The Perfect Job: Video Games Tester

Does your kid use the excuse that video games help his future at getting a job in the video game industry, or that there are so many people out there in the video game industry designing, programming, and testing games that he could easily get a job at it if he just worked harder at playing games.

Well, the truth is a bit different than the ideas many people have. Yes there are jobs out there for people that test video games. Yes they do sit all day and play, PC, console and handheld video games. But that’s it for the testers. Like so many jobs, it could be fun for a day or two but can you imagine being told to play a video game for the next six months and that’s it. Your not even able to choose the game, it might be one you have no interest in or a genre yo don’t like but your boss does not care. The game needs a tester and your it.

Some of the companies have their testers help and work closely with the designers, programmers and developers but others don’t. They play games all day and have no choice in the matter. There are a lot of video game companies and they all need their games tested but it’s not like many people think. A soda sitting on the side, the screen flashing and the noise with all the squeaks, grunts and groans of the current odd monsters getting bashed around as the guy in the fresh looking clean shirt plays and has fun at his job of playing video games.

Yes, I suppose the guy could look like this, but it’s probably his first week. The video game industry hires people to test their games and there are a few different types of companies that do this hiring. This is one of the important parts of the industry if your interested in a job like this. There are three basic types of jobs for tester, the tester that works for the developer of the video game, the tester that works for a publishing company and the tester for the reviews and guides.

The three categories or areas that testers work in are not the only ones and it is not as simple as saying it’s these three. But that’s the major types or categories and I’ll explain the differences. The first thing though is what is the job really, what do these guy’s do and why would my kid really want this kind of job, does he even know what this would entail?

You can tell him right off the bat about what a job really is, it’s doing what your boss tells you. I don’t care what the job or how much you get paid, either you’re the boss and you do what is required to get the job done, or your told by your boss what to do to get the job done. Any job is the same, whether you play video games or are a janitor. You do what your supposed to or you get fired. The job of video game tester is like any other, you do the job or your gone. You can like your job and enjoy what you do or not, but if you expect to get paid, you have to do your job.

Now on to what a video game tester is, I’ll explain how a game is made and where the tester fits in. When someone has an idea for a video game, the first thing that happens is the prep work for the game. What engine or program will be used, what is the story line or theme of the game. What will the game entail and what do we need to get the game off the ground. There is a lot of public opinion that is looked at the current video game craze is looked at and the future is guessed at to see if the game could make it big.

This is all paper work and done at offices at the video game companies. This is done by executives and company owners asking designers and programmers about what the game would do and they all ask the publishers what would sell in a year or two. That is how long this will take at a minimum. A video game is like publishing anything else.

The thing is made, which could take more than a year, it is then advertised and marketed. Hyped up and such but this also occurs during th design and creation process. News clips come out about the upcoming game and it is advertised. When the company making the game has actual video of the game they come out with screen shots to further entice the public.

When it is complete a company then publishes it and sells it to the public, using the media to sell the game and getting reviews from big magazines and online sites to further sell the game. Ads are created in an advertising department and put out in ways to promote the game.

There are testers in many of the stages of this process but they do not just play games, having fun and sipping soda as they blast their way to money while playing. A tester that works for the game designer and making company will work sometimes closely with the programmers and developers of the game, at other times they will give feed back and tips to the level designers and artists about what could be better and what just stinks in the game. They do not get a choice about what project they want or will play.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is over simplifying the whole field but can you imagine if your boss asked you every time what you wanted to work on?

Many people get to choose what genre or area of games they want to be involved with but sometimes they don’t have a choice. Some companies ask if a tester would want to work on this or that game this time around. But he sometimes does not get a choice. And that is the game he will work on for awhile, say a year or two. This is not industry wide but for the tester that works for a company that is making a game, the testers usually work on the same game for awhile, as one tester put it, “to know the game inside and out”.

A video game during the creation and design phase is being made by a group of people. The game has many areas that are separate but they all work on the same game.

