September 14, 2010

Love Halo:Reach? Find a Video Game Tester Job!

Today, nerds everywhere (myself included) are booting up their Xbox 360s to play Halo:Reach, which was released at midnight and is poised to be the top-selling game of the year – maybe even of all time.

If you enjoy sinking hours into Halo, maybe making this a career is the right choice for you. Every major game developer and publisher hires video game testers to ensure they’re releasing top-quality products.

What does a tester do? Essentially, you’re quality control for a video game. Long before a game is released, you’ll play versions of it to make sure that there aren’t any broken parts, like walls that characters can walk through or glitches that cause a save file to corrupt. You’ll also give developers feedback on the difficulty of the game, so that the game is consistent throughout, not too hard or too easy at any one part. This kind of quality assurance separates a good game from a great game.

The advantages of a finding a video game testing job include:

  • The ability to play highly-anticipated games long before it hits the market
  • Free video games that you get to keep
  • Getting paid to play all day
  • The ability to give your opinion on game franchises that are dear to your heart
  • The opportunity for advancement

At some companies, you may even be able to go back to school on their dime, allowing you to get a degree in a field such as management, video game design, art, internet technology, or computer engineering.

Of course, keep in mind that it isn’t all fun and games, no pun intended. As a tester, one of the major drawbacks is that you don’t get to just enjoy the game as a finished product. The early version of the games you’ll be play often have many, many problems, which you have to tediously record, and even late versions of the games have issues that it is your job to find. You don’t get to just enjoy a game, like you would if you purchased it and are playing at home.

In quality assurance, there’s also an issue of job security. When a video game is done, you don’t have a job unless the company is working on another game and ready for testers to start working on it. With large companies, like Sony or Microsoft, there is always a new project that needs testers, but smaller companies may lay off workers between projects. See the Nintendo jobs page on JobMonkey to learn about their opportunities.

To get your foot in the door as a video game tester, start by playing games in beta and giving companies feedback. Some companies also ask for volunteer quality assurance workers to help on an as-needed basis, working from home. These both look great on your resume if you’re interested in a paying, professional video game tester job.

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