A typical day as a game tester

CatGaming

So what is it like to be a game tester on a daily basis? Is it just another corporate job or is it the glamorous job some like to pretend?

First things first: No, you don’t work from home. Video game testing almost always is a regular job that requires to actually get out of your home… How cruel is that?

Read on to know about the typical day in the life of a professional game tester.

Good morning

When you arrive at the office in the morning, you already know what you’ll be working on. It’s the same game you’ve been working on yesterday, and it’s probably the same you will be working on for a few weeks. Game development takes time. If your company makes shorter games like phone games or Xbox arcade, then you may work on a few different games through the day but the cycle is similar: you’ll be working on the same games for weeks.

Back to our typical day: first thing in the morning you prepare your hardware. It can be as simple as turning on a console or you may have to customize a PC with a particular graphic card, look for an iPhone with a certain firmware version, etc.

Testing

A game testing lab

Then the testing starts: Some companies use checklists (or “test suites”): a list of points to verify in a game, or a level. Others will actually just let you explore. With or without a checklist, game testing is an activity involving a lot of repetition. If you are a kid reading this hoping to get paid while having fun on a game: forget it. You will not enjoy your time testing a game like when you’re playing in your living room. But the job can still be fun and enjoyable. (Read Is game testing for me?).

While you’re testing, you will inevitably encounter bugs. You must log them on a bug tracking tool. It’s usually not the favorite task of the testers but it’s a critical one. In some companies, testers never get to speak to developers because they are in different geographical locations, or different floors or just because it’s not in the company culture (read Types of gaming companies you can work for). So you must be sure that your report will allow the developer reproduce the bug easily.

End of the test

The test is over when:

  • You finished the checklist, or…
  • You are confident about the functionality you tested, or…
  • More pragmatically: when there is no time left to test

In any case, you will most probably have to create a test report. It’s a document that describes your test session in terms of the time spent, the functionality tested, the bugs found, etc. The complexity of the report depends on the company.

Overtime

The Joker doing overtime

So now, you finished testing, you wrote your report, office hours are almost over and it’s time to go home… NOT.

Overtime is widespread in the software industry, and even more in the video games industry. The amount of over time will greatly vary between companies, but personally I never worked for any company that didn’t ask for overtime. You may get compensation for your overtime in various ways:

  • a pizza and a drink
  • time off
  • paid overtime
  • Nothing

That will greatly depend on your employer. Some will try to avoid it, other will expect you to be 100% dedicated to your job and even abuse you .

Anyway… Later in the evening of your typical day you finally leave the office. You’re tired and when you arrive at home you probably don’t feel like playing video games…

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16 Responses to A typical day as a game tester

  1. Steve says:

    I’m really interested in a position as a video game tester, but I don’t know what the requirements are education-wise. I’m not even sure where to start. Everytime I look up something on it I get directed to Game Art and Design (Not my thing at all). Obviously I don’t want to be a video game tester when I’m 40-50, but the field interests me. Can anyone point me in the right direction??

    • Undercover Tester says:

      Hi Steve,
      For the requirements, I suggest you read my article here:
      http://www.undercovertester.com/skills-required-to-be-a-game-tester

      I understand and share you wish of not being stuck as a Game Tester for life. In fact I switched to programming, which I like better.
      Starting as a game tester allowed me to do that.
      Maybe there is something you like, and something you will find interesting and be able to evolved to even if you start as a tester.

      Now to actually get a job as a game tester you need to start looking on job boards. I know Indeed.com is quite good in North America.
      You can also go on Linkedin and run a company search by industry and location (close to where you live). Then you can check their websites and see if they are, or would be looking for testers.

      Look at the job offers and see what skills they require you have,and the ones you haven’t yet. Note that job offers typically describe the ideal candidate. There is no ideal candidate so don’t get too intimidated.

      Being a smart and easy to work with is just as important as any skill listed on a job offer.

  2. Evgeny says:

    Hey!

    Thanks for the post. Was interesting to read, as I want to start a caree in the video games industry. But my passion is languages and it’s pretty clear to me that I would feel myself way much more confident in a localization department. I lack experience at all. So I decided to start working as a gametester, well better to say, I applied for the job. What do you think?Your opinion very much appreciated!

    Thanks

    • Undercover Tester says:

      Hi Evgeny,

      I think you did the right thing by applying to a localization QA position.
      Getting that position would allow you to see what it is like to work in the video game industry and at the same time you would still do something related to languages.
      It keeps both doors open, and it lets you experiment a bit to see what you really like or dislike.

      I hope yo get the job, good luck!

      • Evgeny says:

        Well, the thing is, I applied not for a localization job, there are none in the city I live in. The only position I found was a Game tester, which is not connected with languages, so I wanted to ask could it be a starting point? I mean, if I lack experience I should appreciate any exp. I can get and afterwards I will have better chances to apply for a Localization Tester job.

        • Undercover Tester says:

          Ok, sorry I got it wrong.

          I think it still makes sense for you to apply to this position.
          Going from functional testing to localization testing within the same company does not seem to me like a long shot – provided you have the languages skills.
          There’s even a chance both positions are managed by the same person.

