Game testing as a stepping stone in the gaming industry

Game testing has been known for being a way to put the foot in the door of the gaming industry and reach other positions. Is this myth accurate?


The myth

The main reason behind this belief is probably that this position is perceived as one requir
ing little skills so people think it’s easier to get hired as tester than as game designer or artist for example. If you’ve already read other pages on this site, you know that game testing does require skills. However those skills can most often be developed reasonably fast on the job unlike something like Architecture or Medicine that requires years and years of study.

So yes, it is indeed easier to get a testing job than go directly game designer. But a testing job is certainly not a paved road to a game designer job. I’ve seen many people believing this, trying this, and never getting their dream job.

The reality

Honda totals a car

People tend to think that once they are in the gaming industry, someone will notice their potential and give them their dream job. That’s quite a romantic vision.

Gaming is a serious business, and one that generates a lot of money. If you go to a testing job interview and say “yes I want to be a tester first, but only to land a game designer position” the QA manager is likely to perceive you as a potential liability.

Oh well: let’s be optimistic and suppose you do get the job anyway. 
Game testing can be tough. If you got the job only to get a shot at another position, chances are that you’ll hate it. Eventually it will show in your attitude and in your performance. You won’t develop your testing skills properly because you’re not really interested in doing so. You will get noticed but not in the way you wished.

But hey you may love actually testing, right? So let’s say you’re a tremendous tester. 
Everybody recognizes your skills, you know your stuff damn well and nobody can beat you. Then tell me what are the chances that someone notices you for your game designing skills, and even if they do, what are the chances that they’ll take the risk to give your a designer job whereas you’re so valuable as a tester?
Little chances.

Of course it’s possible. It has been done in the past and will be done again. But the success rate is low, and getting lower. The video game industry is quickly changing even if still young. Nowadays there are genuine Degrees related to gaming, and even those are not a guarantee of getting the targeted position.

Another problem with using a testing position as a stepping stone is that it actually contributes to game testing being a low pay – low recognition job. If a testing team is full of people that don’t believe in their own discipline, it will obviously get little love from other departments.

The alternative

Nowadays there is a vibrant indie gaming scene. Thanks to smart phones, there is a market for simpler games again. You can get involved, you can be a part of a small team, you can even be a one man team. Do what you like, do it for free if needed but do it well. That’s the best way to get noticed.

And while you’re doing that, it’s fine to test games as a day job. But do yourself and your colleagues a favor by not expecting your tester job to be a gateway to a designer dream job.


One Response to Game testing as a stepping stone in the gaming industry

  1. Kevin D says:

    Hi Undercover Tester,

    I’ve been reading a couple of your articles. I want to say thank you for sharing your insight about game testing and also mentioning doing game design on the side. I’ve always been curious to what it’s like to be a game tester and I’m going to re-arrange my resume to fit the core skills you’ve mentioned on your other article.

    Kevin D.

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