So, You Want To Be A Game Tester?
of the first things people say to me
when I tell them that I am a game tester
is, "Oh wow you play videogames
all day!" While it is true that
I sit in a cube all day playing games,
there is a lot more to game testing
than simply "playing games".
game testing with "simply playing
games all day" makes it seem that
anyone and everyone can be a game tester.
And while most gamers would revel in
the possibility to earn a living playing
videogames, there is a lot of responsibility,
hard work and super long hours that
come along with the job.
you still want to be a game tester eh?
1 - Press Start
To be a game tester, the first thing
you need to do is to get your foot in
the door. My game testing experience
began quite differently from everyone
else at Atari, my place of game testing
business. I was actually a QA (Quality
Assurance) Tester for a small software
company here in Sunnyvale, CA. And while
most game companies prefer experience,
entry-level positions are sometimes
thing you want to look for, if you have
no QA, game testing or software testing
experience, is a temp position. These
positions tend to pay much less, but
are usually open to people with no experience.
This is where most of us fit in.
this point the game company will be
looking more at your character, rather
than your experience, since logging
hours upon hours on World of Warcraft
does not constitute work experience.
So be open and friendly, and talk a
lot about what you like about gaming
and what you don't like. Show the variety
in your gaming experience as this will
show the game company that you have
culture in videogames and that you aren't
stuck on just first person shooters.
this point if they like you and hire
you, you're a game tester, gratz! Now
this is where things become interesting
and where a lot of the game tester stereotypes
go out the door
101 - The Long Haul
The temp positions I mentioned before
usually open up before one of the two
"Rushes". In the industry,
the rushes refer to the E3 Rush and
the Holiday Rush. Most game developers
want to have awesome demos for E3 and
want blockbuster titles out for the
that's great and all for the game houses,
this means your title of Game Tester
magically, and unbeknownst to you, becomes
life magically disappeared when I found
myself working a minimum 63-hour workweek.
That's Monday through Saturday working
from 9 am to 10 pm. Unfortunately you
find yourself very tired after work,
heading straight to bed just to wake
up and repeat the process the next day.
I had to put my writing career with
CheatCC on hold because I had no time
to preview games.
know that an insanely long workweek
during the rush is expected, but there's
another long period of time that you'll
be experiencing. I actually really enjoy
this time, which is the 24-Hour shift!
When a title gets close to code release
(in which the game is sent to either
Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo for final
coding and distribution), most leads,
or lead testers, will want to put as
many hours into a title as possible.
Hence the 24-Hour shift.
sounds horrible, but you tend to get
the next day off and sleep all day.
And hanging out in the office after
hours when no one other than your team
is there is fairly cool too. The 24-Hour
shift can actually be pretty chill if
you have a cool lead on your title.
My last 24-Hour shift was for The Matrix:
Path of Neo (I can talk about this game
now as it has been code released and
should be out on the market soon), and
we hung out in our PJ's playing the
game and watching the Matrix movies
in the background for reference.
as you can see, it's not ALWAYS all
work and no play, although the work
part can become a bit tedious.
now we know how to get into a game tester
position with little or no experience,
and what kind of hours to expect outside
your normal 40-hour workweek, so let's
take a look at what a game tester actually
Bread And Butter
Game Testing is actually pretty simple.
We're paid to break the game, so the
developers can fix it. This is where
your imagination kicks in. Maybe jumping
all around a level will crash the game,
there's a bug right there. Maybe your
character walks through a wall they
aren't supposed to walk through, so
you spend some time running into all
the walls on the level.
developers also include Test Plans.
These are functions in the game that
should, well, function accordingly.
Such as "If the user presses (insert
button combination), then Neo performs
(insert cool Matrix attack here)."
It's stuff like that all day long.
you're on a title fairly early in development,
then Test Plans won't always function
as they should and you'll be finding
tons of bugs. Which leads to the next
phase of game testing, bug writing.
company has a different format for their
bug writing, but it's fairly easy to
pick up after practice. It's pretty
much a system to describe the bug, how
often it happens and how to reproduce
it. And as a new hire, we're not given
free range to just toss in as many bugs
as we want. New hires need to have their
bugs redlined, or proofread. After you
get so many "perfect bugs"
you will be taken off the redline list
and free range is granted. When this
happens, you know you're moving up in
the game-testing arena.
So we know how to get in, we know that
long hours are more than likely required
and we know pretty much exactly what
a game tester does.
you are now armed with more information
than I had when I started game testing.
It's always nice to go into a job prepared,
and not be flabbergasted on your first
may sound easy enough, which I suppose
it is, but it's a really fun job. You
can also meet some really cool people
there too. And if you're not put on
a horrible title (Totally Spies for
the GameBoy Advance was my very first
title), then game testing will be an
definitely something to try out, and
it's also a great way to get your foot
in the door in the videogame industry.
Many people in the videogame industry
got their starts as game testers and
worked their way up to many positions
such as Sound Designer, Producer, Graphic
hope to one day be producing a game
for LucasArts, and hopefully I'll see
DiNardo is a contributing writer for
CheatCC, and has been a full time QA
tester at Atari for 3 months. Devin
has been officially credited as a QA
Tester for RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Gold
(PC) and RollerCoaster Tycoon 3:Wild!
(PC). Devin was a contributing tester
for Totally Spies (GBA), The Matrix:
Path of Neo (Xbox/PC), Dragonshard (PC),
Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under
Pressure (Xbox) and Civilization (N-Gage).