How do you get a career as a game tester?
Think you have what it takes to be in the video games industry? While testing video games might sound like the dream job, our guide will help give more insight into the sought-after position.
What is a video game tester?
In the life cycle of a video game development, the game tester, or quality assurance (QA) tester, is one of the most important roles.
Video game production companies employ QA workers. They’re responsible for playing and testing in a match from start to finish, in such a way as to expose software defects and bugs. The purpose of this is to find as many errors in the game as possible (art, function, text) before the game’s release date. This way it ensures a better overall product and game experience for the end user.
Video games testers are needed for every kind of game out there, and for every platform too, including PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, and even on apps on Smartphones nowadays. The type of game can range anywhere from learning games to massive multiplayer games online.
What does a Quality Assurance (QA) tester do in the videogame industry?
A lot of people people wonder what a QA tester does, as the professional tester doesn’t play a game like an average person; the object is to “break” the game to find bugs and glitches. It requires creative thinking to play the game in a way the developers may not have conceived, and the position requires acute attention to detail. Not only do you have to find bugs efficiently, but you also have to be able to document what it takes to recreate the error accurately. If you can’t communicate the problem clearly, the development team won’t be able to fix the mistake, and you just lost a lot of time and effort.
First, the tester will receive copies of the game for the platform they’re meant to test on before the public get them. From the very start, the inspector must pay careful attention to the menus, making sure that every option takes you to the right screen. The settings must also be tested to see if they adjust as they supposed to.
If the game has different levels to play at (such as simple, regular, and advanced), then the tester must play the game in all three modes. If it’s a game where you choose a character to play, then the game must also be played with every single character as well. The game may be played dozens of times before it passes QA.
When playing the games, the tester must try to do things that the average player isn’t meant to do. For example, if you’re testing a racing game, of course, the aim is to go forward and win; but as a game tester, you might try to go backward to see what happen to try to crash into everything, come in first, second, third, and so forth. There’s a reason behind this though! You need to make sure that there are no glitches anywhere in the game at all, checking that you don’t get stuck in walls, the scenes look as they should, etc. Any glitch, no matter how minor, must be well documented as previously mentioned. The details should include not just where in the game it happened, but other details like what character you played, what level difficulty, which weapon you used, and other aspects that may be applicable. All of these details will help the game developers know exactly where a problem is.
Overall, when playing the games, every move in every scenario in every level on all difficulties must be tested. Every possible way, the game you play needs a careful examination.
You also don’t always get a choice in what games you test; some days you may be stuck playing the same kids’ game repeatedly. Other days, you may be asked to complete a game as quickly as possible, or play a level repeatedly to find all glitches. Many aspects of the job are similar to that of other IT jobs. On-site workers may work with a large or small team, attend meetings, or file bug reports.
After a submitted report to the programmers, you may be asked to play it again to make sure the glitches have gone. If there are still glitches, then the cycle starts again, until the game’s perfect for public sale.
What are the requirements to be a videogame tester?
In order to have a rock star QA game tester career, you need to be able and willing to do the following:
- Perform repetitive and sometimes tedious tasks: You may be asked to play the same level of the same game repeatedly, and it may not be your favorite. You have to play the game in many different combinations, possibly under a variety of scenarios. This assignment means finishing the game, purposely coming last, or even getting your character “killed” in all the different situations it can happen. Once you check the game for glitches, you may be asked to do it all over again, after the developers have made their changes. You even have to do what is known as “matrix testing.” This test is popular mainly in fighting games like Mortal Kombat. Every single player combination you have to test on every single level. This means a number of matches could be into the thousands.
- Think analytically: When you’re doing QA testing, you have to not only find problems, but you have to use your critical thinking skills to determine the steps it takes to repeat the glitch, finds patterns, and communicate to the development team. You’ll have to think outside the box a lot of the time.
- Communicate: Whether you work onsite or from home, written and oral communication is critical for any job, inside and out of the game industry. You have to work with people from many different backgrounds with as many different personality types and styles of play. Bug reports must be detailed and precise, and it takes skill to communicate with your co-workers effectively. In game development, you’ll work with both artists and programmers, fields that traditionally appeal to two entirely different personality types.
- Be open minded: You don’t get to pick and choose what games you want to test. One week you may be working on a first-person shooter game, and the next may be a learning game for young children. You have to give each genre the same attention, even if it’s something you wouldn’t necessarily choose for yourself.
- Work well under pressure: It’s not uncommon to work insane amounts of overtime when it gets close to the release date. I’ve heard reports from some QA workers who worked 80+ hours a week leading up to the release date.
- Be detail-oriented: Testers had to be meticulous and focused in their work. You have to report errors with precision. No detail you shouldn’t ever overlook, no matter how minor you think it is. Just write it down regardless. No exceptions. This task means being hyper-aware of any possible bugs that the average player wouldn’t normally catch, and being able to report it efficiently.
- Have skills: It’s essential you know how video games work, so you know what to look for when it comes to possible glitches and other mistakes. You must have knowledge in several types of video games with years of experience playing them.
