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How to Become a Video Game Tester

Video Game Testing Group

Let’s say a distinct love of working through tremendous amounts of video games throughout your life leads to dreams of working in the video game industry.  

After toggling the idea and accepting this as a viable career move, how would you reach that goal?  In lieu of a career counselor, this article suggests taking the initiative toward a video game tester job.

The opportunity to become a video game tester awaits many, and can be the best option to springboard into full-blown industry careers.  This article will communicate the how and why of becoming a video game tester, with a few pointers as to how to become a successful candidate in a competitive marketplace.  Read on to find out more about the best way to enter a career in video game testing.

Quick Facts About Becoming a Video Game Tester

What Do Game Testers Do?

Video game testers work through games locating and reporting errors programmers can fix before games are released to the public.

Video Game Tester Salary Potential

Hourly, QA Testers may make up to $15 per.  The average annual salary for video game testers reached $53,030 as of September 2020.

What Skills Do Game Testers Need?

Attention to detail, as well as communication and analysis skills for reporting.  The more skills one has, the better the salary could become.

What Education Do Video Game Testers Need?

While a degree is not always a requirement, game testers could have a degree in game design, video graphics, computer programming, or another related field. 

Where Do Video Game Testers Work?

Bigger companies are mostly located on the East and West coasts. Many smaller studios exist all across the country, and some positions allow employees to work from home.

Video Game Testing Jobs

Education in related fields like game design, computer programming, graphic design, technical writing, quality assurance or communications can help applicants land the job and move up in their organizations.

Steps to Become a Video Game Tester

  • Compare degrees and certificates to find the best suited program
  • Develop skills and knowledge aligned with career goals
  • Enter the field with a competitive resume

What Do Game Testers Do?

Video game testers work for tech companies thoroughly examining games to make sure they are free of bugs, glitches, and other errors. They are also known as Beta Testers, or, simply, Game Testers. The professional occupation title is Quality Assurance (QA) Tester. The work is about helping developers pinpoint technical and creative problems users could face before a game is released to the public.

The job of a video game tester subtly combines playing with breaking. The agent purposefully moves through a video game, examining and working through every level, scouring each menu, and utilizing every different character variation with the goal of uncovering flaws in the system.

A video game tester is expected to take a wide range of actions in a game to identify small- to large-scale problems.  For example, when a player gets trapped in a certain spot, or when a movement graphic doesn’t work properly on a specific character.  There are millions of possible bugs, but thanks to video game testers, most games are released nearly flawless.

The tasks of a video game tester include using a game in as many ways as possible and reporting their steps and findings to their employers. Testers will try actions and gameplay that developers may not have anticipated to search for programming problems that can be solved before release. These essential and tedious duties can make-or-break those seeking full-time employment as game testers.

Video game testers may have to run through a testability matrix. Matrix testing is a software testing method often used in fighting games like Mortal Kombat, Tekken, or Soul Calibur. Say a fighting game has 20 different characters and 20 different levels. When utilizing the testability matrix, the video game tester would need to play as each character versus each character (including Character 1 vs. Character 1) on all 20 levels. Working through those 8,000 different matchups is just one example of the highly-detailed, often repetitive work video game testers perform.

Video Game Tester Salary Potential

Game tester salaries depend on education, experience level, and skills.

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for testers is about $55,030 annually. Entry level QA workers, with between zero and one year of experience, earn an average of over $42,000 per year. Testers with one to three years of experience average roughly $47,150 a year. The average for workers with four to six years of experience is about $53,850, while the average for the most experienced testers reaches almost $67,500 per year.

Not all video game tester jobs are salaried positions. Many companies hire temporary game testers, or even part-time testers paid by the hour. Most starting game testers are contract workers rather than salaried employees with benefits. Some positions offer very low pay, but these jobs can be a way to get experience in the industry before pursuing a full-blown career.

