Over the past decade, video games have evolved dramatically. Whether we are exploring the open world of Horizon Zero Dawn, admiring landscapes in Red Dead Redemption 2, or driving a car around Night City in Cyberpunk 77, modern video games bring us an unforgettable experience.
Elaborate character facial expressions, realistic lighting, precise object physics, and advanced animation bring our games to life like never before. This realism is possible because today's game developers do not simply draw worlds but create them using complex algorithms, advanced mathematical models, and innovative technologies. However, with complexity comes errors. More details mean more things can go wrong, which is where video game testers come into play. Testers ensure that most bugs and glitches are fixed before a game is released to the public.
This article will discuss what video game testers do, where they work, how much they earn, and what steps to take if you want to land a job as a game tester.
What Does a Video Game Tester Do?
Video game quality assurance (QA) testers make sure that everything in a game performs as expected. They are responsible for testing game versions throughout the development process to find errors or issues while ensuring that the game is fun and interactive for players. For many, game testing seems like a dream job that pays you for playing video games.
In reality, testing a game is not the same as playing it. Testers constantly try to break the games they play, interacting with these digital worlds in creative or unconventional ways that the developers did not anticipate. Testers explore every possible character, movement, and location to identify non-functional visual effects, broken mechanics, problems with sound, or places where the game crashes.
Some problems might be more amusing than harmful, like a dog in the game strolling around on its hind legs. Other issues, known as game-breaking glitches or “critical bugs,” make a game unplayable or prevent a user from progressing to the next level. An unwinnable enemy or a player trapped in a particular spot are two examples of critical bugs that negatively impact a user's experience.
Once a bug is found, game testers must submit evidence of the issue to a database. Evidence can be a screenshot, screen video, or a crash log file. Then the tester puts a detailed report in the bug tracking system. Testers need to describe what happens, where the error occurs, the severity of the issue, and how to recreate it. After developers fix the bug, QA testers retest to ensure everything works correctly in the new build.
What Types of Bugs Occur in Video Games?
To better understand the responsibilities of a game tester, let us explore some different types of bugs found in video games.
Functional Bugs: Something in the game application is not working correctly. Examples include menu buttons that lead to the wrong directories or a game that crashes when a player tries to open the settings.
Visual Bugs: Some elements of the game are not displayed as expected. Examples include a character's face that is distorted or misplaced objects in a scene.
Sound Bugs: There can be different issues with game sound effects, from disproportionately loud sounds to music playing at the wrong moment.
Gameplay Bugs: According to the rules of gameplay, something is not happening as it should. For example, the player should be able to defeat an enemy after a certain number of attacks, but the enemy is unbeatable.
Compatibility Bugs: The game does not work on a particular device.
Localization Bugs: Any problems with translations. For example, instead of sentences in French, there are placeholders such as "french_text_001."
Depending on the game and platform, there can be other types of potential issues that need testing. For instance, the QA team might run a test where players wear heart-rate monitors while playing a horror game to identify if the scenes are scary enough. Our list is not exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of different issues game testers might encounter.
What Are the Benefits of Being a Video Game Tester?
Working as a video game tester comes with many advantages.
Testing is a perfect entry position if you want to build a career in the video game industry. While working in quality control, you will be exposed to every aspect of game development. For many professionals, game testing can be the first step to game design, programming, or project management roles.
As a tester, you have access to pre-released games. Developing a new game can take years. You get to see a game at different stages, monitor how it improves, and play it while the rest of the gaming world waits impatiently for the opportunity.
Testers have access to the latest devices. Ensuring a game functions correctly on all platforms or consoles releasing it is an essential part of game testing. Sometimes this involves testing games on devices that are not available to the public yet.
In addition, game testers usually get free versions of the games they work on and significant discounts on other titles from the same studio.
Where Do Video Game Testers Work?
Leading game development companies like Ubisoft, Epic Games, and Rockstar typically have in-house QA teams. Smaller studios may outsource game testing to companies specializing in such services or hire game testers as temporary workers. Job opportunities for game testers vary and include full-time, part-time, on-site, and remote positions at game studios or QA companies.
Whether testers work as employees or contractors, they usually work in a pleasant office environment without a strict dress code and with plenty of free coffee and snacks. However, there might be security measures to prevent leaks or game spoilers. For example, testers are often required to put their cell phones in lockers while they work.
Game QA testers work regular hours and are often required to work overtime when a game release is imminent.
Average Salary for a Video Game Tester
According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for a game tester in the United States is $55,119. Estimated additional bonuses are $4,111. However, total pay can vary significantly depending on an employee's years of experience, location, and company.
Although these numbers might not look very impressive, it is important to remember that game testing roles have relatively low entry barriers. Testing is an excellent first step to more lucrative positions in the game industry. For example, the average pay for a game developer is $80,602, and experienced professionals typically earn six figures salaries. Those who stay in video game testing can become QA managers—another role with promising earning potential.
