If you like playing video games, it’s natural to imagine game testing as a dream job. We asked Jacob Hazelquist, one of Volt’s Lead Recruiters for game testing, to provide a more accurate picture of what it takes to get into the industry – and where game testers can go from there.
What experience is helpful for getting into game testing.
I’ve seen a wide variety of people succeed in game testing roles. Everyone from a recent College graduate with a Computer Science Degree (or equivalent) to someone who has been working in a manual labor or retail position and looking for a way to get into the tech industry. I work with a wide variety of companies and managers and each has their own ideal candidate. Not everyone that applies to a specific game testing role will be a fit due to specific needs of each team.
That being said, there are some skillsets and characteristics that are common across all roles: strong written and verbal communication skills, excellent troubleshooting and problem solving, and demonstrated ability to work at a high level within a team environment while also able to be an independent contributor. Of course, and most important, being a huge fan of gaming.
Describe a typical day for a game tester.
This can vary widely depending on the specific team/project you are working on. I’ve placed some testers into roles where they literally are pushing buttons for an entire day waiting for an error to occur, and other roles where a tester is sitting right beside the game developers testing a game in real time as game code is being written.
There are some companies that work extreme hours in order to finish projects on time but from what I’ve seen over the years this is not as common as it used to be. There always will be crunch time where you can expect to work some OT, but extended periods of OT for months on end are not that common anymore.
Can game testing lead to other jobs within the industry?
Game testing can most definitely lead to other roles in the game industry. A common complaint that I hear from candidates is that “I can’t apply for this job because I haven’t worked in the industry for x years” or “I can’t get the experience because I can’t get the job to start with”. Game testing is one of the few roles in the entire tech industry where you can get a chance without the years of experience behind you.
That being said, just because you are working as a game tester doesn’t mean you’re going to be a game designing in 5 years. You need to continue learning new things and focus on skills and technologies that are relevant to the specific area in the industry you’d like to advance into. Work on side projects with friends or co-workers that will allow you to continue learning new things, continue taking classes to keep your knowledge current.
Are there any common misconceptions about the job?
The movie “Grandmas Boy” – game testing is not like that! You don’t play games as a game tester, you test them. It’s important to realize that game testing is still a job and like all jobs there likely will be certain things that are not fun to do.
If you could tell one thing to every potential applicant, what would it be?
Grammar check and spell check your resume. That’s a personal pet peeve of mine and many hiring managers I work with. Someone that applies for a testing role but can’t catch spelling or grammatical errors in their own resume is usually passed over. Writing bug reports is a large part of a game tester’s job, and developers and test managers don’t have the time to guess what you meant.
If you don’t have much work experience or previous testing experience, add a section to your resume towards the top that lists out your gaming experience at home. Things to list include gamer scores, favorite game(s), platforms you own or play on, PC hardware knowledge, networking experience and any other technical skills that would be relevant to the game industry. There are a lot of particular skills we look for, but enthusiasm still matters.