Becoming A Game Tester
When people think of a job in games, Game Tester sounds like the holy grail. Who doesn’t want to get paid to play games all day? Well
What Does A Game Tester Do?
A game tester’s job is to find as many bugs as possible. Their job is often overlooked but is essential to the quality of the final product, hence their more used industry name, Quality Assurance or QA. Without them, the game will be the unplayable mess that the rest of us developers leave it in due to our vary narrow view during development.
Other developers are so focused on the small picture that sometimes even large problems can make it through the cracks. That’s where Game Testers come in. Their job is to look at the big picture and make sure the game actually plays well from the player’s perspective.
The main role of Game Testers is to find bugs. Bugs can range from small things such as a missing texture on a wall to huge game-breaking issues such as crashes and game freezes. The Tester will find these bugs, report them using whatever software the company uses, and then give the bug a priority. They will also need to test each of these bugs multiple times to make sure that it wasn’t a one
Not every bug will be fixed, often projects run out of time to fix the bugs they know about and sometimes bugs will slip past the QA team. This is inevitable as you can only hire so many testers whereas a game like Minecraft has been brought by more than 176 million times according to IGN and has been played by many hundreds and thousands of hours for many of those players. That amount of testing can never be done before a game is released and as such players will often find things that slip by the testers.
Once a bug has been fixed it will be sent back to the Tester to try to recreate the bug. If they can recreate the bug then they will send it back to get fixed yet again. If they can’t recreate it then they can mark it as fixed and the game gets that bit better.
Whilst it’s not a Game Tester’s job to balance a game, that will often fall to designers and programmers, it is their job to test the balance of a game to make sure that it works as intended and ‘feels right’ to the player. This can range from balancing an entire character is MOBAs like League Of Legends to working out how many health potions a player might need to make it through a certain dungeon.
Whilst bug finding and reporting is like a science, balancing a game
How Do I Become A Games Tester?
A job as a Game Tester is often how people get their foot in the door and work up some precious experience that game development companies hold in such importance. Experience in industry, even a few months, can prepare someone for another role much more than any preparation beforehand. As such it’s a great way of building up that experience and showing a company what else you are capable of while you are doing it.
One of the reasons it’s a great first step is that there is not normally much in the way of prerequisites to get the job. Whereas most jobs will want (but not need) a university degree and an incredibly strong portfolio, game testing is a job that can be learned quickly on the go and so the entry requirements are lower.
You may still struggle to compete with those that have experience in industry or have relevant qualifications but generally speaking you will find it easier to score a job in QA than other roles.
What Skills Do I Need To Be A Game Tester?
Whilst qualifications may not be as important in-game testing as other roles in the industry, they still require a specific set of skills. Most of these are soft skills that can be developed over time such as attention to detail. Having the right set of defined skills will make a great QA tester that has a real impact on the project.
A great deal of skills are needed to be effective, but here are a few of the most important:
- Attention to detail – Attention to detail is essential to working as a game tester. This is because you will be required to have your eyes and ears peeled at all times as the smallest thing could flash on the screen that could cause numerous errors in the future, and you’ll need to find them.
- Perseverance and dedication – Game Testers must be absolutely dedicated to their work. It requires playing the same small parts of unfinished games over and over until you find an issue, it can be long and tiring work and without the perseverance to see it through you will struggle.
- Communication – Good communication is essential to working in QA. You will need to be able to clearly explain how something is wrong and how you can reproduce the issue. You must also be able to do this is a way that won’t offend the people who have been slaving away on a project for years at a time. Critiquing whilst keeping morale high is a difficult but great skill for
a gametester to have.
How Much Are Game Testers Paid?
Game salaries vary greatly throughout the industry so it can be difficult to give an exact number, but there are some good rules of thumb for how much you can expect in any role. Unfortunately, Game Testers are one of the lowest-paid jobs in the industry. This is due to the lower barrier to entry as well as requiring skills that don’t necessarily need a university-level education.
A few other things will a
Rank would be another determining factor, Lead QA or Head of QA will have higher salaries due to the increase in responsibility but these will be roles that you will need to spend time getting promoted to.
Depending on the company you work for, they could pay more. For example a dedicated QA outsourcing company will often charge more for their QA services than a company would pay for in-house QA. This money can sometimes, but not always, trickle down to the Game Testers in the form of higher pay or better perks.
How’s A Games Tester Treated?
There is an unfortunate misconception in the games industry that Game Testers aren’t important. As such this can mean that they get the short end of the stick quite often. Luckily this is not true in every corner of the game industry but you may find yourself fighting an uphill battle to be recognized and treated fairly in some companies.
Game Testers are also only required during a certain period of time during the development process, namely the later half and especially towards the very end of the project. In companies that rely on one big game releasing every few years, they may have periods where no QA is needed as they start on the next game. This will often lead to the company letting the QA staff go. Luckily most companies will have multiple projects on the go which means that can move you to different projects. It does leave QA staff particularly vulnerable to the poor job security of the games industry.
Where Do You Get A Job?
There are a few places where you can get a job as a Game Tester. The most obvious one will be a games company. Many games companies will have an in house QA team. Sometimes this will just be a few QA leads that have permanent positions whilst everyone else on the team is contractors. This is not a great situation to be in but is, unfortunately, the most common situation. Some lucky people will be able to get a permanent position at a great company, but you should expect to have to deal with a lot of job uncertainty until you can find it.
Another place that you can find work in games as a QA tester is to work at a specialist QA outsourcer. These are companies that specialize in providing QA work for other companies that either don’t have their own QA teams or need some extra QA support during a certain part of the project. This allows smaller companies to use Game Testers towards the end of the project before it releases without having to hire workers for a few months before letting them go again.
Bug Reporting Software
There are a few pieces of software that are often used to report bugs. They are often websites as apposed to programs as the information needs to be shared between a large group of people. Generally, the company you work for will have a standard that you will need to use, but any way of organizing information can work, even an excel document.
There’s a huge choice of bug reporting software and you may find yourself using a great variety. Luckily most of these programs work in a similar way so a lot of the skills are transferable. We’ll cover a few of the more popular ones.
Generally speaking, you will be taught how to use any of these programs on getting the job. The only time you might be expected to already know software is if you are going for a senior position. It can still be useful to research the biggest programs so that you are more knowledgeable when talking to future employers.
Jira is a very popular piece of QA reporting software by Atlassian. It’s part of a suite of programs that can be useful for managing large teams and allows for a great degree of customization. If you spend a decent length of time in the games industry there is a good chance you will get to know Jira pretty well.
MantisBT or Mantis Bug Tracker is a popular piece of bug reporting software. It is not as strong or versatile as Jira but as a piece of open-source software, it is free to use and can be tweaked however you need it.
Monday.com is an increasingly popular bug reporting program although I haven’t personally seen it used in the games industry as of yet. It specializes in combining with other programs in an agile workflow.
Bugzilla is a tool that has been around for a long time and has been used in a huge amount of projects. It’s developed by the Mozilla Foundation, the creators of Firefox among other things. It lacks some of the fancier features of other reporting software but it is easy to use and reliable.
This is part of our Making Games series which covers all of the jobs you can get working in games written by people working in the industry. Go check them out if a job in games interests you.