Is game testing for me?
So, is really video game testing the dream job, or just another boring-to-death low paying job?
Well the truth is somewhere between…
The fun factor
Don’t expect to have fun just because you’re holding a game controller all day long. For the first 2 hours you might think you’re actually getting paid to play. Then you realize you’re getting paid to test, and it’s totally different. You will not be enjoying the gameplay.
Does that mean that game testing cannot be fun? No. It can be fun.Testing involves a lot of repetition and investigation. If you can take repetition, if you enjoy investigation, if you are quality oriented:you might enjoy the job. Just like selling cars can be fun if you enjoy closing deals. Just like creating software can be fun if you enjoy coding. It’s just like any other job out there: you have to enjoy one of its main components. As weird as it may sound, playing is not a main component of game testing. Investigation and troubleshooting are. Being able to work well in a team is important too.
Another thing that can make game testing enjoyable is the environment. If you are passionate about video games, and don’t like a corporate work place, you might enjoy the kind of casual and relaxed work environment that can usually be found in the video games industry.
Gaming companies know that they expect a lot from their employees and and try to provide perks that will attract talent:
- free or cheap food and drinks
- break rooms with consoles, pool and foosball tables
- team activities like paint balls and such
- loose policy about web surfing
- rewards for good workers (games obviously!)
And you will working with people passionate about video games which can make it easier to make friends.
The “known issues” of the job
Now let’s review the issues that come up most often when talking about the job of video game tester:
Low salaries and poor job security
There’s so many people looking for this job that the salaries tend to be low and (bad) managers will feel like any QA tester can be easily replaced. It’s very common to see testers working as contractors for years before being offered a permanent positions.
My advice on that would be don’t be a one trick pony and above alldon’t just be a video game player occupying a tester’s job. If you’re looking for a testing job, and your only asset is to be a video game player, you’re likely to get a poor salary if any at all. I guess it’s OK if you’re starting. But as time passes make sure to develop side skills and make yourself more valuable.
You’re excellent at written English? Go localization testing. It’s slightly more paid and it can bring opportunities in other industries. Your current position gives you access to compliance rules from console constructors? Study them and become a compliance specialist. You’re tech savvy? Configuration management in PC games testing. You can code? Automation testing is slowly making its way into game testing. Interested in software testing in general? Educate yourself and come up with optimized ways of testing. You might become the person in charge of writing test suites for other testers to execute.
Make yourself special and valuable.
For more details on the remuneration, read the article Salary of a Video Game Tester.
Yes it can happen.
Quantity and compensation will greatly vary from company to company but in ANY company you can expect to work over time at best now and then, and at worst all the time. Then again it’s not just the gaming industry, unpaid over time is very common in the whole software industry. Software engineering in general is still relatively young. Most projects don’t go well and are late. So if you really can’t tolerate overtime at all, you picked the wrong domain.
However it’s possible to work in software or video games and still do a reasonable amount of overtime. Companies can be very different so you need to pick your employer carefully. You may not have a choice now, but at some point you will. Especially if you found a way to become different and valuable as explained before.
Some companies have a history of abusing their employees when it comes to overtime. It’s company culture, you can’t fight it, you can’t change it. Some of the big names in the industry are known for that, while others are known for treating people with more respect. You should seriously consider working for smaller companies. They may ask for a lot of overtime too, but it’s easier to get involved and make a difference in small companies.
Lack of recognition
Some people view testers as monkeys with a game controllers. This is also true to a lesser extent for testers in the rest of the software industry.
The reasons are multiples, but the main one is that testing is a less technical discipline then coding for example. Again, pick your company carefully. The smaller the better. It doesn’t matter if a developer despises testers in general as long as the company is so small that he knows you personally and can’t ignore the fact that you are a competent and nice guy.
Game testing lacks career paths
I hate to admit it, but it’s currently true. Video game testing is a respectable occupation just like any other job. It takes skills to be good at it, and there are very competent people in the field. However currently testers don’t have much space to grow: there is no obvious path for a tester do keep on progressing in terms of career, skills and salary.
I personally think some of major actors in the industry are to blame for the lack of career path. They are not interested in making it a career and paying the testers on par with their skills.
Be smart and use the system to get what you need from it. Build you career out of it, and do what you want to do. As mentioned before, there are quite decent game testing jobs, especially in small companies with better atmosphere, salaries and advancement opportunities. Smaller companies want to keep competent employees rather than having a big turn over. On the other hand they’re more likely to be picky regarding who they hire. Recruiting is expensive.
Regardless of a company’s size, you can become QA lead or even QA manager. Not only will you get a better pay, but you will also learn new skills that transfer into other jobs. Managing people can really be a challenge. It breaks the monotony for sure. You may discover another discipline that you like. I’ve seen smart people going from QA lead or QA managers to assistant producers or studio managers.
So, is game testing for you?
It can be for you if :
- you are aware of the problems in the industry and can tolerate them
- you are good at (and enjoy) troubleshooting and investigation