The ultimate job, play games and make money doing it!
Awesome where do I sign up?
Well.. If that’s what you are thinking, being a game tester is probably not what you envision it to be.
But, I will tell you all you need to know about becoming a game tester, the ins and outs of the job, and then you can make your own decision whether you want to pursue it or not.
I will tell you right away though, if you want to play games and make money doing it, you are looking to become a streamer, Youtuber or reviewer, not a game tester.
Ok let’s get right to it!
What does a game tester do?
Video game testers, or more correctly, QA testers (quality assurance) are responsible for finding bugs in video games under development.
Your job as a QA is not to play the game, it is to break it.
Your task will be to play a small portion of a game repeatedly trying to find bugs.
Running into all walls, jumping and crouching (collision testing) to make sure you don’t go through it. Click every possible combination in the menu. Test all weapons available with each character available and so forth.
Once you find a bug, you need to figure out how to recreate it consistently.
You then submit a report with the bug information explaining as clearly as possible what breaks, and how to break it.
You have to do things the developers did not expect you to do as a player. It really takes some creative investigative work to try and come up with all sorts of things a player might do.
What a game tester is not:
You will not be playing new games every day and give feedback about the game itself to the developers. Such as if it’s fun or not, make suggestions etc.
Your job is to find bugs, period.
This is the expectation of a game tester in broad strokes. If you are still interested, read on and we will dig deeper into how you can get a job, and how to become good at it.
If you want to be more involved in the process of actually making games, you are looking to become a game developer.
What skills do you need?
A formal education is not required, and you should not take a specific education for game testing. An education in game design, computer science etc on the other hand is very valuable as it can land you a job as a developer.
The reason I urge you not to get an education specifically for game testing is, you don’t need it. And the reality is, there isn’t much of a ladder to climb in game testing so it would be a waste of your time and money.
Unless you can find some evening course that runs for a couple of weeks or so. That might be good if you have no idea what to expect. Or you can just read on 🙂
Skills you need:
- Play games: This one might be obvious, but you need to have played a lot of games. You don’t need to be a Starcraft II professional or anything, but you will need a certain amount of skill and familiarity with gaming.
- Attention to detail: As a tester you will need hawk eye vision to spot even the smallest of things that the developers missed. If you are distracted and miss errors or other issues, you didn’t do your job properly.
- Creative thinking: You are going to have to come up with all sorts of different things to try in order to find bugs. And once you find one, you need to figure out how to recreate it, which is often even tougher.
- High tolerance for repetition: You will be tasked with playing the same snippet of the game for months on end, over and over, trying different things. If you get bored quickly with things, this might not be for you.
- Basic understanding of game development: You need to have some sense of how a game is made, otherwise you won’t have a clue where to start. A basic understanding will help you to target things you know will break easily etc. It will also help you to come up with things to try.
- Strong communication skills: Being able to clearly describe the bug you found is just as important as finding it in the first place.
- Excellent English: It goes with the previous point, but if you are targeting English speaking companies, your English needs to be excellent.
Do a search on Youtube for “Game glitches” for you favorite game or look at different speed run videos. Speed runners often abuse glitches and bugs in games to complete them faster. The bugs you will observe are examples of what your job is. You are supposed to find these glitches so they don’t end up in the game. As you will notice, some of them require a fair bit of creativity.
What is the job actually like?
Unfortunately, this part will tell some hard truths about what game testers have to go through, so buckle up.
QAs are usually hired as temporary workers, often through third party hiring agencies. The biggest ramp up of QAs are often at the end of projects during “crunch time”.
We are talking around the last 3-6 months of the project. During this time you will be expected to work many late nights and weekends.
The measure of success in terms of your performance is very simple, how many bugs you find.
QAs are a fundamental part of making a game and ensuring the product is ready for shipping. However, many working in the field report that they feel undervalued, unappreciated, treated poorly and taken advantage of.
This does not apply to ALL companies, but usually you are just the “temp QA” creating annoying reports for the developers. In many places you are not allowed to directly talk to the developers or mingle with them.
You are expected to stay at your desk, find bugs and report them through an internal ticketing system.
So how come released games have so many bugs in them after going through such rigorous testing? The truth is, most bugs do actually get found and reported. They just never get fixed. They are just put on a pile of “fix later” issues and the developers never get around to fixing them before release.
It is then common practice to blame the QAs after the game’s release when the rage on forums starts dropping in.
Repetitive tasks and the game itself
The work itself will be monotonous and often boring.
