The world is quickly changing, and the job landscape is changing with it. What would have been entirely unthinkable a few short decades ago could very well be a stable and lucrative future nowadays. For example, consider the concept of testing video games.
On the surface, it may seem like a silly thing, but once you get down to the details, it begins to make a lot of sense. It’s a job, just like any other, dedicated to testing the quality of a product and offering feedback to the design teams. Just like you need people to check a car or washing machine, you need people to test a game. The big difference is that while testing an appliance can be done entirely by automation; entertainment products require that human touch to get the right sort of feedback. To get a better idea of precisely what testing video games entails, here’s the rundown.
What is a video game tester?
In essence, a game tester plays a game and determines if it functions correctly, if it has the flow that the developer intends, and, to a lesser extent, whether it’s fun. Their job isn’t to sit there and have a good time; it’s first and foremost to make sure that the game functions on the most basic level.
In many cases, this means doing the exact opposite of what most players would consider enjoyable. When you sit down for a game at home, you play through it and experience the variety and progression that the game offers. When you do it for a job, you can be repeating the same tiny bit over and over for hours on end to make sure that it works down to the smallest detail. It’s a task that could get repetitive after a few minutes, but a tester could be doing it for hours on end.
How common are video game tester jobs?
As a pretty young industry and especially as an industry that is moving towards more and more indie projects, the role of the game tester is a little hard to pin down. Professional testers are standard for any project by a big studio, often with dozens of testers working on a game at any given time. These testers can be working on a section one day that might be eliminated the next day as the project goes in a different direction.
However, the indie development scene is a little different. When budgets are tight, and games are getting made from home, it becomes a little harder to justify the salary of a tester. In many cases, this is made up for by letting members of the public try the game for free. (To get their feedback). For some of the more established indie studios, some testers get paid, but it’s also common for the developers themselves to take on the role of testing.
What are the requirements to be a game tester?
Contrary to what one might expect, making a career out of testing video games is more or less the same as making a career out of any skill. That is because testing games isn’t just about playing. It’s about being able to organize your thoughts and comment accurately on the sort of problems you’re facing. Companies don’t want testers that say, “this isn’t fun,” they want testers that can say “this isn’t fun because of X, Y, and Z. I recommend changing A to B.”
Video game tester requirements mean that you’re probably going to need a decent amount of higher education and/or training to secure a position and beat out the competition. Nowadays, this is a lot simpler than it might seem. Many colleges offer degrees in game design or broader fields like software development or software engineering. You don’t need to get a degree related to video games to become a game tester. It may be a good idea to pick a broader option that gives you more leeway in the future. That is especially the case if you want to move into a different field or advance within a video game company.
How does one become a game tester?
Once you’ve got an education firmly in hand, you’ll need to apply just like with any other job. For established studios that are offering competitive pay, this can involve travelling to interview at the location of the game studio. Their website should list any such requirements for job openings. They’ll specify whether the process can get done entirely online or whether it requires you to travel there in person.
When picking which studios to apply to, it can help to target those you are familiar with. After all, if you can bring knowledge of their products to the table, you’re already demonstrating your skills when it comes to testing their games. The more you know now, the less they’ll need to teach you. If they want to get insight from loyal players that are familiar with their products, then they may need a tester like you.
How much does a video game tester make?
In short, a video game tester salary is often in the neighbourhood of £40,000 to £48,000 ($50,000 to $60,000) per year. That may not sound like a lot compared to a senior engineering position, but it is a lot more than many areas, such as being a teacher.
However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to game testers. One of the real benefits of the position is that it offers you an in into the company, from which point you can potentially work your way up. You may start as a lowly game tester that makes £40,000 ($50,000) a year, but you can move up the QA ladder and find a sizable income waiting.
On top of that, if you decide you want to switch into another aspect of the gaming industry (or the computer industry in general), then you have a lot of valuable experience to draw from. You may find it a lot easier to get a little extra education and make a lateral career move.
Can you be a video game tester from home?
For many, one of the biggest draws of video game testing is that you can do it from home. Historically, this was true, but only in a certain light. Plenty of game testers could work for home, but they often made less than their counterparts.
Today, that’s a thing of the past. The modern job industry is favouring telecommuting more with each passing day and nowhere is that more accurate than the tech industries, including the gaming industry. You can be a fully salaried member of the team and work from the comfort of your own home. Video game tester jobs at home are not only viable but normal.
What is a video game beta tester?
One of the significant subcategories of game testing is beta testing. To contrast: Alpha testing takes place early in the development process and when much of the game is subject to change. Beta testing gets done near the end of a game’s development process. Nowadays, some beta tests are mostly previews of the finished product, used to entice the public with an opportunity to take an exclusive look before the game officially comes out.
With beta testing, it’s common to use those unpaid members of the public to get mass feedback on the state of the game and how it will get received at launch. Paid game testers are still necessary at this stage, especially when it comes to fixing problems that the unpaid testers manage to find and identify through sheer volume of gameplay. Ten thousand people playing for a few hours can uncover hidden issues that one person playing for ten thousand hours might not have found.
Is game testing a viable career?
In the modern age, video game testing is just as legitimate as quality assurance in any other industry. For products to be right, you need to have testers that do the dirty work to find any kinks for the developers to hammer out. It may sound like video game testing is being paid to sit around and play games all day. In reality, it’s being paid to bang your head against a wall while you try to reproduce a tiny error for hours on end.