Quitting a video game testing job for a software testing job
This website is about working as a video game tester. So why an article about leaving such job?
When you think about it, there can be many valid reasons for wanting to stop being a Video Game Tester.
- Their game testing job does not live up to their expectation in terms of working conditions and they find it hard to get a good position in the field
- They were hoping to reach another position, but it’s not happening
- They don’t think it’s that fun anymore to work in video games industry. Their interests shift and they are ready for a change
- They got laid off and NEED to work again asap
The reason really does not matters. The important thing is that there are ways out of a gaming testing position. Of course there’s a lot of ways of changing career. It all depends on your skills, education, ability to adapt, etc. Most importantly it depends on what you like and want to do. This is obviously not going to be a comprehensive guide about switching careers. But there is one path, one way out for people who enjoyed investigation and troubleshooting part of their job: software testing.
By software testing I mean any software that is not a game. It can be desktop software like Photoshop, web applications like your eBanking site, mobile applications, embedded software like a GPS, etc.
Differences between the jobs of game tester and software tester
There can be a world of difference between game testing and software testing, especially if you have been working for a company that considered game testers like monkeys randomly pushing buttons. Le me list the major differences:
Software testers are better paid in general because it requires more qualification. From my own experience I would say that a software tester can earn from $15/hour (= 30k/year) to 30$/hour (= 60k/year) as a permanent employee. It can go higher if you have a specialty or if you know test automation.
To give an idea of the annual salary difference between Video Game Tester and Software Tester, here is a little report run on http://www.indeed.com/salary. It was run nationwide for USA in September of 2013. Note how I actually compare the average salary of Video Game Tester with that of a JUNIOR Software Tester only. Basically it means that an experienced Software Tester could make more:
Of course these are only averages and Software Testers sometimes make less money. But I can personally testify that those numbers are not crazy because I was earning around $20000 when I was a Game Tester, and then around $40000 when I switched jobs to Software Tester.
For more details on the remuneration of a Video Game Tester, read the article Salary of a Video Game Tester.
Often you will be required a Bachelor in computer science, but it’s not a hard requirement. It’s just a way for the employer to make sure the candidates are a minimum technical. It can be used as a filter when deciding who gets an interview. But if you don’t have a degree and still make it to the interview, it won’t be important whether you have a degree or not.
Software testing as a discipline is more mature than game testing. There’s a lot of theory related to software testing. A lot of books on the subject are available.
Some company won’t require you to know a lot about that and just expect you to be good at finding bugs. Web startups are often like that. Other companies are more formal: they have written requirements for every single functionality and will require that you write test cases based on them. Banking software for example require this kind f formalism.
This second type of companies usually give better salary so it’s highly recommended that you get familiar with the theory behind software testing. A certification can serve as a proof in this regard.
because their job requires more qualifications and can get quite technical, software testers usually get more love from the rest of the company than game testers.
But don’t get too excited because the status of software tester is rarely perceived as an equal to the status of developer. If it bothers you too much, learn to code…
Software testing jobs are more likely to be permanent positions than game testing jobs.
Games are a bit like movies: one game represents a very consequent amount of effort and risk on a limited time frame. And getting tester positions filled by temporary workers reduces fixed costs.
Of course other software can have this kind of cycle too, but software are more like a form of service whereas games are most often entertainment product.
There’s no “end” to a software, it gets maintained and enhanced release after release. It generates work continuously and within the same domain which makes experienced employees more valuable.
Games are just the tip of the iceberg of all the software that gets written int he world.
To be clear: there are way more software tester jobs available than game tester jobs. And there is less competition for software testing positions. In fact I know by experience that good software testers are very rare. I think it’s because it’s not a popular field, and when people excel in it they get pulled to more technical positions.
If you can prove at a job interview that you know the topic and you’re smart enough to learn and adapt fast, the recruiters might not care at all that you don’t know a few technical details.
As a software tester you will naturally acquire transferable knowledge. First from a technology point of view:
- Testing a desktop application? You’ll learn about the operating systems you test on
You get the idea. Now add to that:
- The tools that you’ll be using
- The domain knowledge (Banking, retail… Depends on what you’re testing)
Basically, your skill set naturally grows, and if you put a little extra effort on top you can really become a valuable specialist. In game testing, the opportunities to learn valuable and transferable skills are much lower.