- Have the ability to play on all platforms: Some companies will give you the platforms you need, but most of them won’t. You should have all platforms available to you, including a fast gaming computer, all up-to-date with the latest hardware.
In addition, to be an integral part of the team you need to be:
- Disciplined: You may be working in a large team, or you may work from home; but QA testing requires, that you have a strong work ethic, and the ability to stay focused on detailed tasks. That also means the capacity to meet deadlines. You may not have a set schedule, so it’ll be down to you and only you to make sure you respond to these deadlines. Also, working from home may be seen as a perk to some, but sometimes this can be a distraction, especially if young children are around. It’s important to give yourself a quiet environment to work in, free from those potential distractions in a productive, dedicated workspace.
- Team player: This is a critical skill in any job. Even if you work from home, you work as part of a team, and part of being a team player requires a positive attitude and excellent communication skills.
- Knowledgeable: You don’t have to have direct QA testing experience, but companies expect you to know your way around a game system. PC game testers may even be required to have some experience building PCs.
- Enthusiasm: This seems quite easy since a video games testing job sounds exciting; but as mentioned before, it can be tedious, and you don’t always get the type of game you love the most. Still, you must be willing to show your willingness to do a whole range of genres.
Do I need a video game tester degree?
For the particular job of QA testing, no, you don’t require any specialized or higher education as it’s considered an entry-level position. However, having a degree in something like programming, computer science, or design might help you get paid more; but again, it’s not a requirement. However, many people see game testing as a way to get your foot in the door, if you want to pursue a career in video game development. You won’t be able to get farther into the company in roles, like a game artist or game programmer without additional education. QA testing is a great channel to start making contacts in the industry. Unfortunately, like in other fields, advancing in your career can depend on available opportunities, and even who you know. Many have used a position as a video games tester in an effort to pay their way through college for more possibilities in the future.
Despite you not necessarily need a degree, the main thing is that you will need demonstrable skills in all types of video games: writing (spelling, grammar, and punctuation), and a keen eye for detail. You must also have the skills to play comfortably on different platforms.
What video game companies can you work for?
It’s possible you may get lucky and work for a well-known developer or producers, like Bethesda or Blizzard, but if you’re an entry-level tester, you may start out with a lesser-known developer, which can be more lenient, and even let you work from your house.
You can find jobs through a variety of channels. Check online job sites like Indeed.com, or search LinkedIn by company type, and find a list of game developers and producers. Not all QA jobs are listed online, so you may want to be proactive and reach out to companies individually. Most QA jobs are contract-based, so you may not be eligible for benefits like medical or dental.
Try to find a company that works in the games you’re most interested in. Of course, a company may produce a broad range of games; but if you go for the ones that make the genre you’re into the most, then there’s a better chance you’ll be testing games that interest you. Although being a games tester “forever” may seem fun to some people, it’s paving the way for greater opportunities ahead; so go for the companies that have that potential career growth path suitable for you. Finally, take the time to research the company, and make sure it’s a fun place to work. You may automatically assume that it’ll be enjoyable because… well, it’s video games! However, you’ll be working long hours with deadlines with teams of people who all may have their ideas. You can expect this, but it’s good to know it’s a friendly atmosphere where sharing those ideas is accepted.
Do I need to relocate?
Although the job may require you to work from home, many big video game companies will hire in their local area in the main cities as they need you to work on-site as part of a team. You’ll probably be able to find some testing jobs with smaller companies in smaller cities; but if you’re serious about a gaming career, they might recommend you to consider relocating to cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Austin, Texas. Here you’ll find the most jobs available in the gaming industry, which could mean potential career growth as well. This option doesn’t mean you should pack up your things and move right now. It’s always a good idea to get experience, so you can compete with others looking to get into the market with the bigger developers in the large cities. The big game companies might even help pay for relocation costs.
What is the average video game tester salary?
Like many jobs, your rate of pay is going to vary dramatically based on the company, location, and your experience level; but you can still get paid pretty well to play video games, either hourly or on a salary.
According to a 2011 salary survey done by Game Developer Magazine, those who have been in the industry for less than three years earn on average $36,136. Entry-level positions can lead to higher positions such as a Team Leader or Manager, which includes a pay raise. That jumps to just under $46k on average after four to six years experience. You may get some fringe benefits like swag or a free copy of the game, and some companies do offer work benefits like medical and dental, but this will vary by company and state.
How should I write my resume for a video games tester position?
You don’t need to do anything different on a resume for a video games tester position from any other resume. You need to focus on the skills outlined in this guide and make sure keywords like “communication” and “detail” are present. Be sure to read the requirements of the position and put how you meet those requirements. Give a brief rundown of this, your background, and those keywords in a fantastic cover letter to get the potential employers’ eye and willingness to keep reading the resume. You should always have friends or family members have a look at it too, to make sure your spelling, punctuation, and grammar is perfect. Don’t always rely on word processing documents to do that for you!
Verdict: Should I start a career in game testing?
Game testing can be a dream job for gamers or individuals who want a career in the industry. It can be gruelling, demanding work, but a perfect fit for the detail-oriented player who loves the idea of tinkering and breaking things. If you think you’ve got what it takes, start applying now!