The goal of playing video games for a living often begins with becoming a game tester, whether you want to end up being a designer, programmer or executive producer. This is the best way to get your foot in the door and demonstrate that you can not only play games, but have a knack for attention to detail.
That’s exactly the advice of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 QA Project Lead Jeff Roper. “The basic characteristics managers look for would be a fundamental love and passion for video games,” he says. “Other important characteristics would be an eye for detail, critical thinking and the ability to stay focused throughout. Of course, being a team player and getting along with your fellow co-workers is also important.”
The problem with this entry-level position is that it’s difficult to track down using the over-searched word “video game tester.” Instead, look for “quality assurance tester” or “QA tester.” Go directly to companies, make as many contacts as possible and, as with any sought-after job, be persistent. Apply knowing that there’s more to being a video game tester than sitting in a beanbag chair playing through all of your favorite game franchises before they’re released. Games won’t always be part of your top ten list, you’ll test for hours on end and you’re typically limited to a single game until the end of its production.
“Testing is hard work and can often be tedious,” Roper points out. “Someone who expects to just play video games all day will be disappointed. Someone who realizes that testing is a serious job, with high expectations, will be much more successful.”
Being able to pick up on glitches is important along with communicating those mistakes that you come across. Solid verbal and written skills are a top requirement, so you can’t get by on your joystick prowess alone. Also, emphasize in a cover letter your ability to meet deadlines along with your passion for playing through the latest games. Finally, a word of caution: don’t fall for the dozens of scams out there that have you pay to learn how to become a video game tester.
These websites prey on the young and naive, claiming to teach you the secret of earning hundreds of dollars a day for what you do for no money at all. Being a real QA Tester sounds too good to be true as it is, but you should be able to tell the true job postings from the fake affiliate scams, right? Just hone those perceptive skills you’ll eventually need as a game tester.
Matt Swider has been writing about video games for 12 years and received his degree is journalism from Pennsylvania State University. Now based in Los Angeles, he is actively expanding GamingTarget.com and his freelance opportunities.
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