Transitioning to software testing
If you don’t want to be a game tester anymore, but you think you like testing enough to be a software tester, here’s what you should do:
Get educated on the topic
The very first thing you need to do is get familiar with the theory and terminology related to software testing. You need a book that will explain in an academic way what is a test case, a test scenario, an oracle, test plan, etc. Those terms are actually used differently from a company to the other but you need to start somewhere.
I personnally would recommend two books:
- Software Testing (2nd Edition)
That’s the book to start with. A reference for anybody serious about learning theory and terminology related to software testing.
- Lessons Learned in Software Testing: A Context-Driven Approach
This one is a collection of lessons learned the hard way, on the field. It’s purpose is not to teach you the discipline from scratch, but it’s an excellent read for anybody having some experience in software testing or game testing. Bottom line is: it will make you a better professional.
To optimize your chances of landing a position, you also need practical knowledge. It’s possible acquire it by working as a volunteer. You don’t even have to leave your home to do that. Search the web for projects looking for testers (example Mozilla). It’s ok if you only get to execute tests wrote by others. The goal is really to get familiar with the basic methods and tools used out of the gaming industry. It’s also something that can add value to your CV.
There is also a site bringing freelance testers and projects together on a per project basis. They’re paying the testers on a per bug basis, which any competent software testing professional will find to be a bad practice. It’s still worth mentioning though because it can be a practicing tool for inexperienced testers. The name is uTest.com.
Get a certification
There are a few certifications available for software testers targeting different levels of experience.
Those certification often have prerequisite like a degree or a couple of years of professional experience. Game testing can qualify as experience.
Those certifications are in no way a proof of your competences. But they show that you invested some time/effort in your discipline. Basically, they help you get your CV noticed and selected for an interview, especially if your only experience is game testing.
However don’t forget that when the interview time comes, the certification won’t help you.
Learn to sell your game testing experience
Selling yourself is very important when looking for a job. You may not have experience in testing anything else than games, but that activity still developed skills that can apply to testing software. Make a list of those. Troubleshooting is the most obvious one.
Networking and community
Networking is always important in job hunting. But it’s even more important when you’re trying to take a leap such as switching industries.
Meet software testers if you can, let people know that you are looking. Is there a software testing association or group in your city? A conference? Get social. Do the same on the web. Follow interesting blogs about testing, visit the forums.
Different types of software testing jobs
Just like in video games, software testing teams are very often referred to as QA. There’s basically three main categories of software testing roles:
Manual testers (or: Software tester, QA tester, QA analyst)
This category is the easiest when to transition to when you have a game tester background. These testers will almost always test at the GUI (Graphic User Interface).
They are commonly required to write test cases from requirements and execute them even if in some companies those two tasks are assigned to different persons. That’s something to ask at the interview because it’s more fun to be doing both.
Like mentioned before, the salary range is between $15 and $30 per hour for permanent employees.
Automation Testers (or: QA Developer, Automation Developer, Automation Test Analyst)
The automation specialists write automated test based on test case that were created by themselves or by manual tester (depending on the company). Coding skills are required even if not at the same level as for developers.
Most of they time they use tools designed specifically for automation, and those tools impose a scripting language. So it’s not only coding skills that are required but also knowledge of automation tools. However other times the focus is more on actual development than scripting using a tool.
This category of workers can be expected to be paid a salary slightly higher than manual testers. From $25 to $40 per hour.
Performance testers (load tester)
Those guys are in a niche. There’s not that many jobs for Performance Testers, but there’s even fewer skilled workers. They’re are similar to Automation Tester because they don’t do manual testing, and they use tools that sometimes involve coding.
The difference is in what they test. Where manual and automation testers verify that the software can process a sequence of user actions and produce the expected result, Performance Testers verify that the software can function under certain specific conditions like an important volume of actions being processed, or a certain amount of users logged in.
The salary range is similar to the one of the Automation Testers. From $25 to $40 per hour.
You have to realize that this classification is really simplified. For example automation is becoming more and more popular. It’s not uncommon to see manual testing position requiring a bit of coding skills.