To some people, playing video games for a living sounds like a dream job. A game tester has to make sure that a new game behaves exactly as its developers intended. He has to find “bugs” – places where the game does not work properly – and then communicate that to the programmers who created the game.
Although a games company might try to advertise the job as playing games all day for fun, testing games is not as easy as it appears. A tester needs to be absolutely fanatical about playing video games because he needs to play them over and over, paying attention to tiny, boring details, making sure all the characters interact properly. On the plus side there is excitement in the fact that the tester gets to play great games before anyone else.
What does it take to be a game tester?
Game testers don’t need any specific qualifications except an obsession with video games. It helps if they have a background in graphic design and programming, so that they understand what goes into designing a game and what changes are and aren’t possible. They also need to have lots of patience, a good eye for detail and not mind working long, odd hours. Developers need the games tested in shifts to meet release deadlines so gamers will often find themselves working the night shift and 10-hour working days are the norm.
If you want to be a full time game tester it’s also important to live in the right parts of the world, where the game makers are situated, for example, in cities like San Francisco, Montreal and Sydney. However, even if you live in one of these cities, most testers are only employed on a contract basis. When the testing cycle for a new game is over, the testing team is no longer needed.
Finally, don’t expect to get rich being a game tester. Testers get hourly salaries and no benefits and are employed on a contractual basis. It’s not the type of job you want if you have a family to support.
As the gaming industry grows, there will be more opportunities for people to work as game testers. However it’s important to keep in mind that even dream jobs have their downsides. In fact, some would go as far as saying that being a game tester is a nightmare job. The repetitious tasks, low pay, lots of overtime and poor job security scare off many people. However, the lure of playing games all day for a living still attracts many hopefuls.