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Video game testers are game development quality control personnel who use close attention to detail and specialized bug-tracking software to test games during various stages of development to find flaws in programming, such as program glitches, broken applications, slow-downs, or non-functioning visual effects.
Contrary to what many believe, video game testers don’t actually play video games, they try to ‘break’ video games. When they move through a video game, they go through all the levels, all the menus, and use all of the different characters and options with the goal of uncovering, tracking and communicating flaws in the programming.
One of their main responsibilities is to use a game in as many ways as they can conceive, and perform actions that few users will ever make. Although this can be quite time consuming and monotonous, it’s essential to creating a technically flawless game.
Upon discovering and tracking flaws, they liaise with game designers and programmers to ensure that all of the glitches and bugs have been removed and re-tested prior to finalizing game development and ultimately publishing the game.
Generally, you don’t need a relevant degree to be hired as a game tester, as this is considered an entry-level role in the gaming industry. Some employers however, may require it, as they may prefer to hire testers with a deeper understanding of programming and game development.
Even if it’s not listed as a formal requirement for getting a specific job, earning a degree related to game development can do a lot for your career: it can help you stand out from a sea of applicants, it can help you qualify for better pay, and most importantly, it can open doors to more prominent positions in the gaming industry, such as Game Designer, Developer, Audio Programmer, Game Animator/Artist, or Producer.
If career advancement in the gaming industry is something you’re interested in, earning a degree in one of the following areas can greatly improve your chances of doing so:
• Game Design
• Game Development
• Software Design/Engineering/Testing
• Computer Science/Programming
• Graphic Design
An education in any of these areas will give you a much better and deeper understanding of how programs and coding come together to make games function and behave as they do, and some may also involve theoretical and artistic concepts like colour composition, image balance, texture, or user behaviour.
You will need to show:
• technical ability, in particular familiarisation with a range of software packages and/or programming languages;
• the ability to work in a team and liaise with other professionals to complete the complex games;
• self-motivation and the ability to work independently on your own projects;
• creativity and problem-solving ability;
• communication skills;
• flexibility to meet deadlines and client requirements;
• enthusiasm for the games industry.
A common entry route into games development is to begin as a quality assurance tester. You can then progress to a lead tester role within a few years and potentially move on to the design or production side or into management.
Entry is also possible straight into programming and design or artist roles, although previous experience is usually preferred.
Career progression within games development is relatively fast. Many who enter the industry at junior level end up at lead level within five to seven years and can reach senior level within their first ten years. Senior-level positions include technical directors, developers, producers and team managers.
ARE YOU FIT FOR THE JOB?
Determining if a career field suits your personality as well as your professional ambitions is crucial if you plan on staying in that field for more than a few months. Take a look at the ideal traits and interests of a game tester below; if they describe you, then it’s likely that you’re well-suited for this field:
• You have a knack for visual details
• You have a strong work ethic (this work isn’t as easy as it sounds)
• You can tolerate highly-detailed, very repetitive and often monotonous work
• You can, and are willing to stare at a screen for long periods of time
• You’re interested in a career that offers the potential to work from home
• You can work effectively as part of a team, and can take direction from a supervisor
• You’re willing to put in the extra hours during crunch time to meet deadlines
• You’re interested in being introduced to new games months or even years before they come to market
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