Of all the jobs in the game industry, I get the most questions about how to become a video game tester. Maybe it’s the appeal of “getting paid to play video games.” Maybe it’s just an interesting option for people hoping to work from home doing something they love. I mean, who wouldn’t dream of getting paid to play games all day?
Even though being a QA tester for a game company isn’t exactly “getting paid to play video games,” it’s not a bad way to earn a living. And it’s certainly a common way for newbies to break into the game industry.
If you’re thinking about becoming a video game tester, this is for you. I’ve compiled this FAQ-style list of the top questions I get about QA testing jobs. If you don’t find your question here, be sure to ask it in the comments section below – I’ll answer it, and then add it to the list!
Steps to become a video game tester
- Learn what a game tester does, and decide if a job testing games is right for you
- Learn the basic skills and vocabulary of game testing
- Complete your formal education or training (optional)
- Write your game testing resume and cover letter
- Search for jobs and apply for the openings that fit your salary needs, location needs, and desired lifestyle
What exactly does a game tester do?
Game testers support a game development team by playing versions of the game that are under development, and reporting on any bugs that they find. Some of the tasks that game testers do might include:
- Play the build, looking for bugs and other defects
- When you find a bug, figure out how to reproduce it (“repro” it) predictably
- Type up a bug report, using the company’s bug-tracking software
- Submit the bug report to the game development team so they can try to fix it
- The programmer who receives your bug report might ask you for more details to help them track it down
There are many other things that testers do, such as attending meetings with the development team or the other testers in your group. But the bulk of the work of a tester is finding and reporting bugs as described above.
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How can I learn game testing job skills?
To get hired as a game tester, there are several skills you’ll need to learn: how to find and reproduce (“repro”) bugs, how to write bug reports, and how to verify that the game development team has fixed them. There are also “soft skills” you’ll need to learn such as being a good communicator, detail-oriented, and self-motivated. You can learn all of this and more by reading my book, Land a Job as a Video Game Tester. You’ll learn the basics of game testing, and all the steps to apply, interview, and accept job offers. It’s got everything you need to know to get a job testing games.
How much do video game testers make?
Testers can be paid hourly or they can be on an annual salary. Either way, the pay rate can vary a lot — it’s based on factors such as which game company you’re working for, what geographical location the studio is located within, and how many years of experience you have as a game tester or a game testing lead. Read more about the specific salary numbers per job and years of experience in my article about video game tester salary. I update it with the latest pay figures every year.
Do I have to go to college or university to become a video game tester? What kind of degree should I get?
QA testing is generally considered an entry-level position in the game industry, and most companies do not require a college degree to be hired as a game tester. But if you do get a degree, then you’ll have a much better chance of moving into higher-paying jobs in QA/testing, or even moving into other areas of game development like art, design or programming — game jobs that almost always pay a lot more than a job as a tester. So if you want to have a career in the game industry and not just a job then it’s smart to get an education.
In fact, many of the testers I’ve known over the years were working as testers so they could pay their way through college. They would work part time while they went to school, or even full time while they took classes in the evenings. (Many colleges have “evening degree” programs for working professionals.) Then, after they got their degrees, they got a new job in the game studio doing what they went to school for – like art, programming or design. And you can bet they also got a healthy pay increase to go with the promotion.
How do I write a resume for game testing?
To apply for game testing jobs, you’ll need to write a good resume (called a CV in many countries), and optionally a cover letter. Fortunately, game testing resumes aren’t much different from any other resume, so you can start by using resume examples from other successful people in the game industry.
Just be sure to focus on your skills that match the needs of the specific job you’re applying to. If you’re not sure, start by searching for game testing jobs and then read the “requirements” section of the job posting to discover what skills and talents they want you to have before applying.
You should also ask a friend or family member to proofread your resume, because if you make any mistakes on spelling or grammar, it could cost you the job. Game testers need to be detail-oriented, and your resume is the first place employers will look to make sure you can dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s” — literally.
Do I need to move to a certain location to be a video game tester?
Most game testing jobs are near the larger game studios, which happen to be in the larger cities around the world. You may be able to find testing jobs in smaller towns and cities, but if you’re positive that you want to break into the game industry then you’ll have the best chances of finding work if you can move to one of the major cities for game development.
If the idea of moving to a different city (or even a different country) freaks you out, I urge you to keep an open mind. Many people move to a new town to start their first video game job, so there’s already a support network in place to help you out. The company that’s hiring you might even offer financial assistance to help you with your moving costs.
