So You Want To Be A Video Game Tester?

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The idea of being forced to test out video games all day sounds like the perfect career for most people. The truth is, according to Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) Senior Release Manager Brent Gocke, all the rumors are true: It’s the dream job for someone who wants to break into the industry.

“If you enjoy tinkering and trying to break things, video game testing could still be potentially a route for you,” he said. “It’s for someone who is meticulous, someone who enjoys games and is passionate about playing these things and the different possibilities.”

Video game testers work in the game development department and test titles to provide quality control for the games. According to Game Developers 7th Annual Salary Survey in 2008, testers start out making $10 – $12 an hour, averaging $25,000 for the first three years and eventually earning about $43,000 with over three years of experience. Testing leads, people who worked as a tester for over six years, could expect a salary of $71,000 a year. Video game testers, who  tend to be in the 18 to 35 age demographic, are essentially asked to “break” the game, and find all the bugs and software defects so these errors don’t come up during normal play when the title is released. Depending on your strengths, you could be asked to do a number of different tasks from playing the game through as fast as possible to see if it works to trying the same level over and over again for glitches to trying to load all the different possibilities. Working for a big company like Activision or Sony Entertainment can pretty much ensure big titles to work with, but smaller companies might give you titles that you necessarily wouldn’t want to play. “You might get sick of running through the same level for the fifteenth time,” Gocke said.

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It’s perfect for the person who loves playing games, Gocke said, and can detail their experience to developers. Video game companies put a lot of money into each title, and they expect their QA testers to find all the problems so there aren’t big issues at the last minute when they are trying to publish. He explained it’s also a great way to see the different careers within the video game industry, which is perfect for someone who knows they want to work in gaming but doesn’t know exactly what they want to do.

Gocke himself found himself in that scenario. A fresh college graduate who had started working in real estate, around the mid 2000’s he found the market tanking and knew he needed to transition into a new career. He enjoyed playing video games so he tried to enter through the quality assurance (QA) department as a video game tester so he could learn about the industry. He didn’t have the qualifications that game developers and producers had, and QA positions had the least amount of prerequisites. Gocke went straight for Sony and the big publishers because he knew he was looking at this as the entry-level position in a lifelong career. Eventually, he grew within the company and ended up as a senior release manager, gaining experience and contacts as we went up the corporate ladder. “You can get a foot in the door and learn about the industry and the different positions or stay in the industry and move up in QA through management,” he said.

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