Graphic artists make all the things you see. They use very expensive and large programs to draw and create the graphics and art of the game. So graphic artists need a variety of skills, they first and foremost need t be artists with a portfolio of their art, they need to be computer literate in the programs the company uses for their art and they need to be familiar with video games and how the art and graphics are used in them.

The programmer creates the game engine that runs the game or works on an existing engine to change it to the current game. They work extensively with computers and have a lot of skills with programming and computer languages. This job requires a lot of education in computers and math.

The level designer takes the game engine and creates the actual worlds that the game is played on or takes the game and makes the game play how the game shows up on the screen. He adds the things that the artists create and puts them in the game, he adds people or whatever and places them, gives them things to do, and gives the player the tools to play the game. This job is very difficult as you are the gameplay of the video game. These guys create how the game is going to run and how much happens to the player at every turn.

The tester works at seeing that the game runs fine and there are no problems in any area of the game, also known as glitches. Glitches are spots that disappear, cause the game to fail or other wise ruin the gameplay and need to be found and corrected. He also plays the game to make sure the game is playable and can be played for the general audience it is targeted for. He goes through every level and area of the game looking for glitches trying to make the game fail to make sure it doesn’t during real gameplay.

The tester can also be involved with the designers and artists to help make the game better. In some companies they work closely with them to help and improve the game anywhere they can. In other companies they do not work with them but are totally separate so that the game is tested without influence or hints from the designers. These are for types of games that require guessing or logic to figure out how the game parts are completed. These types of game require a tester that has to figure out how to do things in the game and they want to see how difficult the game is for them to get the right answers in the game.

The tester often has some input in the final game product when they work for the game company, at least in some way. They often give hints and tips about what could be better or look better in the game that is then implemented. The tester must know every part of the game to ensure it all works and that there are no problems with any part.

A tester that works for a publisher has a bit of a different job, he still tests the game but has no input for how the game is made. The game is already made and will not be changed unless there are major problems with it. The tester is merely trying to make sure that game is okay to publish and that the rating is consistent with what they have as far as the content.

The publisher is trying to make sure they sell a product that is good for their business and must make sure it is as they are advertising it, so the tester makes sure of all the possible things in the game work as they are saying they do.

For the tester this part of the industry is pretty straight forward, he test the game and writes down his findings and gives it to the boss. Nothing about what to change or what could be better, just does it work and how will it market.

The tester that works for a magazine, internet site or guides will have to play the game and see how it plays from the standpoint of the regular gamer. He will go through and point out the good and the bad and see how to actually win the game. He is not interested in what to make better only how much fun it is and how well they made the game.

For these types of jobs there are some different talents and education that are helpful. The tester that works with the company that makes the game will want to have some talent in computers and it would be helpful to have a background or knowledge in an area that the company uses to make the game. Programming in C/C++ computer language, 3D Studio graphics programs, video hardware knowledge and basic communications skills are all bonuses and can further the job opportunities of someone working in a video game company.

The tester that works for the publishers, magazines or internet reviews or guides will also find it beneficial to understand computers and will have to have some communication skill and English to write the story about the game and tell what the game does in a meaningful way.

For all these types of jobs, testers need to have a good background in computers, no matter if they are playing and testing for console games, handhelds or PC games. They will have to be using a computer to write their story about the game and communicate to the rest of their company or boss one a computer.

They also need to have good communications skills, not just be able to talk. They must be able to write effectively and put down in a clear understandable way what the game is doing and about the game, so English in school is important. The whole thing boils down to school, and high school diplomas are not going to cut it for a company that wants and needs educated and smart people working for them.

If all you have is a high school diploma, getting a job in the video game industry will be very hard. You need to have better education in areas such as, computers, English and math to do good at a job as a tester.

A video game tester is not just a job that plays video games, they test and play the game over and over to make sure all areas of the game work. They have to be able to play the game and write down in a clear, concise way what they are doing in the game in order for others to understand what they mean.

The job is not without it’s benefits, but for the long hours, especially towards a deadline, and low pay it’s not just playing games.

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