Imagine you have 6 characters with 10 choices of weapons. You will need to test all characters with all weapon combinations. Test all weapon features, firing modes etc. This means doing this 60 times. And that is for an extremely small example. Imagine that you are testing Skyrim, with endless choices of weapons, classes, spells, crafting, menus and on it goes.
Add to this the game you will be testing. It most likely will not be your favorite type of game. Imagine testing a kids’ game you would never play in your free time over and over and over…
Lay offs is a common practice QAs are faced with. At the end of a project it’s not uncommon for a company to have gone through hundreds of game testers that either burned out, quit or were laid off. If you made it to the end, you are most likely going to be laid off at that point.
Since most QAs are hired as temps, it is very easy for the company to do massive lay offs as no explanation needs to be given. There are no strings attached.
While the rest of the crew is celebrating the launch of the game, you are out looking for a new job.
In order to keep your job, you need to find more bugs than your colleagues. In order to send a report, you need to also be able to recreate the bug consistently. If you can’t recreate it, it doesn’t count. Figuring out how to recreate a single bug can sometimes take hours.
Since this is the nature of the job, QAs are generally not considered as part of the team in the eyes of the developers. They are treated poorly by management, worked to the bone until they burn out, only to be replaced by the next person in line, eager to “live the dream” as a game tester.
To an outsider, being a game tester might seem like living the dream. Within the industry, you are considered to be at the bottom of the food chain.
IGN published an eye opening article a few years ago with interviews of people who have worked in the field. I highly suggest you read it.
Kotaku also posted an article with interviews of former and current QA testers. This one is a little less disheartening, but it tells a similar story.
It’s a job – not a hobby (Important)!
So, while that was all a bit negative, it’s important to remember, it’s a job! You are paid to test a game, not play it.
A lot of the negative feedback from the QA teams comes from people who had unrealistic or skewed expectations of the job.
If you apply for any other job paying minimum wage, especially through a third party agency, I doubt the working conditions will be much better.
Many QA testers actually really enjoy their job, because they know what to expect and are OK with it.
If you are looking for some quick cash while blasting through levels in the upcoming Call Of Duty title, being a QA is not for you.
Something to consider is that developers are often faced with massive layoffs, late nights and poor working conditions as well. This is not something exclusive to QA testers. But as a developer you have higher compensation, better benefits and slightly better security.
It varies depending on your experience and which company you work for. But as a general rule of thumb, expect minimum wage in your state/country.
On average a QA makes:
$10 – $15 USD / hour
Even the most experienced QAs don’t make much more. Because it is an easy position to fill, and since you don’t need much training or education, it’s not hard to find new people.
As being a game tester is considered “living the dream”, many people consider the low wage as a trade off for being able to play games all day.
Should you consider becoming a QA
You are probably feeling a bit deflated by now. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying “Don’t do it!”, I am just telling you what the job is really like.
If you are young, perhaps in school or are just our looking for your first job, a QA position can be great!
Especially if you are in school to become a game developer, being a QA can be a nice source of extra income and can provide an interesting glimpse of the game industry.
Is it worth pursuing a career in game testing? No, not really. As the compensation is low no matter how experienced you are, you will most likely always struggle financially and sooner or later you will probably burn out.
Another downside is that after trying to break games for 14 hours straight every day, you will likely lose your passion for games and you won’t want to go home and play more games.
A gateway into the game industry
Often times companies will tell you that becoming a QA is a great first step to becoming a developer. They will make promises of possibilities to move up in the food chain.
9 times out of 10, this is not true.
You will not be offered any training in game development. The experience you acquire as a game tester is not really that valuable in a game developer position.
As you are not supposed to mingle with the rest of the team (sometimes you will even be in completely different buildings), your chances for making connections are slim.
If you are aiming to become a game developer, I do not recommend applying for a QA to use as a gateway into the industry.
Since you are offered no training, you will need to already know how to develop games for them to consider transferring you into a game dev position. And if that is the case, you can just as well apply as a developer directly.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense to try and shoe horn your way into the industry by becoming a QA.
It’s sort of like becoming a car salesman in order to transition into a car designer. Selling cars will not teach you how to design them.
Can you work from home?
While it’s not impossible, the short answer is no. The studios will expect you to come in and play the game on their computers using their equipment.
There are a number of reasons why they don’t want you to work from home such as:
- Security: Keeping an upcoming game from being released on the internet, or even just screen grabs is paramount. Big studios spend lots of money on keeping their products safe. Distributing their game builds to hundreds of QAs around the world is simply too big of a risk.
