The video games industry is a multi billion dollar per year industry. If a game is released with bugs, glitches, and errors, it will cost the game publisher money. Bad reviews in gaming magazines and negative comments on internet gaming websites and forums will result in a huge loss of sales for a games publisher. The Video game tester, more commonly known as the QA tester (QA = quality assurance) is employed to find these bugs, glitches and problems before the game is released so that they can be fixed by the programmers. This ensures that the final game released to the public is polished, playable, and gets good reviews and feedback. Good reviews and feedback = more profit for the games publisher. Video game testers are the last line of defence against bugs and glitches.
Unfortunately, games publishers are not going to pay you money to just play the games the way you play them during your leisure time. You will be working on a particular project with set parameters, where you will be testing very specific areas of a particular game. This is where the video game tester, or QA tester, earns his money. You will be in essence, attempting to “break” the game.
For example, I once worked on a first person shooting game, testing one particular level. I was testing the boundaries, which involved running into walls, objects, and other supposedly impassable barriers at different speeds and different angles to see if I could get through. I would also shoot at the walls and objects with different weapons, and try to climb the terrain to get over the boundary. This particular project was designed to ensure that the boundaries where solid, and walls and objects reacted the way they were supposed to when under fire.
Other examples of projects are testing a track in a racing game, driving round it in different directions, at different speeds, crashing into the boundaries, and generally trying to wreak havoc and find something that wasn’t supposed to be there.
Other things you will be looking out for when testing a game are that all the levels load correctly, in game items weapons and objects work as they should, and weather effects and game graphics are displayed correctly. You will have to keep your eyes open to spot anything out of the ordinary or problematic that may negatively affect the customers gaming experience.
Essentially, you will not be playing the game for personal fun or enjoyment. You will be conducting yourself in a thorough professional manner, following your project guidelines, and thoroughly testing every aspect of the game as stated in the project. As you may have realised, this can become very repetitive. You may have to play the same part of the game over and over again spending hours upon hours testing every minute detail laid out in the initial project. You may find that by the time you have finished working on a particular game, you never want to play it again! It’s not uncommon for a video game tester to rack up hundreds of hours of testing on one game alone. Only passionate gamers need apply!
Once a bug has been found, the video game tester will have to complete a short report on the bug, including details of how it was located, and how often it occurs. Each bug is classified according to its seriousness – how negatively it affects the gaming experience. Games crashing and freezing is the most serious category of bug. On the other end of the scale are bugs that may be down to personal opinion, for example a video game tester thinking that a particular graphic “doesn’t look right” or an animation that seems odd or out of the ordinary. These more minor bug reports may have no action taken against them, but the more serious bugs will get near immediate attention from the programmers.
The database of reports is consulted by the programmers again, bugs are fixed, and the game is then retested. The process continues to repeat until no more major bugs are found and the game is deemed worthy for release.
And that is the main bulk of a video game tester’s work – receiving a project, playing the game repeatedly, and compiling reports on any bugs discovered.