How to Make a Career by Playing Video Games
If your idea of the perfect job consists of playing video games for hours on end, then a career as a game tester might be for you.
Game testers play video games to find potential game-breaking glitches, bugs, exploits, plot holes, and spelling errors, among others. To succeed in that, they search every in-game nook and cranny. Any problems they discover, they report to the development teams to fix them in order games are smooth and as polished as possible upon release.
In this article, we will try to analyze what it takes to become a video game tester. So, jump aboard and hold tight!
What Does a Video Game Tester Do?
Let's clarify some things first. Game testers do not sit on a couch and play their favorite games, just as gamers do at their homes. On the contrary, they have to play games that they may not like and in such a way to look out for specific problems. They test the same part of a game continuously to see if everything works smoothly and as intended. Therefore, expect to play incomplete games (or beta versions), where features are missing, or the progress to the next part of the story might not be possible.
Game testers, while testing a game systematically for potential bugs or glitches, need to update spreadsheets. Then, they report the issues back to developers via chat or video call.
Some sample tests that game testers might have to carry out:
Matrix Testing: In-game characters fight each other, so testers can examine the combat system to make sure that it behaves as expected.
Regression Testing: After testers report bugs to developers, they have to re-check the game environment for something that they may have missed.
Functionality Testing: Testers make sure that the game design is, as it was intended to be, meeting the intentions of artists, designers, storytellers, and game developers.
As part of the testing, game testers also look out for glitches, story errors or holes, copyright issues, spelling errors, and graphic or audio challenges. For example, when in-game characters walk through a tree or a wall, you have graphical issues needing resolving. Likewise, if the sound is distorted, there are underlying sound problems.
One vital aspect of working as a game tester is that you will not only have to spot and report mistakes but suggest gameplay improvements, too. Testers work in teams, dividing the testing work. Any issues found are reported to the relevant team (design, development, animation, graphics, story, etc.) through a designated system. On top of that, game testers must prioritize the fixes and rank how important a glitch or an improvement might be when they report it. In this way, if the budget is tight and there is no time for polishing everything to perfection, problems that affect gameplay are tackled first.
Testers are employed by game publishers, development teams, or testing agencies non-related to a specific game studio. Testing agencies act as contractors, taking projects from said studios and test their games. They also offer specialized environments for game testing and provide testing equipment to testers.
Do You Need to Study to Become a Video Game Tester?
As with most gaming-related jobs, game testers do not need any specific qualification or college education, for that matter, to find work. They need though in-depth knowledge and understanding of different game genres, styles, and platforms. And an endless passion for gaming, obviously.
Some skills that could help you kickstart your prospective game testing career:
1. Patience: Testers need to have a detailed, patient, and thorough approach to their work to find as many bugs as possible.
2. Attention to Detail: By searching out every nook and cranny, testers ensure that even minor bugs or glitches are uncovered.
3. Meet Deadlines: Game testers have to work to deadlines. The best way to do that is by staying focused and calm and learning how to work under constant and intense pressure. On top of that, the ability to prioritize your work and manage your workload is indispensable, too.
4. Communication and People Skills: Since testers cooperate with the rest of the development team (developers, artists, designers, storytellers), they have to have outstanding communication skills to communicate efficiently.
5. Discipline: A hard-working approach to work and a good discipline ensure that testers focus on spotting problems and suggest improvements and enhancements.
6. Problem-Solving Skills: Outstanding problem-solving skills help testers identify fixes and gameplay enhancements.
7. A Little Programming and Coding Knowledge: Knowing how to program or code is not essential in landing a game testing job, but it will come in handy if, at some point in your career, you like to progress into development or design. But knowing how to use spreadsheets is essential, as you would be using them to report bugs to the development team.
Video Game Tester Average Salary
Game testers have an average salary. They might start a bit low at the beginning of their careers, but soon, they will see their wages rise. A salary in the range of $38.000 is the norm for new testers, but once they acquire more experience, they may find employment that pays $70.000 or more per year.
However, if you are freelancing, you might get paid by the hour or a fixed amount for a project. The good thing about freelancing is that you can set your own rate, though.
But is Game Testing an Ideal Career?
That depends on how much you love gaming and how much effort you are willing to invest in testing games. Game testing is stressful, repetitive, and super demanding. Therefore, it is not for everyone.
Overall, don't expect to work with amazing games. And you even don't have a choice or a say over which games you will test. Sometimes, you may test an upcoming RPG hit or some children's games. Another time, you might have to try a sub-class mobile game.
And you will most possibly have to play game sequences again and again. For instance, if you are responsible for matrix testing, get ready to fight characters in every combination possible at every level. Similarly, if you are carrying out regression testing, you will be required to repeat quests in RPGs to see if the reward is always the same. In this way, the player experience might not be fun as you are actually working with the games, not just enjoying them for leisure.
Game testers land fixed-term contracts, usually from six to twelve months, or work as freelance contractors. Working as a freelancer means that you may not be entitled to benefits such as annual leave, health insurance, or job security, unlike permanent employees at game studios.
And when it is crunch time, the final deadline just before a game is released to the public, expect to work long hours. Hitting some all-nighters is common, too, during this pre-release period. Most testers, though, enjoy their profession and would not change playing video games for a living for another career. If you are methodical and organized, have attention to detail, and love solving problems, game testing could be a fantastic way of breaking into the video game industry.
How to Get a Job as Video Game Tester?
Game testing might be an entry-level job without a qualifications requirement, but a bit of work experience would help immensely in your effort to land your first testing job.
What you have to do is some game testing work at a game studio. Fortunately, there are many companies across the globe offering work experience in testing. If you are good at your work, they may even make you a job offer.
Additionally, an apprenticeship would help too. Game companies offer internships all the time. Consequently, check out their job career pages constantly.
On top of that, you should make a habit of checking out Leaderboard, our job portal. Every day new job openings are posted. You never what you may find. Perhaps, your dream job is just one click away.
For additional information and secrets about how to get a job as a game tester, do not forget to check out our in-depth guide, too.