A games tester is another one of those jobs where the title speaks for itself – the job entails the testing of computer games before they are released in order to spot any bugs that are present within the software and to suggest improvements to the gameplay before it goes on sale to the paying general public. Whilst no formal qualifications are necessary, knowledge of the market is essential and the role offers a good way to get into the industry.
Testers play games to their full, so a real love for computer games is key. We’re not talking someone who likes an occasional game of FIFA here, we’re talking you’ve completed every single side-quest and collected every Easter Egg in Grand Theft Auto 5 in order to get that 100% completion rate, we’re talking someone who’s explored every single cave and dungeon in Skyrim, we’re talking people who’ve collected all the feathers in Assassin’s Creed.
You have to really like computer games because to test them, you have to play out all the different storylines and work your way through all the open possibilities in the game. For games with a sand-box effect (as in you’re free to roam around), this means literally hours upon hours of gameplay, all played to strict deadlines and recording bugs and improvements as you go.
Salary & benefits
Starting salaries for testers range between £12,000 and £20,000 a year, depending on the company and the level of work, although this can reach as high as £30,000 with experience and a history of effective testing. The work is computer-based (as you might imagine!) but is also usually completed at an office (so it’s not all lounging around in your pyjamas at home).
Benefits range according to company, but we’re pretty sure at most of them you’d be gaining a few free copies – although you might not want to play them any more after playing out every scenario in testing!
The hours are long and often unsociable (evenings and weekends are common), especially in the weeks coming up to a release, because deadlines have to be met at these points.
Testing is a great way to enter the industry, especially if you’re not qualified in coding, programming or design, and a fantastic opportunity to become a part of a sector that continues to grow. Your skills on the console and knowledge of the market are enough to get you a job, although teaching yourself a bit about programming can do no harm to your chances!
Often you will have to prove your enthusiasm for the industry, and whilst a 100% completion rate on your PlayStation is one thing, it might be wiser to show this through attendance at expositions and shows (such as E3) and a knowledge backed up through reading around the subject. Placements are often useful ways of building contacts and securing yourself options, so get thinking early if this is a career path you’re looking to pursue.
Training & progression
Your skills are exceptionally niche in the market, and the best gamers are often self-taught, although honing your eye to spot glitches and bugs will be something a company can help you to do. You’ll also be trained in reporting these bugs through a database and helping to design strategies to test the game (often alongside other testers) to explore all the different routes the gameplay can offer in the quickest time possible.
At the Chartered Institute for Information Technology, they offer a Professional Certificate in Software Testing, which is certification of your skills as a tester. From here, there’s scope to move into programming and design, although you will need to undertake appropriate courses to make sure you’re equipped for these roles, as they require a niche technical skill that must be taught.