Does Being a Video Game Tester Actually Suck?

When asked what they enjoy most about being a member of the uTest community, testers regularly cite the variety of projects and the pay that comes with them. For proof on both fronts, you can check out the Paid Projects threads in the uTest Forums.

Unfortunately, variety and compensation aren’t always the good parts about being a tester. In fact, they can be the worst parts of the job. Case in point: The gaming industry. Specifically, video game testers.

What may seem like a dream job for many (wait, you’re going to pay me to play video games?) is actually something of a nightmare according to Jimmy Thang, a writer for ign.com. In his recent article The Tough Life of a Games Tester, Thang interviews game testers who’ve decided to break their NDAs and speak out against the tedious tasks, low pay, lack of respect and other plagues of their profession.

I highly encourage you to read the entire article,  but here are a few quick excerpts that I found interesting:

Tedious Tasks
While the job may sound like a dream come true, Reuben says it’s really not about getting paid to play games all day. “Imagine your favorite movie. Now take your favorite 30-second clip from that movie. Now watch that 30-second clip over and over again, 12 hours a day, every day for two months. When you’ve done that, tell me if what you’ve been doing is watching movies all day. I’m willing to bet you’ll find that it’s not quite the same thing…You get an area of the game, that’s your area, and you test everything about that one area for months on end.”

Poor Compensation
Companies often pay contractors a higher base pay in lieu of benefits, but Danny only made $10 an hour. Extrapolating this data, means the average salary for a full-time position is roughly a meager $20,800. The federal minimum wage is $7.25, but game-testers are information workers, not burger flippers. It takes skill and knowledge to test and judge a game.

Lack of Respect
While financial benefits are one form of compensation, Danny believes that respect is also severely lacking. “We deserve to be treated like regular employees, instead of someone you don’t invite to your Christmas party but then tell them to have their own last minute [party] in another building through the back entrance…True story.”

Still want to be a games tester? On a broader note, is testing this bad in other industries? As always, your comments are welcome.

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Comments

  1. says

    Hey There! Warren here,

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    Regurds,

    Warren Hollis.

  2. Derek whallon says

    If you work for the big name producers like I am wanting to work for Sony entertainment is that enable me to play on the new Sony systems. And I am also wondering if i have to buy a new system like if I work for them than can I get there system free or how does that work for
    example I really want the ps4 so if i work for Sony do I get that system for free or what I am not sure how that works and I was also wondering if you can work out of home. thanks please write back.

  3. Anthony says

    I actually work as a game tester and I love it. I have been doing it for a little over a year and its great. Maybe because I test sports games and theres a lot of different things a person can do with the sports game. And its also about the people you work with and I work with some awesome people.

  4. says

    I’m only 11 and want to be a videogame tester videogames are so amazing
    I wanted this job since I was six years old some day I will prove to my parents that I can do it.

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  6. says

    While you may not get rich off video game testing, if you enjoy playing video games, having your voice heard with regard to various aspects of game performance and of course want a fun and easy way to make a little extra cash…..then being a game tester isn’t a half bad way to go.

  7. says

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  8. rusty chehak says

    i am a tester its not even bad. You just have to be willing to stay at home for days and test. You make your own hrs. But you will have times when you need a computer Even if your testing xbox games like me.

  9. willie cintron says

    hey am in the ninth grade and i want to know where to go for game testing please iet me know so i can have a good career when i get to my last year

  10. jr0ck says

    I would love to break into this industry but no one wants to hire the guy with no experience. You have to start somewhere. I know that once I get in I could learn very quickly but I just need the opportunity. I live in Rhode island and we have no game companies in the state, especially after the 38 studios disaster. I’d be willing to relocate to anywhere if I got the opportunity.

  11. Theshowmustgoon says

    Wow, I always have dreamed of being a video game tester, yes I am a child for I am 14, but I have always had a passion for video games, but this really made me think.

  12. says

    ^Lol sorry but “i forget things easy” definitely is not a trait any employer is looking for, especially one who is paying you to test their product and find flaws (Which according to you, you will forget and not report).

    Word of advice: do not advertise yourself as a forgetful person, its just not smart.

    Also if your interested in getting into any field in the gaming industry I would recommend taking IT / Computer Information Systems classes, learn C++, Lua, Java, Visual Basics, get good at math, and if you want to be a animator or designer take some classes using 3ds max or similar program, some art classes might even help. Also get good grades, no employer is looking to hire that C student who forgets things easily.

  13. Tyler Baldacci says

    hey guys. Im in 10th grade and i would like to know what kind of classes i have to take to be a good game tester?? I would be great for a game tester becuz i forget things real easy so i could keep playing the same game over and over again.. Any help??

