How do you get a career as a 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.
The QA worker is responsible for playing and testing in a game 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 ensures a better overall product and game experience for the end user.
What does a Quality Assurance (QA) tester do in the videogame industry?
A lot of people people wonder what they do, the professional tester doesn’t play a game like a normal 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 serious attention to detail. Not only do you have to find bugs efficiently, but you also have to be able to accurately document what it takes to recreate the error. If you can’t communicate the problem clearly, the development team won’t be able to fix the error, and you just lost a lot of time and effort.
You don’t always get a choice in what games you test; some days you may be stuck playing the same kid’s 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.
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.
- 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 take to repeat the glitch, find patterns, and communicate to the development team.
- 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. Bug reports must be detailed and precise, and it takes skill to effectively communicate with your coworkers. In game development, you’ll work with both artists and programmers, fields that traditionally appeal to two entirely different personality types.
- 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 have to be meticulous and focused in their work. You have to report errors in precise No exceptions.
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.
- 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 great 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 be required to have some experience building PCs.
Do I need a video game tester degree?
For the specific job of QA testing, no, you do not require any specialized or higher education. 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 who you know.
What video game companies can you work for?
It’s possible you may get lucky and work for a well-known developer or producer 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.
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.
Starting pay is typically relatively low, usually in the $10/hour range, but often testers start to see a noticeable increase in pay after about three years of experience. Entry-level positions can lead into higher positions such as a Team Leader or Manager, which includes a pay raise. 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.
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 grueling, demanding work, but a perfect fit for the detail-oriented gamer who loves the idea of tinkering and breaking things. If you think you’ve got what it takes, start applying now!