Dignitas Alumni: Interview with Nabi Novalas
Sat 29th Jun 2019 - 12:00pm
Nabi “Novalas” Barak is a Dignitas alumni who was a League of Legends writer from 2015 to 2017. As a LoL fanatic, he's made a great career for himself, as he's now a QA playtester for Riot Games. I had a chat with him on what got him into gaming, what his time with Dignitas was like, his role at Riot Games, and also get some tips from him on ways for people to make a career out of the rapidly growing world of video games and esports.
You’ve been around the gaming scene for years now. What got you into gaming and what was the first game you spent most of your time playing?
Nabi: I really got into gaming because I’m an only child and my parents spent a lot of time working, so it made sense for them to invest in some type of entertainment system to keep me occupied. The first game system I got was a Gameboy Color, I believe for my 6th birthday? It had Pokemon Yellow and I devoted a LOT of time towards that game.
Eventually, my parents allowed me to start messing around on their computer and I found out about Runescape through classmates and... then proceeded to play it for the next 6 years of my life. I maxed out on Runescape… which takes a really long time to do, especially when you’re a kid and have no idea how to optimize the process.
You’ve done some volunteer work in the gaming and esports scene. What have been some of the favorite moments in your esports career so far?
Nabi: Ahhhh, favorite moments in esports. Through Dignitas, I managed to get Media Access to a variety of notorious Esports events like LCS NYC Summer Finals & MSI 2015. MSI 2015 was actually my first live League of Legends event and witnessing Fnatic destroy TSM with their Cassiopeia top pick was likely one of the coolest moments I’ve been exposed to. I also saw EDG win against SKT in the finals; an unheard of feat to beat a Korean team in a Bo5, especially on the international stage. That said, my all time favorite moment is when I was wearing my Dignitas hoodie at NYC Summer Finals & a bunch of fans started chanting Darshan. I was super excited and looking to see if I could find Darshan to interview him but… I realized they were talking about me. :’)
You were part of the Dignitas family when you were a League of Legends writer from 2015 to 2017 – what were some things that you enjoyed about being with Dignitas?
Nabi: There’s a lot of freedom in creativity! I had a lot of random ideas that I proposed to the Sui and, generally, he was about them! I ended up gaining decent traction on some of my content and had multiple front page threads which was a pretty big self confidence boost as a writer. Plus, consistently receiving feedback helped improve my craft!
You did some interviews while you were with Dignitas as well. Do you have a favorite interview that you did? If so, who and why?
Nabi: Hrmmm, my favorite interview. That’s tough. It’s probably a toss-up between my in-person interview with Dyrus, someone who I really look up to, or the Riot interview with Riot Afic, who is actually now my manager at Riot haha.
You ended up being hired by Riot Games. Did any of your work with Dignitas contribute to being brought on with them?
Nabi: I created a lot of content related to analyzing pro play picks, jungle meta shifts, and was in the loop with the competitive scene while at Dignitas; all that information was a solid proof of concept for the work that I do on a day to day basis as a Quality Analyst on the Playtest Team.
I also was a writer by trade and I spend a lot of time articulating my thoughts in writing to designers. Leveling that up was certainly a major plus for me!
You had been involved in the League of Legends scene previously, so it was only fitting that you went on to work for Riot Games. As a QA Analyst, what does the bulk of your daily workload comprise of?
Nabi: Ahhh, so my team is an agile workspace; we begin the day with a standup to discuss our general testing plans for the day, establish our goals for the test, and then setup up to 4 test slots for the day to make sure we validate the design goals for the designers in their specific test points.
The bulk of the day is playing games; We can play up to 4 League of Legends games in a day, each taking approximately an hour slot. The remaining time we have is writing down or communicating feedback for the designers on whatever we were testing, whether it be systemic changes, upcoming champions, balance adjustments, etc.
Do you see yourself working for Riot Games for the rest of your career?
Nabi: Difficult to answer, but I’m happy right now! Things may change in the future, but we’ll see.
With gaming and esports rapidly growing, thousands upon thousands of people all over the world would love to make it their career. Do you have any tips for someone who hopes to achieve the level of success that you’ve had in your career growth?
Nabi: More so than anything, follow the people who’ve made it in the industry; there are many game designers, quality assurance analysts, product owners, and more who are on social media providing their insight into the content that they work on. Riot, especially, has leveled up in this regard recently. One campaign we recently ran was “Life of a Patch”, in which the Summoner’s Rift Team gave updates on their day to day workload.
But there’s also the obvious - work hard and be innovative. Like the question implies, there are a LOT of people who want to make it into gaming and that means that there’s a LOT of options, especially for larger companies. You need to be rigorous in the work that you do but you also should look to identify a unique strength of yours and level that up aggressively. Sell yourself with your strength, outline what the industry is missing, and capture it with that strength.
Was there any point in your gaming/esports career that you thought about leaving the industry? What’s been the hardest part of finding work and/or growing within the industry for you?
Nabi: I was rejected by Riot the year before I got hired (so 2016). The initial rejection was pretty damning. In my mind. I thought to myself that I’d never be able to make it after that and so I decided that I’d fully commit to my education; I basically resigned myself to being a Biochemist... which isn’t necessarily a bad field, albeit quite boring in my eyes. Some advice I received from a friend was that I shouldn’t be distraught and just wait a year before applying again so I instead looked to level up over the course of the next 12 months and try again. And, hey, here I am!
The hardest part is finding something that I felt adequately qualified for; I had a degree but no strengths outside of my analytical skills. This QA position worked out for me as one of the requirements was being... really good at League of Legends... and also having solid analytical skills. It stood out as a clear path for me, so I went for it but I can imagine myself being lost still if I didn’t find this particular job.
As a final, fun question – you can only play one champion in League for the rest of your life. Who are you picking?
Nabi: Kayn. He’s hot. Jesus, he’s hot.
Be sure and follow Nabi below to keep up with him and his LoL shenanigans!
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