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Video Game Tester - A Game Tester's Typical Day

May 22, 2008
I wake up, go to work and play. Seems an odd comment from an adult, but sometimes you can arrange it. I'm a video game tester. Video game testing jobs aren't just about mouse and controller skills. The main characteristic needed is precision. But that's just the beginning.

You see, games aren't tested until there is enough complete to actually test. That's when the work really begins. I play the game and keep careful notes on everything I do. This is because some errors only show when specific steps occur in the correct sequence, so knowing what I did can help prevent lots of repetition. Some problems are easy to find and document. Others are subtler and require lots of time to learn what it takes to make the fault occur. All of this must be carefully recorded so the programmers can tell what the fault is and what makes it occur. They must also be checked against the list of known bugs to make sure no other game tester has already reported it.

It gets crazier. As the deadline approaches, the workload increases. Everyone has to work long hours, the programmers, artists and others work to complete the game, fixing bugs and trying to complete everything, which means the game testers work long hours testing every feature and characteristic of the game after each change is published. Normally the same video game testers will play the same game from the first point that it can be played until it goes gold, which means the game ships. We try to test everything you can do in the game, and we'll test each of those features a dozen times. Just coordinating the video game testers to divide up all of the tasks in a logical sequence is a serious job, much less trying to arrange that everyone get enough variation to minimize boredom.

When a game is ready to publish, many console manufacturers require a videotape of the gameplay before publication. Since the game testers are the most experienced players at this point, we are the ones who play the game through on tape. The pressure still isn't off, since an error means starting over again from the beginning. This is the point where you can earn bragging rights around the office.

Keep in mind, in-house video game testing positions are an entry-level job. This is normally where you work while you figure out of the industry is right for you, and the industry insiders decide if you are the kind of worker they want. The job rewards expertise, precision, meticulous attention to detail, endurance and the ability to handle stressed out people working long hours with short tempers.
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