Can I get a job testing video games from home?
I asked one of my friends who has run several QA groups over the years, and he’s heard good things about uTest. They provide a “crowdsourced” testing service, and he thinks that many of their QA employees work from home. But in general, if you want solid, full-time employment as a game tester, you won’t be able to work from home because nearly all game companies do not hire work-from-home testers. In fact, please be careful, because there are several scam websites that you need to watch out for. Learn more in my podcast about work from home testing scams. If it seems too good to be true… it is.
While the idea of working from home might seem appealing, most people actually prefer working in an office. You’ll learn much faster when you’re around other, more experienced testers. And it’s also a great way to build a community, and make a group of tester friends who will help each other out later on in your careers. Working from home can be extremely lonely, and people who work from home often don’t advance their careers as often as people who work in the office.
Where would I find someone hiring for video game tester jobs?
Nearly any game studio needs testers, and some of the big companies like Nintendo, EA, and Microsoft employ hundreds of game testers either directly or through temp agencies. Like any job, you can start by searching for job postings near your city using the video game job search tool. You can also search on popular tech-industry job sites like Monster.com, or on job aggregator sites like Indeed.com.
For in-depth tips on how to apply and interview for tester jobs, consider getting a copy of my new book Land a Job as a Video Game Tester, because it’s chock full of info on how to do just that.
What high school classes or after school activities would be great for video game testers?
Can I assume that you already love to play games? If so, start paying attention to the bugs in each game. Learn how to “break” the game by doing things inside the game world that the designers didn’t expect you to do. Also, to be a good tester you need to be disciplined and focused. Pay attention in school and get good grades.
Some classes that could help you get a QA job might be: technical writing, computer programming (introduction), project management, possibly Microsoft Excel. You can also learn more about game design by reading through some of the top game design books.
Another thing to consider, is that there are hundreds of “indie” game companies, many of which are just one- or two-person teams building games in their spare time. If you offer to be a beta tester, or even offer to test their game for free, it can be a good way for you to learn game testing and put some testing experience on your resume.
What qualities/requirements are video game testing companies looking for in a a rookie testing candidate?
Since game tester jobs don’t usually require any specific education, hiring managers look for people who have certain “soft skills” that are seen in some of the best testers in the industry. Specific traits that game studios and testing companies look for in a good tester include:
- Focus: You need to have a good attention span, and not get bored of a game even after you’ve been testing it for a long time. And I mean, for a looooooong time — modern, triple-A games can take up to five years of development and testing before they’re released to the public.
- Detail oriented: You need to be able to spot bugs, figure out how to make them happen predictably, and describe the precise steps to the development team to help them find and fix the bugs. Nothing can be overlooked or slip through the cracks, because every bug that ships with the game has a negative impact on players.
- Writing: You’ll be communicating with the game development team and other testers by email and through notes in the bug-tracking software, so you’ll want to be able to clearly communicate your thoughts in written form.
Writing bug reports is considered “technical writing” so it takes more skill and practice than writing on social media.
- Attitude: Companies look for testers who have a good attitude, are hard workers, and can be fun teammates. They’ll avoid you if you’re overly negative, sarcastic, arrogant, or angry. If that sounds like you, then start practicing a positive attitude now, so it will become a habit by the time you apply for jobs. No matter how skilled you are at testing, nobody wants to have a jerk on their team.
Are game testers required to travel once in a while?
Testers don’t normally need to travel very often, but it depends on what kind of company you’re working for. If you end up being a tester on a project that’s developed in a different town than where you’re testing it – for example if you’re working for a publisher in San Francisco but the developer is in Seattle – then you might need to travel occasionally. If you can’t travel for some reason, it’s probably not a deal-breaker for most testing companies.
Any travel that you may be required to do for work will be covered 100% by the company. They’ll pay for your flight and your hotel, and they’ll give you an allowance each day for food and other miscellaneous expenses. In general, business travel can be fun, and it’s a convenient way to see new cities. As a nice bonus, it also racks up your personal frequent flier miles.
What other kinds of testing jobs are out there?
Besides a typical “game tester” job, there’s also a job that you may not have heard of yet called an “SDET” (pronounced “ESS-det”). That stands for “software design/development engineer in test.” It’s a cool job that’s basically a tester that writes computer code – code that tests the game in an automated way. So it’s like a testing job, but the salary is much higher since it requires programming skills. A programming degree or some programming classes would be really helpful for landing a job as an SDET.