  14. says

    I was a videogame tester and lead tester for 3 and half years, but I was at the Loc QA part, so with everything that you say, but adding the part that the texts sometimes are translated by a dumb monkey who worked for peanuts, and you basically have to redo the whole translation. However, I understand that Loc QA is a bit less tedious as Func QA because we don’t concentrate on just one mission (for example) for a whole month, but rather we play the whole game once, and again, and again and in all different platforms (which, usually, are just ports from one platform to another, so you play the same game with different graphics). Ah, and testing PS3 HD games on a 90′s 12″ TV with tiny subtitles and having to make sure that all the VO appear in the subtitles, which I cannot even read because the developer decided that using the tiniest size of font was cool for a shooting game.

    Despite all that, I can say that I loved the job… sometimes. yes, you have bad days, but overall I think it is great to be a “part of History”. However, no, I wouldn’t go back now to full-time in-house tester just because they pay less than nothing. Now I work as a freelancer (games translator and tester) and I work, let’s say, half the time I was working before (and I was doing a lot of OT, believe me), and probably earning £10k more a year. So it is not worth it. However, if now I was to get an offer of, let’s say, £25-20k/year to be a tester, I would definitely go back. At least, for a year. Probably after 6 months I would be fed up again, though ;)

    Great article, btw. Will be checking your blog from time to time ;)

  15. Craig says

    Great article.

    @John
    @Fede

    I have been trying to get into the video game industry for quite some time, specifically software testing.
    Would someone who is or has worked as a full-time software tester be willing to Skype with me and describe how you came to be a tester? No more than 15 mins. I would be willing to purchase a gift card and send it via email mid-way through the convo, and I would very much appreciate the advice.
    Thanks!

  16. Mikee says

    I was a tester back in the 90′s, worked on the Space Jam video game for the Saturn. Even though I love Looney Tunes, I still have not seen that movie. Having to play that game for two months ruined the entire story for me.

  17. John says

    I still am working “in the industry” (this pompous expression makes is sound so empowering, doesn’t it?), and it’s no picnic..

    I work for one of the top five publishers in the world (no, not the worst one to be working with *cough*EA*cough*), but it’s still not a lot better..

    I think the movie clip metaphor lacks a major ingredient: you must watch that clip several hours a day for months at a row, but that clip will sometimes not run (crashes, etc), or there’ll be no sound, or it’ll just have a random actor shout obscenities in the background at the top of his lungs (various other issues), or maybe there’s a guy in the background that flashes you in the face with a flashlight (various graphic glitches).. or it’s suddenly the Rocky Horror Show, and the actors are twisting and curling their limbs in a very gruesome way mid-speech (ragdoll issues, animation, modeling, level design).. Or what if parts of their faces disappear during the romantic first kiss scene?

    It’s one thing having to watch a completed work, it’s completely different when having that extra stress of it being full of bugs..

    Oh! I almost forgot! You would NEVER want to work on a series that you love! For example, Assassin’s Creed (since there’s been so much hype lately with the third installment): if you loved the first ones, you’ll definitely want to stay away from the third! And spoilers are just the icing on the cake, the main problem is having to see it crawl to life, seeing all the bugs, seeing how good/great features are removed due to lack of time for development, et caetera..

    You just lose all interest about wanting to play it, it’s really heartbreaking.. I know life is not the same once you get started in the business, you can never play a game the same way as before, your tester genes take over, you start to see all the issues, even (as silly as it sounds) start to attempt to reproduce certain issues, instead of getting over it and enjoying the game.. But when you’ve worked on the latest installment of a series you (used to) love, it’s just over, you can’t enjoy it anymore.. You know all the shortcuts, you know all the bugs, you know the storyline to the point of repeating every movement of the characters..

    It’s over.. and a little piece of you crumples away, you are left wondering if you should pick up another series, or just watch a movie..

  18. Claudius Jaeger says

    For a lot of people, in particular adolescent males, one could hardly think of a job that a would be more FUN, at least in principle..

    Claudius Jaeger, rubber engineering

  19. Fede C says

    Ah! been there unfortunately, the movie clip paragraph tells it all. Is not as fun as most people believe, and you can have days were you really want to smash your head against the wall after testing the same section over and over again (on different difficulty, with different characters, etc).
    Deadlines are usually tight and well, payment and respect normally go low, as we end being the bad guys for Devs and producers.

    Overall it can be fun if you work in a relaxed environment, and a very good way to learn about testing :)

    Cheers!

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