If you grew up in the early 2000’s like I did, you might have seen a particular commercial that’s all about video game testing. It’s something of a running joke now in the games industry, because the way this commercial portrays video game testing is comical at best and misleading at worst.
The commercial starts, the scene opens with two men in their early adulthood playing a video game on their TV. Their boss comes in and says “Hey guys, finished testing that game yet?” to which one of them responds “We’ve just finished up level 3 and we need to tighten up the graphics a little bit”. At the end of a short discussion with their boss, one of the men says “I can’t believe we got jobs doing this”
To actual experienced game developers, this is a really funny commercial because video game testing basically never works in this way. “Tightening up the graphics” is an expression that says absolutely nothing in a technical sense, as well as something you wouldn’t say as a tester anyways because the game’s visuals are not something you should be concerned with, unless they’re borderline unusable for some reason.
In this article, I’m going to clear up some of the misconceptions and explain to you what a videogame tester is, what they actually do, how to become one, and more.
For the purpose of this article I’ll be calling them testers or video game testers, but there’s a variety of names for the occupation, including Beta Testers, or their more professional title, Quality Assurance (QA) testers.
What does a video game tester do?
First of all, it’s important that we define exactly what your average video game tester actually does.
We’re really sorry to tell you this, but you’ve got to do a little more than just plop into your couch and play your favorite video game all day. That isn’t to say you won’t be playing games, you will, but it’s important to understand that playing games for fun and playing them for results are two very different things.
When it comes to the games you’ll be testing, it’s likely that you’ll just be testing games coming out of the company you get hired by. If that’s a game developer, it would mean their primary game(s) they want to release. If it’s a game publisher, that might mean testing a wider variety of games under their larger umbrella of upcoming titles. Or if it’s a video game testing company, you’ll be assigned to many different projects depending on who is hiring your company.
While testing games, you’ll often be expected to take notes on the results you’ve achieved in your testing process, and possibly creative ways you might have to improve on these situations. In a nutshell: Video game testers make sure that your games actually work like they should.
Why do we need video game testers?
The process of creating a video game is still an extremely complex and difficult one. Even if it’s programmed perfectly and in the most ideal way possible, there is still a very good chance that the game might have an unintended glitch or bug, or something similar, that needs to be worked out before release.
For example, you might have a situation where a developer was casually testing the game, and they noticed that the game froze when the player walked through a door, and they haven’t been able to reproduce this situation. That’s when the developer might come up to the QA tester and ask them to replicate this glitch.
If the tester can find a repeatable issue that is causing the glitch, like, let’s say the player is holding onto a particular item at the same time they walk through the door, they can report that to the developer, and then the developer can get to work on a solution.
Some games ship with glitches, and oftentimes this is simply an unavoidable result of having deadlines. If you have a glitch in a game that alters something minor in a way that has little impact to the overall experience, you might be okay.
Game testers will be assigned the really big important glitches first, or any glitches that are seriously impeding further development of the game. Things like, having a player’s save data vanish for no reason, hard game crashes upon doing something important to progress, or the game’s graphics turning into a garbled mess when played on certain hardware settings. Stuff like this is critical to fix before a company can safely release their game.
It’s not just visual bugs either, as a video game tester you’ll be expected to take notes on visual, audio, and control bugs of all shapes and sizes.
If a company did nothing to fix these glitches, their game would be reviewed very harshly upon release, and the game would sell poorly as a result. This is why it’s absolutely critical that any serious video game development studio considers professionally QA testing their games and making sure there are no serious glitches upon the game’s release.
Are there companies for video game testing?
It’s common that companies that produce games will outsource their testing to entire companies who are built for the purpose of video game testing. Some of the biggest video game testing companies right now include iXie Gaming, Kevuru Games, and Pingle Studio. However, there are still many companies that hire internally for testing on their specific games. For example, if you want to specifically do testing for Blizzard games, it would make sense to look at Blizzard Entertainment and see if they’re hiring any new positions for QA Testing, or possibly Activision since they’re Blizzard’s parent company.
Video game testing as a service is still a relatively new idea, and it can either be a good or a bad idea for a company to outsource this process.
The benefits a company might experience if they decide to outsource testing could include better organization, easy access to qualified testers, and more efficient results. The negatives could include things like needing to pay more to hire a separate company for these services, possible communication issues (many of these companies are international but English is used by most of them), and maybe other issues that could arise, like if the company you’re working with suddenly goes under.
Getting started with Video Game Quality Assurance (QA) Testing
Video game testing can be a fulfilling job to have, especially if you’re someone who is good at solving problems and taking notes with creative solutions in mind. It can help to have some programming experience so that you can understand why the game engine is behaving a certain way, but this isn’t a requirement for many testing positions.
Many companies will expect you to be certified for video game testing as well. It is important that you have an International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) certification before you proceed. Testing beta releases of video games you’re interested in for fun can be good training, as well as working on your communication skills since the job is heavily dependent on good collaboration between both parties.
Video game testing is going to continue to be a very necessary part of the production of a video game, and the risk of this job being automated is extremely low. Consider looking at LinkedIn for job leads and getting your necessary certificates if you are serious about becoming a videogame tester.
Yuriy Denisyuk is Game Production Lead at Pingle Studio. He’s responsible for successfully managing the Game Production pipeline. Yuriy is this lucky person who plays the best games for work in order to keep up with trends and create new ones. He likes writing, reading Manga, fantasy and professional literature in his free time.