For example, a large multiplayer online game might have 10,000 different areas that players can explore over several years of play. It would be impossible to test all of those areas manually, every time a new build of the game is created. So instead of doing it manually, an SDET might write a test program that quickly moves the player character to each one of the 10,000 areas for a few seconds each. That’s way faster than a human tester could ever do it manually.
What kinds of companies would be good to work for?
That’s really up to you! What kinds of companies do you like? Which games and types of games are your favorites? Which companies are in cities that you think you’d like to live in?
It’s a big life decision, so don’t expect to make it right away. Do some research online, and put some thought into it. Here are a few “rules of thumb” to help guide you:
- Work at a company that makes games you’re interested in. You’ll be spending a lot of time testing their games, and it will be more fun and engaging if you like what you’re working on. You won’t always get to work on stuff you love to play, but you should take that opportunity whenever you can.
- Work at a company that’s big enough to have different career options for you. You probably won’t want to stay in the same job forever. Try to work at a company that has several teams and several products, so you can have a chance to move up or change jobs after a few years. Better yet, work in a city that’s a game dev hotbed.
- Work at a company that has friendly, fun, nice people working there. You may be working very long hours for days or weeks before each game release, which will be much more enjoyable if the people you’re working with aren’t jerks. Research the studio on Glassdoor.com, and ask people who may have worked there in the past. Avoid companies that seem to be full of jerks.
How old do you have to be in order to be a video game tester?
Technically, you need to be at least the minimum working age in your country, state, or province. But practically, most game companies won’t hire people as testers until they turn 18 years old. If you’re not old enough yet, you can start preparing for your future job by following some of the advice listed elsewhere in this article, and listen to my podcast about getting a job in games.
Do testing companies provide health insurance and other benefits?
Not all companies provide health insurance to QA testers. Many companies hire QA as temporary (“temp”) workers, and are not required to pay for their health benefits. If a tester is employed through a temporary staffing agency, the agency may pay health insurance. Otherwise you should buy private insurance for yourself.
This is one reason why it’s best to try and get a full-time employment (“FTE”) testing job at an established game company. Most regions require that employers provide medical benefits to their full-time employees, so it’s often a safer way to go. If you can’t find and FTE job initially, you may want to consider working as a temp at first, just to learn the job and get some experience on your resume.
How can I start learning about game testing right now?
Learn how to become a game tester with my book, Land a Job as a Video Game Tester. You’ll learn the basics of game testing, and all the steps to apply, interview, and accept job offers. I worked hard to write a book that provides everything you need to know to get a job testing games, but if I missed anything then you should email me and I’ll answer any remaining questions you may have.
Do video game testers get bonuses for Christmas or other holidays, and if so how much?
Some studios give bonuses and many do not, it just depends on which studio you work for. For companies that do give bonuses, it’s usually based on the success of a shipped product, or it could be based off of the studio’s revenue for the past year. Bonuses are usually a percentage of your annual salary, and are often anywhere from 5% on up.
Just keep in mind that bonuses aren’t guaranteed, and even studios that have given bonuses in the past aren’t required to keep giving bonuses in the future. So don’t count on it, because it might not happen. And when it does happen, just consider it, well, consider it a bonus.
Do video game testers get vacations? If so, how long, and are you paid during vacations?
It depends on whether you’re working as a part-time, full-time, or temporary worker. If you’re hired as a full-time employee, you’ll normally start accruing paid vacation time right away and can take vacation at any time, as long as it’s ok with your manager. If you’re hired as a temporary employee, then you usually would not get any paid vacation. Note that temp workers can still take vacation from time to time, but you won’t be paid for the time you’re away from work.
Do companies give you the game systems you need to work with, or do you need to buy them yourself?
You’ll never need to buy your own equipment, because the game company you work for will provide you with a computer, the game system(s), and any other hardware or software you might need to do your job. Often, you’ll be using a “dev kit” version of the game system, which is a specially-modified version of the hardware that allows developers to debug their games while they create them. Dev kits are often provided to game studios even before the hardware is announced to the public, so only official game studios — and you, if you have a job there — will have access to them.
Be aware that there are scam websites that will try to get you to pay for your own equipment in order to get a job testing games. Do not work with those companies! All legitimate testing companies will provide you with everything you need, because they’re legally required to do so. Also, you should never have to pay money in order to find and apply for testing jobs. If a website asks you for money to help you find a testing job, stay away!
Where can I get information about video game schools?
You can use the game school search tool to find out about video game schools near you. It’s never too soon to start collecting info, and it’s totally free.
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