What Does A Game Tester Do?

Game Testing sounds like the dream job for most people. But it’s actually a fairly misunderstood career. So what does a game tester do exactly? It’s certainly true that the majority of your time will be spent playing the game that you have been assigned to, but you also have other tasks to do, such as logging bugs, regressing bugs, or checking if games meet certain legal or contractual obligations.

Playing Games For A Living

When most people imagine a game tester, they imagine themselves playing their favorite games at home and getting paid for it. Whilst, in the wake of the recent pandemic, most Game Testers are indeed playing games from the comfort of their own homes and getting paid for it, it might not quite be as you imagine.

Towards the end of the project, when the majority of the testing will be done, you will be playing a full and mostly complete game, perhaps more so than most people who are playing early access games, but a large amount of their time will be spent playing partly completed games, testing out mechanics before more is built on them in levels made entirely out of white boxes. As you might imagine, games in this state are not exactly fun or thrilling.

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Games will also be incredibly buggy and unstable, after all, it’s the job of a Game Tester (Quality Assurance) to check for issues and highlight them to the rest of the game development team. If you find your game crashing annoying or getting stuck in the terrain or a mechanic not working, imagine dealing with that every day on games that are only partially completed. Not only do you have to deal with them all day, but you also have to actively seek them out.

You must also remember, you don’t get a choice of what game you want to play, and you will have to play the same game for a very long time. You will most likely have to play the same game over and over, for at least 8 hours a day, and at least 5 days a week. And this can last for 2, 3 or, even more years depending on the game. You might think this isn’t so bad, you have 2000 hours on your favorite game so you can handle this easily. But there is no guarantee that you will like the game you are assigned to, and you could be racking up hours that dwarf that. It’s also quite likely that even if you do like the game you are playing, you won’t be able to stand the sight of it by the end of the project.

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This all sounds doom and gloom, and it’s not a bad career by any means. Many people in QA love their job and really enjoy it, but it’s important to set those expectations as it’s a job that can be quite idealized in an industry that is often misunderstood. Now that we’ve more realistically explained what the job entails, let’s get into some details.

Bug Reporting

One of the main things you will be doing as a Game Tester is bug reporting. This is where you will play through the game and report any issues you find along the way. This will include playing the game as you would as a normal player, following the ‘golden path’ where the main content is and, checking things off the main storyline such as sidequests and secrets. You will also need to check every corner of the game for any small issues such as a hole in the world, an area where the player can get stuck on the collision, or looking for any game-breaking exploits.

The truth is that games are so complex these days, and have so many moving parts, that you will never have a bug-free game and it’s getting harder and harder to catch all of them before a release. Often, games will get released with known bugs. This might horrify some people, or perhaps justify their opinions on certain companies who have reputations. It is down to the Game Testers to prioritize these bugs, so the development team can know which are most important. That crash that happens every single time and blocks the story MUST be completed. The small hole in the environment that can only be seen when you backtrack through an area for no reason and sneak your way around the back of a building where you shouldn’t be able to get to go, that’s not so important.

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Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance makes up another large part of the job, in fact, this is the area of work that the jobs are officially named after. A Game Tester’s official title is Quality Assurance or QA for short. This refers to the bug testing part of the job, as that counts towards the overall quality of the product, but it also includes identifying areas of polish. This can include things such as pointing out where an object doesn’t quite look right or areas where the lighting could be improved. This differs from bugs in that it’s not something that is fundamentally wrong with the game, but rather something that has room to improve.

Having the knowledge to identify and point out where these improvements could be made takes a lot of work and experience. After all, you might be pointing out an improvement to the art that an artist with 10 years of experience has overlooked. You also need a working knowledge of what is possible with today’s technology and the ability to express possible improvements in a way that won’t upset team members who have spent a long time working on them. For these reasons, it may be left to more senior Game Testers to focus on this sort of reporting.


As the people that play the game by far the most, even than the most ardent fans, it will often be down to Game Testers to check that things are balanced, and search for any possible exploits or cheats that players can use, this is especially true in multiplayer games. Big games will often have such huge amounts of players that it will only be a matter of time before the community comes up with something crazy or quickly define a meta that makes parts of the game useless. The more of these that QA can find beforehand though will make the game seem much better to those initial fanbase without having to wait for the issues to come up and hotfix them on the fly.

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This isn’t just something to consider in multiplayer games though. Some games such as difficult rogue-likes or challenging Dark Souls games need to ensure there is balance. There is no point in making a super difficult action game only to have one piece of armor that makes the player practically invincible. Even if I player knows this and refuses to use it, the knowledge and temptation that is there and others are using it is enough to ruin a key component of the game. Alternatively, if you play a Final Fantasy game and suddenly hit a boss with a difficulty spike that makes it impossible without 20 hours of grinding it will put off most of the players from continuing. Balance is incredibly important, even in places you might not think about it.


Localization is the name used for translating the game to different languages and regions as well as making the game seem as if it was made locally. The most obvious part of this will be dubbing over voice lines and changing subtitles, but it can also include changing in the game textures that have words on them, as well as adding little touches such as slang that works for the language to make it seem more real and less like a straight translation. It can also involve making sure the game adheres to any rules for a region such as Germany infamously not allowing red blood in video games as well as game publishers avoiding anything that has the potential to cause issues such as World of Warcraft removing corpses from the game in China even though there wasn’t a solid rule against it.

Depending on the make-up of the company, not everyone in QA will do this job, after all, no one person can be expected to know every language and tradition around the world. But QA specialist companies now often take on this responsibility as part of their work. Even if it is not your job to change these things, you will still be expected to check the changes, such as making sure all the corpses in WoW are actually removed or checking that the subtitles correctly show Spanish and not Latin Spanish.

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Being Knowledgable

Whilst it’s not strictly a part of your job requirements, you will most likely find yourself helping out all other departments in the company when it comes to general knowledge about the game. Each department will have its focus and will find it difficult to keep up with the game as a whole. The character artists may be able to tell you where every clothing seam is on any given character, but they may have no idea at every point that character appears in the game. As a Game Tester will spend their entire time playing the game as a whole, they will be fountains of knowledge when it comes to knowing how stuff works, where things are, and where the issues might arise. This makes them invaluable to the rest of the team in that area.