot exist without sadness, and I agree with that. It is like light and darkness, yin and yang. One cannot exist without the other. Would we be able to appreciate happiness in life if we didn’t experience the sadness? Of course not! At this very moment, I finally feel what being happy with a job is like, and I will hold this feeling, hoping that it will last forever.