For many, the idea of being a paid games tester seems like a dream job yet the reality is very different. The monotony of the task, poor financial rewards and lack of professional respect can quickly turn a dream into a nightmare. In the article below, we take a look at various aspects of the job and see whether the perks can outweigh the cons.
Although it might seem like one of the great things about getting to play video games for a living would be the variety, in fact this isn’t the case. Testers have to examine every facet of a very short gaming sequence for months on end in order to check its suitability and the novelty can wear off very quickly. Tasks range from counting the number of profanities that appear throughout the game, speak to all the characters onscreen and record their responses and document any bugs. The hours are long and the work can be tedious and repetitive; such hours also make it difficult to maintain a social life or establish a regular routine. It would also be wrong to assume that you will be testing games that appeal to your interests. As you will have to undertake whatever game is assigned to you it is important to be prepared to spend 60-80 hours a week testing a game you yourself would never play.
Furthermore, such jobs tend to be on a contractual basis and therefore offer no stability or financial steadiness. Because testers rarely interact with the production team it is far from the ideal job to break into the industry. An inability to network or be able to gain professional exposure is a large drawback for anyone hoping to set themselves up for life. Although the idea of being able to work from home might seem appealing, with no additional company benefits on offer and only an average salary provided, the knowledge and skill taken to be able to test and evaluate a game are rarely rewarded financially.
Perhaps strangely, it is often the case that very dedicated gamers do not make good testers. The job demands an ability to find bugs that hardcore gamers are less likely to see. It is also very important to have excellent communication skills. Once a bug is found, it must be tested, the conditions that expose it documented and a report submitted to the development team. Being a strong gamer who cannot communicate the intricacies of a glitch in the game, will see you overlooked in favour of better minds.
On a more personal level for passionate gamers, working in the industry subjects you to spoilers and it can be very disappointing to see the best aspects of a game stripped due to time or financial constraints. Also mixing your passion with your profession often makes it difficult to play games objectively any more as you can see the bugs and faults that make it impossible to immerse yourself in the game wholly.
Kenny Douglas is a software testing consultant who loves playing video games in his spare time, but sympathies deeply for the people who have to test them.