- Personality type:
- Testing, tuning and debugging a game and suggesting refinements that ensure its quality and playability
- Assuring quality in a game and finding all its flaws before it goes public
Is this role right for me?
To do this role, you will need to:
- be analytical and methodical
- have a good knowledge of games titles on the market so that you can evaluate a game against its competition
- have an understanding of how games are put together and how the different elements of a game contribute to the playing experience
- be able not only to identify and record a problem, but also to try to work out what is causing it
- have excellent communication skills, including tact in dealing with other members of the team
- pay close attention to detail
- be persistent and patient
- be able to play games for long periods
- have good negotiation and conflict resolution skills
- have a passion for game playing
- have knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures
What does a QA Tester do?
Quality Assurance Technicians, or Testers, perform a vital role. They test, tune, debug and suggest the detailed refinements that ensure the quality and playability of the finished game. They play-test the game in a systematic way, analysing the game’s performance against the designer’s intentions, identifying problems and suggesting improvements.
They test for bugs in the software, from complete crashes to minor glitches in the programme. They also act as the game’s first audience, reporting on its playability and identifying any aspects which could be improved.
Playing games all day for a living might sound like an ideal job, but this is in fact a highly disciplined role.
They are responsible for assuring quality in the final product and for finding all the flaws in a game before it goes public. They look for programme bugs - spelling mistakes, localisation problems (variations of the game are required for different territories), graphical or audio glitches, and also any copyright issues.
QA Testers must know which issues are the most important and be able to prioritise them for fixing. They work to deadlines and must understand production and marketing schedules. They normally use a software quality management system to document findings.
They work in teams, sometimes playing together on a multi-player game or a team might ‘own’ part of a game.
Testing involves playing a game over and over again, testing different levels and builds (incomplete ‘development versions’ of a game, sometimes with various features missing). The work can be repetitive and tedious, but Testers have to test long after the novelty and fun factor may have worn off.
They must be diplomatic when communicating with other team members and accept that they can have only limited influence over the game design. They also need to be able to anticipate different ways the game will be played, and test accordingly.
They might also have an on-going relationship with customer support teams once a game is launched.
Will I need a qualification?
You won’t need a specific qualification to be a QA Tester, although some programming knowledge or experience would stand you in good stead. A good standard of English (both written and verbal) is necessary in order to document your findings and communicate them to colleagues.
Above all, you must be an avid game player. You will need to be able to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the games industry, including the different platforms and games styles and genres on the market.
You’ll also need to be competent with IT, including the use of spreadsheets and database packages.
What’s the best route in?
Competition for this job can be quite high, but a successful work experience placement can be an effective way in. You could also work in computer games retail, as this provides useful background knowledge and an awareness of audience needs.
Where might the role take me?
You could become a QA Team Leader or QA Manager, managing a team of testers and organising the test plan/schedule.
You can progress into other roles such as level design, production management or marketing. To move into more specialist areas of game development you will need an existing skill or aptitude, such as 3D modelling or programming.
Interested? Find out more...
- 3DWorld - the magazine for SFX, TV production and game development artists
- BECTU - the UK's media and entertainment trade union, covering broadcasting, film, independent production, theatre and the arts, leisure and digital media
- Develop - the monthly magazine for European developers
- e-Skills UK - the Sector Skills Council for IT, Telecoms and Contact Centres
- Edge - the UK's self-styled bible for UK gamers
- Eurogamer - European-focused consumer website
- Gamasutra - website founded in 1997 that focuses on all aspects of video game development
- GameDev.net - online community for game developers of all levels
- GamesIndustry.biz - covering breaking news from the game's business
- IGDA - the International Game Developers Association, a global network of collaborative projects and communities comprising individuals from all fields of game development
- IGN - internet media and services provider focused on the video game, entertainment men’s lifestyle markets
- MCV - the weekly trade magazine of the UK games industry,
- TIGA - the Independent Games Developers Trade Association - non-profit trade association representing the UK's games industry
- Ukie - the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment - champions the interests, needs and positive image of the video games and interactive entertainment industry whose companies make up its membership