[Game Career Guide here presents an extract from Luis Levy & Jeannie Novak's book Game QA & Testing, a guide to entering the industry through the "traditional" route -- becoming a game tester. This helpful chapter provides information on how to really get in there and get the job.]
Getting a job in game testing is far from difficult -- but getting a good job is! Before jumping head first into job hunting, you need to assess your options. Will you immediately apply for a job as a game tester? Will you be a step ahead of the competition by working on projects such as mods before you begin hunting? Or will you take some time to learn and hone new skills by taking game development courses or even enter a degree program in game development? This chapter will also discuss what you need to do during the job application process -- and how to conduct yourself during the interview. At that final point, you will need to plan your strategy before facing the interviewer -- your personal "mini-boss" of sorts!
Key Chapter Questions
What are different ways that prospective testers can research and apply for available testing positions?
How can a prospective tester get noticed by game development studios and publishers?
What are some educational opportunities for those interested in pursuing careers in game testing or the game industry in general?
What are some requirements for an effective cover letter and resumé?
How can a candidate for a testing position prepare for an interview at a game developer or publisher?
Get Yourself Noticed!
In order to start working as a game tester, you first need to get noticed. This does not translate into coming up with a rushed resumé full of gaming references. Instead, use the proper channels. If you're technically inclined, you might want to consider creating a mod. Participation in game forums, on the other hand, is the choice of those who are adept at expressing themselves through writing. An always helpful addition to any job hunt is attending industry conferences such as the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles. We'll also describe other, less conventional ways of getting hired as a tester. While none of these methods are guaranteed, the novelty factor alone might be enough to get you through the door.
Modding involves using a game's assets -- such as textures and geometry -- to create mods, or modifications of the original game. "Partial conversions" are superficial changes (e.g., new character skins, altered weapons values), while "total conversions" involve creating an entirely new game using the engine originally shipped with the game. Modding came into the spotlight with the first Doom, when id Software allowed players to make their own maps and exchange them over bulletin board systems (BBSs), early methods of exchanging files and chatting online -- and later, the web. Once Quake was released, id went one step further and shipped the official level editor with the game -- giving a boost to the modding scene. Valve and Epic followed suit a few years later, with both Valve and Unreal engines becoming extremely popular among PC users. Modding is a great way to get your foot in the door. The team that created Counter-Strike was originally hired by Valve after developing the extremely successful mod with Valve's Half-Life engine. Many of the level designers in major franchises such as Quake and Call of Duty come from modding as well.
Participating in a site such as MODdb.com can help you get your foot in the door through modding.
Get Moving & Make a Mod!
Pick a popular game, make sure the publisher supports modding, and start working on a single original level or multiplayer map. This will become your demo and the key to getting hired. If you lack scripting skills, why not join a modding group as an artist, designer, or other team member? Working as part of a team will not only be much easier, but it will also better prepare you for the studio environment.
Beta testing is sometimes regarded as a long shot, but it just might work for you. The idea is to enroll in the open beta program of a game you love and be exceptional at it. You're supposed to prove yourself to the developers through thoughtful suggestions, detailed bug reports, and pristine behavior in the game's forums. A developer might very well spot you among thousands of users and offer you a job. It sounds too good to be true, but we know from personal experience that it can work.
It might be possible to get noticed by the dev team if you participate wisely in open beta testing for titles such as Cartoon Network's FusionFall.
"I look for testers who are gamers first. I like testers who have opinions about the game. As a designer, this provides me with great feedback. However, I try to stay away from gamers that feel as though they know everything there is to know and whose views are not 'malleable.'" - John Comes (Creative Director, Uber Entertainment)