- Work hours: It is very hard for the studio to keep track of how many hours you actually work if you work from home.
- Management: It is much harder to manage a team if everyone is scattered in different time zones etc.
- Team play: Sitting next to other QAs can give a boost in productivity and you can all help each other out in finding new ways to test the game at hand.
But who knows, perhaps in the future with cloud based management softwares and *teradici systems, we might see more opportunities in game testing from home.
*Teradici: Is a system which allows you to have a piece of hardware at home which talks directly to a computer located elsewhere. A company can set up computers at their studio and allow you to “jack” in through your teradici box. This can reduce security risk as you don’t actually have anything stored on your personal computer. Since the computer you are using is also directly hooked up to the studio’s network, you will be on their system and can use their internal softwares for testing the game and send reports.
How to get a job as a game tester
Finally, let’s explore how you can land a job as a QA tester.
CV – Resume
The first thing you’ll need to do is to write a resume / CV. This does not have to be anything out of the ordinary, I suggest taking a spin on google to find some good templates to start off with.
Make sure to highlight that you have a deep passion for games and what you enjoy about playing games. Mentioning things as a passion for speed runs and trying to find glitches etc in games can be helpful.
Taking part in Beta releases and reporting bugs is something you should mention as well, assuming you have done it.
If you have done fan art for games this can help as well (if it looks decent). Anything you can come up with that shows you have a passion for games and are willing to work hard is great.
Proof read! Make sure to ask a friend or relative to proof read your resume. Make sure there are no spelling, grammatical mistakes as this leaves a poor impression.
Where do you live?
It might not come as a surprise that if you want to work at a larger studio, you will have to move to where their studios are located, unless you already live nearby.
The first step is to find out what game studios are situated near your current location. Or if you have some studios in mind, check their locations.
It’s a good idea to have a secured position before moving to a new city. Having to find an apartment and pay rent without a job can be costly. You might also end up finding a job in a different city which would force you to move again.
Finding a job opening
On game company websites, there is usually a “hiring” section in which they will post job opportunities. Even if there isn’t an open position for QA Tester, you should still apply as they might just not have posted the opening, or they might contact you in the future.
As many of the QA positions go through third party recruitment agencies, a good place to look is at websites such as:
There are many of these job aggregator sites you can look at. A quick google search will give you many options. Make sure to search in your area, you never know what you might find.
A few search suggestions:
- Game Tester Jobs In [INSERT YOUR AREA]
- QA Tester Jobs
- Game Tester Openings
- Game Tester Hiring
Many game companies are known to keep their studio out of the public eye, ie no signs on the building etc to avoid journalists and burglars. So a building you might have seen every day could potentially hold a studio you did not know about.
Game testing is also commonly outsourced to companies that only perform QA services. If you live far from any studios this can be a potential solution. There might be a QA testing company closer to you.
Another way is to connect with recruiters through LinkedIN, send them a message and a CV. Make sure you write to them in clear, perfect English, these recruiters get a LOT of messages every day so any hint of unprofessionalism and you’re out. Your linked in profile should look professional with a well presented image of you. Last night’s party picture is not OK.
Once you find an opening, there will be requirements laid out. Basically what the company expects of you.
Generally, it’s a running joke that they will want: 25 years old or younger and 20 years of work experience. Degree in rocket science and work for free.
What I mean is, take the requirements with a pinch of salt.
Read through them and understand what they expect of you. But don’t be afraid to submit an application even though you don’t qualify for all of the requirements listed.
Anything that seems interesting to you, submit an application! You never know until you try.
Beware of scams
If you see an opening for a game tester working from home, beware, many of these listings are scams. There might be a job, but you could end up getting paid less than expected. Or even worse, not paid at all.
Make sure to do your research of the company before signing any contracts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Check Glassdoor for what previous or current employees are saying about the company. Avoid companies that seem to have toxic management and co workers.
Make sure your contract clearly states how overtime hours will be dealt with.
Any companies that seem unwilling to pay overtime but claim to almost always be on “regular working hours” should be a red flag.
You will be working overtime, a lot. So don’t be fooled. Make sure you are properly compensated when you do. Nobody should work for free.
This should be enough to get you started on your journey. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop a comment below. I read and reply to all of them 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this read, hopefully I didn’t discourage you too much. It’s not the most uplifting article, but I want you to be aware of what you are delving into.
This way you can decide if it really is for you.
Now get started on that CV and start applying for jobs, lots of them! You will get a lot of “NO“s so don’t feel discouraged!
Up next: How To Start A Career In Video Games
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