If your idea of the perfect day is to play video games, come up with new scenarios for the games and talk about those games with other enthusiasts, then being a game tester is the perfect position. You’ll also get to tweak the games before they hit the public domain and you’ll spend your days with like-minded people who dig the work as much as you do.
Game testing is an entry-level job that many people get into before moving up to game designer and developer. You get to work with those folks while you’re in the testing department, learn the industry and get your foot in the door while you continue your schooling or gather up enough experience. According to gamers at Parabellum Games, when you stand out as a tester, you often are chosen for promotion.
Plenty of Options
You can further your career through a number of channels, with each requiring a different level of testing abilities. There are the preproduction, production and postproduction stages, with skill requirements ranging from artist to engineer.
Work with Others
You get to work with other game enthusiasts, from creators to writers, designers, engineers and graphic artists, all with the same goal of producing exceptional games. Game development requires extensive collaboration, so it’s not just a job where you sit in a solitary cubicle stuck to your controller all day.
Start at Home
While you need to have a degree to be a computer programmer at a gaming development company, you can teach yourself how to master video games at home and post your efforts on a blog or other industry site that calls for gaming portfolios. Network to build your reputation and you have a good chance of landing your first testing gig.
Live in Cool Locations
You’ve got to go where the jobs are so you’ll end up in places like Austin, Texas; San Francisco; Montreal; Los Angeles; or Redmond, Washington – towns that attract a slew of hipsters and techies.
You won’t be stuck in a job where your opinion is ignored. One of your primary duties is to provide feedback on the games you test. While you may be at entry-level as a tester, your opinions are valued and your ideas for improvement sought.
Tap Into Other Skills
You’ll have to tap into other creative talents as a tester too. You have to write reports about your experience and be able to communicate your findings through those reports. You may have to draw if you come up with an enhancement you think will really kick up the game a notch.
The pay for testers tends to be on the low end of the spectrum. The salary for quality assurance testers was about $49,000 in 2010, based on a survey done by "Game Developer" magazine. But when a new game comes out, you’ll often be asked (sometimes required) to work a lot of overtime, boosting your pay substantially.
As part of your job, you’ll be expected to keep up with other game development going on in the industry. As such, you’ll get to go to gaming conventions on a regular basis, usually on the company dime.
Fits Your Personality
Game testing is ideal if you are the analytical type who likes to figure out problems and then come up with solutions. It’s also a good fit if you have a lot of energy and need to stay challenged at work. Even when you’re playing a game that doesn’t excite you as much as others, you’ll be challenged to get through it so you can move on to the next game.
While ideally you may want to get a gig at a big game studio, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can get into the field through a number of other avenues. For example, you can move into the industry through social media creators and mobile app developers.
Do What You Love
Perhaps the biggest benefit of being a game tester is that you get to do something you love to earn a living, not something everyone can say about her career choice.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."