So you wanna be a Video Game Tester?
We’ve all thought about it. You’re playing your favorite game on the Xbox or PC and you say to yourself: “Man, wouldn’t it be awesome to make money doing this?” Unfortunately, information out there on game testing is scarce and sometimes even hidden from the public. I’ve even found several places where they’re charging people who sign up for game testing. What information can be trusted?
Upon doing research, I have found some how-tos and information that will help you discover the ways of being a game tester.
What are some other words for game testers?
They are also called alpha or beta testers, bug analysts, product testers, level testers, or simply included in QA, or “quality assurance.”
Where do my gaming skills come in?
Bringing a game to the market requires millions of hard-earned dollars along with time and even more effort. A company seriously suffers if they didn’t invest in game testers. First, there are writers who take the mere dreams of a game and develop a textual base complete with storyline and characters and artists illustrate those ideas. From there the animators take the concept art and run with it while the hardware specialists make sure to sync the controls (keyboard, controllers) up with the game so that they have an interface that makes mechanical sense for the gamer. That’s when you come onto the scene.
However, game developers don’t really care at all whether or not you have “skills,” or are great at playing games.
What kinds of game testers are there?
Most game testing jobs will require a focus on game software. Software is the backbone of a game with the code dictating how everything internally works in game. Examples of issues with the coding could be a certain area where the game locks up or your character “falls off” a map in a certain spot, along with many other problems, all of which can be observed, noted and fixed from a constant play through by game testers.
There are some testers that are enlisted to test out the hardware associated with the game in development. Take a controller for instance; the game tester presses a certain combination of buttons, then documents the in-game response.
They also think about if the features are hard to access or not intuitive for the casual gamer. All the while they are making a note of how easy the commands or button combos would likely be for the player.
What exactly would be expected of me?
As a video game tester you will be needed often during almost every phase of development. You’ll need to have patience and attention to detail as your main purpose would be spotting any bugs, glitches, hangups or problems while you play and report them, passing them on to the people who can fix the issues. Some bugs can be fatal and even stop development, so the part of a game tester is really crucial to the project.
The most important skills of a game tester are attention to detail, ability to accurately record your findings, working well as part of a team, and the ability to communicate your findings effectively.
So it’s not all fun and games? (no pun intended)
The issue with bugs happening only during certain scenarios is that the beta tester has to repeat over and over the same action that caused the bug. Let’s say the problem is the character gets stuck in the Inventory screen when trying to equip a broadsword. The tester would then have to attempt equipping every other item available in game to ensure that the bug doesn’t extend to other item types. The tester must also test if this happens in different areas, positions, and with different characters. You can see how this would get boring.
Another downside is that since you’d be likely testing during alpha (early) phases of the game, the graphics would not be fully developed as they would be in the final stages, so it doesn’t help stimulate you visually. Also, the gameplay mechanics and the story will not likely be finished, so you will be testing only pieces of the game, not playing the entire way through.
If I became a tester what would be my salary?
According to CBSalary, the average video game tester makes $44,600 a year.. so about $24 an hour. You get paid less in smaller scale or B-rated companies; the flip side being that you make more money in more reputable gaming corporations. Experience isn’t usually necessary, but it helps!
I’m still interested. Where do I go to sign up?
Stay away from websites out there that charge you a fee for joining them. Game testing is a real job, and you should never have to shell out money to be hired into a job.
If you have any specific companies that you’re interested in, visit their website. They will have a contact page where you can get in touch with someone who can tell you if they’re accepting applications.
When you’re just starting out, often times a company will put you on an “on call” basis, where you’ll have to check in to see if you’re on the schedule or you’ll be called in. Even if you didn’t get a job yet make sure to ask about the opportunities you’ll have to “work at home,” especially if the gaming HQ is not near you.
Regardless of how you go about moving forward with becoming a video game tester, always drive one point home when you are face to face with people in the industry:
You’re not just a gamer, but a team player who is driven to help improve the quality and playability of a game along with seeing a project through, while paying attention to every detail.
So back to the first question..
Wouldn’t it be awesome to make money testing video games?
Yes, it would be. More awesome than Chuck Norris.. in a Mario Suit.