          I actually tried once to make this move but I failed because my second language skill did not convince. And I think it was fair since I had never put too much effort into it and was just trying a shot int he dark.

          Back to you: Let’s say you get the job – what could happen next?
          1- You could really like it and want to stick with it for a while
          2- You could get bored after some time and get a localization position
          3- You could get bored after a while and get stuck for longer, waiting for a localization position that never opens
          4- You could also apply in another company when a good opportunity shows up

          Just try to avoid #3 ad should be fine. If you don’t like it, and really want something else, be proactive and get things moving.
          (And by that I don’t mean quitting right away without any planning either.)

  3. Tyson Owen says:

    Hey!

  4. Tyson Owen says:

    Hey!

    I have been thinking about being a game tester or designer and have always enjoyed pointing out the bugs in games. The only problem is that I live in a small town where my parents think I should open up a mechanic shop and despise video games. Any response would be a lot of help I don’t know what I should do.

    • Undercover Tester says:

      Hi Tyson,

      I see why your parents are giving you this advice.
      Mechanics probably earn more money and have more job security than Game Testers.

      Personally I started my career as a Video Game Tester, not because I really wanted to be one, but because I was 24, had almost never worked before and had dropped out of college without any degree.
      I liked Video Games and it seemed natural to look for any position in that industry. The best I could get was Video Game Tester.
      For a few years I enjoyed the job but eventually it became boring to the point I hated it. I also wanted to earn more money for my hobbies.
      Fortunately I had coding skills and was able to switch to development.
      I would have been seriously unhappy if I had been forced to remain a Game Tester for longer.

      Now I don’t want to discourage you because:
      A: I’m sure that some Video Game Tester are happy with their job
      B: You need to do whatever makes YOU happy

      But I would seriously recommend getting a good plan B, like an education or training in something that will land you a job easily.
      For most people, a job is just a job.
      What I want from a job now:
      -Money
      -Nice fun people to work with
      -Some kind of intellectual challenge

      The question what do YOU want from a job?
      I know people who quit well paid office jobs to become waiter because they missed social interaction and didn’t want to sit all day long.
      Sometimes finding what you really want to do is an error and trial process.
      But make sure you have a plan B.

      EDIT: I replied only considering the job of Video Game Tester, but you also mentioned the job of Designer. I’m not sure if there are schools out there that give you good chances of landing a Designer position.
      What I know though, is that nowadays the Indie game market gives passionate people a chance to shine.
      And I’m pretty sure the job of game Designer is more interesting and stimulating than Game Tester (for most people).
      If you want to be a game designer, why not starting designing games as a hobby and see if he goes somewhere while you still get trained/education in something else?

  5. Alban Skuqi says:

    Dear UndercoverTester , i’d really like to be a game tester, the problem is that i don’t have experience at all, what can i do ?

    • Undercover Tester says:

      Hi Alban,

      Some game testing positions require little experience, so I would apply to jobs even without experience.
      Getting a job is… The best way to get experience.

      On the side you could read books about Video Game testing. There’s a couple of them on Amazon, pick the best reviewed one.
      You could also try to do some volunteer software testing on the web, or test indie games (I’m not sure that’s possible, but it’s worth searching).
      Basically anything that teaches you something about game testing and/or that you can pt on your CV.

  6. Radina says:

    If you want a job as a game tester you WILL need a coglele degree.Then you WILL have to either call up the company headquarters, go to the companies website or call thier temp agency and ask when openings will be available and submit a resume (usually with ALL the games and systems you’ve remember)And dont ask about being a game tester, ask about being a QA (Quality Assurance) is what the real name for them is.

    • Undercover Tester says:

      You don’t need a college degree to be a game tester. What college degree would you get for that anyway?
      Let’s be clear: I am not advising against getting a degree. People should get a degree in a domain they like or they want to work in that actually requires a degree. Game testing is not one of them.

      I had a few game testing jobs and interviewed for even more. Each of them had a practical test to measure your actual skills. That’s what the companies are interested in.
      I also hired for the job and I was NEVER interested in knowing if the candidate had a college degree. Neither was my boss.

  7. Doctor El says:

    Hello Mr. UndercoverTester,

    I would like to know about the job security and salary for beginners in this field (QA). And I would also like to know the same things about game developing and designing.
    And can you please tell me the best fields to work in the gaming industry (having good salary, job security and good working conditions).

    Thanks.

    • Undercover Tester says:

      Hi Doctor El,

      In my experience a game tester has a salary close to the minimum wage and the job security varies from poor to average.
      I recommend you check these articles:
      http://www.undercovertester.com/is-game-testing-for-me
      http://www.undercovertester.com/the-salary-of-a-video-game-tester

      As for the best fields in the gaming industry… Well I think developers are doing good because they are harder to replace and their skills carries over to other industries in case they get fed up about the gaming industry.
      The working condition are the same for everyone in my experience: Open space, shared desks, fairly frequent overtime.
      Then again it’s like that for a lot of companies in the software industry (not only gaming).

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