The video game industry is growing fast. According to the PWC report, it is projected to reach $323.5 billion in revenue by 2026. The demand for skilled professionals, including game testers, is likely to increase as well.
Essential Skills for Video Game Testers
Being a passionate gamer is not enough to become a video game tester. This job requires a certain combination of technical knowledge and soft skills. While requirements may vary from company to company, employers usually look for the following competencies.
Knowledge of gaming terminology and game development stages.
Familiarity with various game genres (action-adventure, shooters, RPGs, simulations, etc.) and different platforms.
Understanding of the testing process and ability to write concise but informative bug reports.
Familiarity with Jira or other bug tracking solutions.
And here are some essential soft skills for a video game tester.
Attention to Detail: Game testers must be able to identify even minor glitches or unexpected changes in the game's performance.
Excellent Communication Skills: Testers are responsible for describing bugs and explaining how to replicate them, which makes strong communication skills essential.
Time Management: Video game QA testers often work under tight deadlines. They need to know how to manage their time effectively.
Tolerance for Repetition: Game testers often need to replay a short part of the game over and over again. For instance, to see if a player can go through the walls in a specific location, the tester would make the character walk into each wall. Then they would repeat the test while walking backward, running, and running with their hands raised. You get the idea. Completing such tasks requires a lot of patience and self-discipline.
Adaptability: You rarely choose what game to test. Perhaps when you dreamed of working as a video game tester, you pictured yourself playing Last of Us all day long. In reality, your job might be testing Super Mario. You still have to do your job well, even if you are not excited about the game.
Education and Experience for Video Game Testers
Positions in game testing usually do not have strict requirements regarding formal education. A high school diploma is generally enough to get a job as a QA tester. However, a degree in Game Design, Software Testing, Software Engineering, or Graphic Communication can help advance your career in the gaming industry.
When it comes to experience, there are many entry-level jobs where a history of playing video games is the only experience you need. However, better-paying roles with more responsibilities often require several years of experience in QA testing, software development, or related fields.
How to Get Your First Job as a Game Tester
If you think being a game QA tester might suit you, here are a few actionable steps to getting your first job.
Step 1: Learn About the Industry
Start by reading blogs, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube videos covering game industry news. A general understanding of how the main game engines work, what the leading game development studios are working on, and what is trending in the field will help you stand out among other gamers looking for a job in quality assurance.
Step 2: Gain Experience
Although entry-level jobs in game testing generally do not require work experience, your chances of being hired increase dramatically if your resume shows that you have tested games and written bug reports before. You can look for beta-testing opportunities where companies hire players to test nearly finished games or consider participating in an internship program to get some practice in testing.
Step 3: Craft a Compelling Resume
Your resume should highlight skills and experience that match the requirements. Read job ads carefully and note what employers are looking for in a candidate. After your document is ready, proofread it carefully. Remember, being detail-oriented is one of the core skills for a successful QA tester. Missing a grammar mistake or typo on your resume sends a wrong signal to a recruiter.
Step 4: Apply for Jobs
Once your resume is ready, start applying for open positions. Game tester jobs are posted on Indeed, Monster, Glassdoor, and other popular job boards. You can also check job ads on LinkedIn and look for job opportunities directly on the career pages of game companies' websites. Keep in mind that most of the openings for game testers are on a contract or part-time basis. Full-time testing positions at reputable companies usually require some experience in the field.
Step 5: Prepare for Interviews
Research common interview questions for QA testers in the gaming industry, and take time to think through your answers. Hiring managers often ask the following questions.
- What is your favorite game genre?
- What was the last video game you played?
- Can you describe a bug you found in a video game?
- Why will you be good at QA testing?
In addition to drafting your answers to common questions, research the company interviewing you and prepare questions you want to ask the hiring manager.
Tips to Become a Successful Game Tester
Here are a few more tips on how to succeed at your first job as a game tester and how to advance your career faster.
- Use consistent language in your bug reports. Research the best practices for documenting bugs in your company, and use the same language as your teammates from day one. This approach will help you avoid misunderstandings with developers and minimize the risk of duplicate bug reports within your team.
- Incorporate further evidence of the issue when possible. While writing clear and concise bug reports is very important, a single screenshot or a video clip can often explain the problem much better than words. Make sure to add such evidence wherever it might be helpful.
- Have an open mind. You may end up testing a variety of games, including games you do not like. Or you might enjoy playing games on your Xbox but need to test mobile games at work. Remember that all games need solid testing regardless of their genre or platform.
- Keep learning. If you want to advance your career, keep up with industry trends. Learn as much as possible about the latest technologies and new services. It is also helpful to regularly research the main requirements for more senior roles in video game QA. This way, you will better understand which skills are in demand and what you must learn to get promoted.
Being a video game tester is not just "playing video games for a living." It involves hard work, long hours, and pressure due to tight deadlines. But it is also fun, creative, and rewarding. If you are interested in the gaming industry, game testing is an excellent entry position whether you want to build a career in QA or become a game developer, animator, designer, or project manager.