Salaried, full-time jobs will likely come with benefits such as health insurance, but those who work in temp positions or part-time will likely need to provide their own benefits. Because most jobs are contracted, working as a video game tester while studying to complete a degree allows for the possibility of students accessing a school’s group student health plan while honing the skills for more permanent work in the video game industry.

Perks of Being a Video Game Tester

Interacting with the latest games before the masses…

While technologies seem to be released faster than the speed of light, the testing periods between formulation and release of game software can take years.  For those devoted to the game itself who find passion in the involvement of its evolution, this is a satisfying part of the job.

Entry into the industry…

While a video game tester’s job is low on the experience level and pay scale, it can lead to better positions in video game development and design industries.  By starting out as a QA tester, employees can begin to expand networks, experience the latest developments, and move into higher paying positions in design or engineering as time goes on.

Flexible enough to balance a degree…

Online degree programs in software engineering, game design and development, computer science and more are offered in part-time formats all over the country.  When considering the academic route, working a game tester job and being able to balance an online degree is a great perk for the aspiring industry leader.

Video Game Tester Qualities

Skills & Abilities

There are many basic skills and abilities needed for a career as a video game tester.  One of the most important attributes is previous experience with video games. Having a broad knowledge of top genres, understanding what makes a good game, and grasping the essentials of game play are a few initial reasons one might enter the game industry in the first place.  

Strong writing and communication skills are essential for video game testers. The ability to write in a clear, brief, and effective manner comes in handy when reporting glitches and how they were found. Clear writing and communicating will give developers a direct path to addressing an issue and creating a fix.

All video game testers must have a firm understanding of basic troubleshooting.  While solving specific problems with the game is not the goal, testers have to recreate, often dozens of times, the specific sequence that led to a glitch. Finding a bug can be simple, but recreating the steps to reproduce the result can be a challenge.

Broad knowledge of video games and different genres can be a great asset.  Testers could be limited in only knowing how to play shooter games, for instance, and will be limited in the companies and products they can work on.

Having skills in many different types of games, and on multiple different platforms—from game consoles to mobile—provides more opportunities in this field.

While most of the work testing games is looking for technical or programming errors, game testers may be asked to evaluate the storyline of the game for consistency, so a strong understanding of narrative structures and the ability to remember story details will also help on the job.

Critical thinking skills, good communications skills, technical writing ability, and game-playing experience are all applicable to jobs as a tester. There can be strong competition for QA jobs in the game industry, so developing these skills is crucial to standing out from the pack.

Personal Qualities

A high-quality video game tester will have a strong knack for details. Gaming proficiency is required, but testers take it even further by spotting glitches so small the average player would never notice them. A game tester will have to spot these details and point them out to the developer.

A tolerance for repetition. Game testers may have to play a level over and over again, attempting to perform every possible task or interact with every computer-based character, walking through all the possible actions in order to make sure they function properly.

A good video game tester will be a team player and have a strong work ethic. The ability to meet deadlines and work independently will also contribute to a long video game tester career.

Education Needed to Become a Game Tester

There are numerous paths to take to increase the chances of landing a job as a video game tester.  Game testers are generally educated in either game design or possess degrees related to video graphics, computer science, and other software- and programming-related fields.

Each of these programs cover how programs and coding come together to implement video games, websites and online apps. Curriculums may focus on how certain programs behave the way they do, and how applications are designed from the ground up. This is highly technical education, but it may also involve theoretical and artistic concepts such as color composition, image balance, texture, or user behavior.

Possible degrees for video game testers include:

  • Game Design
  • Software Quality Assurance
  • Software Testing
  • Software Development
  • Software Design
  • Software Engineering
  • Computer Programming
  • Computer Science
  • Graphic Communication

Almost any Computer Science degree will provide the training appropriate to qualify for a game testing position, and could provide access to concentrations directly applicable to the industry.

Top Online Computer Science Degrees

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Certificates

There are numerous certificates that can benefit video game testers as well. These programs offer a direct education in a specific field and often provide a faster entrance into a new career path.

