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How Video Game Testers Work

Is Video Game Testing a Dream Job?
Video game testers make sure games work properly like Grand Theft Auto IV.
Video game testers make sure games work properly like Grand Theft Auto IV.
© Cate Gillan/Getty Images

Would you like to become a video game tester? Some video game enthusiasts might think doing video game testing for a living would be a dream job, giving one access to the newest, cutting edge video games in production.

It's not all good, however.

Entry-level video game testers can be tasked with the most menial of hardware testing tasks, such as turning the game on and off hundreds of times and timing how long it takes to warm up. The pay can reflect this, hovering around minimum wage in some cases. Video game testers who work on contract for testing companies test other non-gaming functions, as well, such as downloading movies while playing games and using instant messaging software to communicate with other players during a game. These multi-tasking hardware-based operations need to be tested just like the higher functions in games themselves. This is often the realm of the entry-level tester.

Because game testers often work on alpha versions, the games might be sorely lacking in graphics. Sometimes, a tester is assigned to play one level over and over to work out the bugs. This can be boring.

Other times game testers are required to play long stretches of time with few breaks. Near the end of development, game testers are occasionally required to play the game for 24 hours straight as the company looks for any last-minute problems [source: Seattle Weekly].

Where new products and games are tested, security is extremely tight, and testers sign non-disclosure forms swearing them to secrecy about the new products they see and test. Companies that hire game testers take security very seriously.

But for those who stick it out, video game testing can be the first step into a serious career in game development, designing and marketing. More experienced testers can command higher salaries, with some making $100 per hour or more. They're employed testing newer products and higher gaming functions. Game developers value the input of an experienced, mature game tester. Coupled with some formal education, game testing can open doors as it shows the individual's willingness to learn from the grassroots level.

Such game testers need depth of knowledge and keen observations skills. They must be able to articulate problems they observe, which is important for the software engineers and animators. They need patience, stamina and a bottomless well of curiosity about what makes games work.

How do I become a video-game tester? Check out the next page to find out.