In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Arun, who wants to know, Is it possible to do game testing while learning programming languages and securing a degree? If the answer is yes, then how can I get started?
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- The specific steps I took to get promoted from a Game Tester to a Game Programmer
- Why many people start their game development careers in the QA department
- The best way to learn game testing and get a job, even if you don’t have a college degree
If you have a question you'd like to get answered on the podcast, leave a comment below or ask me anything here.
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Hello, hello, and welcome back to the Game Industry Career Guide podcast. This is episode number 12. I’m Jason W. Bay from GameIndustryCareerGuide.com, and this is the podcast where I answer your questions about getting a job, and growing your career, and making video games. I have got a bad cold today, but this is still going to be awesome.
Today’s question is from Arun. Arun wants to know, “Is it possible to do game testing as a job while learning programming languages and securing a degree, or what about game testing full-time, while learning part time? If the answer’s yes, then how can I get started?”
So Arun wants to eventually work as a game developer, but first he needs to get some education. And since most game testing jobs don’t require a formal education, he’d like to work as a game tester while he’s going to school to learn game development. I think that this is an excellent way to go about it.
For starters, it’s almost exactly how I started my own career in game development. I started by getting an entry level job as a game tester at a small studio called KnowWonder. The studio made kids’ games for Mac and Windows, and I tested several games, ranging from an F1 racing game to a Cluefinders game, to the very first Harry Potter game ever made, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or the Philosopher’s Stone if you’re outside of the USA). I’m super proud of that one, because Harry Potter is legendary, and it was a great game. It actually got a higher metacritic score than the movie.
While I was working as a game tester, I was also teaching myself how to be a game programmer. I bought a book about game programming, and I started making a small, two dimensional, little space shooter video game. The game I made was painfully simple. It was just a spaceship, and a few simple enemy AI ships to battle on a single game level. It was just a single screen. I drew all the graphics by hand, so actually, they looked terrible, but that first little game served its purpose. I learned the basics of game programming, and when the real game programmers in the studio heard that a QA tester was making a game, they were more than happy to give me advice, and help me out whenever I got stuck. Which, I got stuck a lot, so they helped me out a lot.
It also helped me to start making personal connections with people on the development teams, and that was great, because it would help me out later on, when I was ready to change jobs. After I worked there for a little while, I was able to take a one year certificate course on game programming from the University of Washington here in Seattle, and that is when I really powered up my game programming skills.
It was a heap of hard work, but within just a few months after getting that certificate, I was able to move into an entry level programming job at that game studio, and that was because I had shown initiative to make my own game, and learn game programming as a baseline, and I was able to get through a one year certificate course, where I learned all sorts of things and had all sorts of source code examples and demos that I could show the studio head to try to get that promotion.
My game career as a game developer, as opposed to a game tester, officially begun at that point.
So right now, maybe you’re wondering if I just got lucky, or is this really a path that you could also take to start as a game tester, and later on become a game developer? It’s a good question, and the answer is definitely YES. My story is not unique, not at all. I personally know quite a lot of people that started out as testers, and they moved into game development jobs over time. I’ll give you some examples.
My friend, Daniel, started as a tester, and now he is a senior engineer on a game team. My friend, Merrick, started as a tester, and now he’s a senior producer. Brian started as a tester, and later became an accomplished game designer on a bunch of different games. Just one last example. My buddy, Alison, started as a tester, and she eventually became a 3D designer. She even teaches art classes at a local university, which is really cool.
I have many more examples of people that started as QA testers, and they went on to become game developers. Many of them, like me, did it by taking classes, doing certificate programs, or finishing their degrees while working as testers. So Arun, to answer your question, it absolutely is possible, and, in fact, it’s a fairly common path that people take into the game industry.
If you have questions about how to get a job as a video game tester, I suggest you go back and listen to my podcast, episode 2 and episode 7. They both talk a little bit about starting as a video game tester. You can also get a copy of my book about game testing. It’s called, “Land a Job as a Video Game Tester.” That book will teach you the essentials of game testing, so that you can start applying for jobs, and it walks you through the entire process, from learning the testing tools to writing a resume, applying for jobs, and evaluating those job offers so you can get the best job possible. It’s on Amazon, iBooks, Kindle, just about anywhere. I’ll put a link to it in the show notes.
All right, that’s it for this episode. Thanks so much to Arun for today’s question, and thank you for hanging out with me today. If this info was helpful for you, please just take a few seconds, and leave me a review in iTunes. Your review will help others find this podcast, and it will encourage me to keep making more episodes, because it lets me know that you like what you heard. If you don’t tell me, I’ll never know.
For more information and inspiration on getting and growing your job making video games, come and visit me at gameindustrycareerguide.com. I’m Jason W. Bay. Thanks again, and I’ll see you next time, right here on the Game Industry Career Guide podcast.