Certificates related to video game testing include:

  • Quality Control
  • Graphic Design
  • Web Programming
  • Game Design

Related Education

Because a video game tester is not only responsible for finding problems with a game but also relaying those problems to programmers and developers, it is important to have a well-rounded education that enhances communication skills.

A video game tester benefits from a classes related to:

  • Communications
  • Technical Writing
  • Coding
  • English
  • Writing

Working as a QA tester while earning a degree is a terrific way to fund a higher education and develop the skills needed to fulfill the dream of contributing to the teams and organizations building games.

Where Do Video Game Testers Work?

Working On-Site for Video Game Companies

Most video game QA jobs are in or near the big cities where larger gaming companies are located. More recently, hubs of digital jobs are cropping up in places like Austin, TX, Las Vegas, NM, and smaller cities in Utah, Iowa, and elsewhere. These days, there are opportunities in many different areas of the country.

Some work may be in the offices of game development companies, but temporary jobs can occupy rented space set up for a surge in activity before a new release. Work in video game QA can be cyclical, with large teams needed for short periods of time

That said, larger studios have QA departments which offer permanent jobs. For those who have great skills and love this challenging, detailed work, video game testing can be a full career. As needs shift over time, employees may move to different areas to continue moving up the ladder as QA testers.

When working on-site for a game company, whether in offices or a temporary set-up, they will provide the gaming consoles and computers needed to get the job done. Often, companies need to test their product on different gaming platforms, including mobile, PC iOS, or virtual reality consoles, and again, familiarity with different systems can be an asset.

Video Game Testing from Home

The video game industry can be a viable option for those seeking to work from home. While many game testers will work in-house for major companies, remote work is possible in some positions. This means that many testers set their own schedules, work independently, and meet specific deadlines.

A game tester’s work area is in front of a television or computer screen. Like most work-from-home professionals, the need for a quiet area is essential, allowing a game tester to give all their attention to the work at hand.

Almost all remote video game testers provide their own equipment; purchasing consoles, computers, controllers, and other products in order to complete the work and earn an income.

A remote game developer’s tip: Set individual milestones, breaking down long-term projects into smaller, manageable segments.

Video Game Testing Jobs

The job outlook for testers is directly tied to the video game industry. As long as people are lining up to buy the latest versions of Fallout, The Last Of Us, Animal Crossing, Final Fantasy, et cetera, there will be a need for game testers to “break” the prototypes preceding them. While it is unknown just how many video game testers work in the US, the number is certainly in the thousands.

According to the Entertainment Software Association, three quarters of all American households host a gamer. Add to this that gamers are 59% male and 41% female, 64% of adults play games, and 70% of those under 18 years old play as well, and there lies the data disproving some of the highest held stigmas against the industry.

Considering the rise of mobile apps and downloadable games, the need for video game testers is not expected to drop at any time.

However, competition can be fierce for these positions. Because of the relatively-low educational requirement, there are often many qualified candidates applying for a single opportunity. This makes possession of an applicable degree all the more important, as it presents a chance to separate oneself from the pack.

Related Careers

There are a wide range of jobs related to the field of video game testing. In fact, the role of a tester is often used to gain upward mobility into other positions. For example, working as a tester may be the entry needed to work in positions that deal with pre-production, design, marketing, video game art, management, and more.

A job as a video game tester may lead to further opportunities, including:

  • Lead designer
  • Content designer
  • Game mechanic designer
  • Level designer
  • Writer
  • Lead programmer
  • Artificial intelligence programmer
  • Graphics programmer
  • Network programmer
  • User interface programmer
  • Concept artist
  • Art director
  • Animator
  • Lead artist
  • Audio developer
  • Quality assurance director

Ready To Become A Video Game Tester?

With the right education, a knack for detail, and excellent technical and personal skills, entering the video game industry can be a rewarding, successful professional experience.

Online Degrees For Game Testers