Game Testing and Marketing
Put simply, testers are paid to play video games all day long. Yet the life of a tester isn't all fun and games. Testers play video games with only one goal in mind: to find as many bugs in the software as possible.
The work of a tester usually involves playing different builds (versions) of the same video game for months on end, attempting to cause the game to “glitch,” “crash,” “freeze,” or show any other sign that lets the tester know he or she has found a bug. The tester then tries to re-create the bug, usually videotaping the bug in action on the screen with a DVD or VCR deck attached to the television. Every re-created bug is then added to the tester's bug report list, which is handed over to the programmers at the end of the day.
Hours involved: Typical forty-hour workweek, but can often turn into a sixty- to eighty-hour workweek during game production.
Work environment: Game testers work exclusively at the office in the testing area.
Salary: Starting salary around $33,000; more experienced testers can make $50,000 and up.
Testing is a great entry-level position in the video game industry. In fact, the majority of all game designers working today got their start in the industry as testers. The only qualification necessary for becoming a tester is a love for video games and some experience with the technical aspect of building video games. A college degree is usually not required to become a tester, but having either a bachelor in arts with an English major or some sort of technology-related degree could be very helpful.
Because testers are often required to play the same video game on multiple platforms (different consoles, different types of PCs), it is important that they are familiar with the many different platforms available on the market.
Equally as important, a tester must be a good video game player. Testers are expected to have fast gaming reflexes and a familiarity with the different types of modern-day gameplay mechanics. If you've never played a first-person shooter, but you love role-playing games, being a tester might not be right for you. A tester must be comfortable with all types of modern video games and should possess above-average skills as a gamer.
Being patient and meticulous are the two most important personal traits of a tester. A tester has got to be able to play the same video game and the same level over and over again, without losing focus or concentration on the task at hand: finding bugs.
Enthusiasm for gaming and people skills are important, too. The programmers, artists, and game designers around you are going to be working very hard on the game you're testing every day. It's important that you give them positive feedback as well as criticism. Be honest: tell them how you feel about their game. After all, most people who will be purchasing the game you're testing will be just like you—people who love video games.
How to Get Your Foot in the Door
Because most people think of testing as getting paid to play video games, there is no shortage of young men and women interested in becoming testers. Checking your favorite game developer's Web site for information or calling game developers directly and asking if they're hiring testers is the best way to find out about testing jobs in your area. Be aware that some companies refer to testing as QA, or quality assurance. Another great way to become a tester is to start as an intern at a video game production company and work your way up to a tester.