Senior QA Lead

CJ Ramson

“Most people at Sports Interactive have a high football IQ,” says CJ Ramson. “But in our team, it’s arguably the highest of the lot.”

One glance around the Quality Assurance team at SI and it’s hard to argue. CJ is Senior QA Lead for Football Manager’s in-game matches and the passion and dedication of his testers shines through in their work. A highly detailed role that dissects the intricacies of FM gameplay with an expert scalpel, if cornered at a party, CJ has a very simple description for what he does for a living: “I play FM and help design tactics.” 

When not at a party, however, he lays it out plain: “Our job in QA is to get the balance right,” he says. “We make the game feel like real-life football but also enjoyable.” What that balance requires is an exceptional eye for nuance, a rigorous cycle of analysis, tests, and tweaks, and, frankly, the patience of a saint.

CJ Ramson

In person, CJ is an energetic, passionate presence. These are attributes he brought with him from a career in coaching and youth scouting for clubs like Arsenal and Fulham before moving into video games. Finally given the chance to bring the two subjects he loves most together, CJ worked his way up through the ranks, from part-time to team lead, a period punctuated by a brief break working for Rockstar Games on two of their most iconic titles. When CJ returned, SI were happy to reward his tireless dedication and this scrupulous detail of his work with the leadership opportunities his efforts deserved. 

Moving from football to games, most of his fellow testers have a similar background to CJ, following the club academy-to-QA pipeline — with one recent colleague even moving the opposite way, leaving CJ’s team for an analytics role at Arsenal. That combination of experiences comes in handy for a team involved in watching hundreds of real-life and simulated in-game matches, inspecting the shape and build-up play together around a table, pausing, examining, and rewinding. They are, he says, on the lookout for what he calls “themes”. 

“I’m probably watching five to ten games per week, from various leagues and levels,” says CJ. “If you design a tactic in the game, you have to be able to replicate it from Champions League down to non-league. Football is often a very organised team sport, but it can also be a random one. And being able to spot themes quickly is the difference between something happening in a game that is ‘real-life random’ — like a player with 19 for Finishing missing an open goal — or ‘random’ like it’s a bug in the game that needs to be fixed. It sounds pretty simple — if it keeps happening, then it’s a theme — but each change causes its own problems. Our role is to get problems fixed without removing the margin of error that keeps football in the game feeling as exciting and unpredictable as possible.”

This delicate equilibrium may sound daunting to some — some members of his team spend entire days replaying the same game with slight tweaks to tactics to see if any unusual results occur — but such commitment suits CJ’s tireless enthusiasm for the game he truly loves. Like many in the studio, he’s a life-long FM player and so pours his time into making it the best experience possible, and to encourage the next generation to know gaming is a career out there for them.

“I used to think that video games were made by three geniuses who sat on their own in a room until, one day, a new game appeared out of thin air,” he admits. “So, it’s an important thing that we work so much with young people to show them what’s possible.” 

CJ Ramson

Sports Interactive regularly visits schools across the UK, speaking to kids about what it takes to create a title like Football Manager. They also invite clubs’ academies to the studio, showing them first-hand what goes into making a game beloved by millions. And — in shifting the narrative from the ‘solitary genius’ fantasy of game-making and towards a tangible, teachable reality of teamwork, process, and passion paying off — CJ sees SI as helping to shape the next generation of video games. “I make sure I’m there for every session,” he says.

“I love football, but I probably love gaming even more,” he adds. “If I knew that gaming was something I could actually do for a job, I probably would’ve skipped working in football all together.”