Let’s talk about the job of game testing. What is it? What does it involve? Why do people choose it?

Game Testing is a necessary part of video game development that aims to search and report bugs or glitches in said software. Contrary to the popular belief, this is not done by playing the game at your own leisure. The process involves doing repeated actions until something breaks and then the tester must note the conditions in which the game broke and in what way. For example, they don’t have to just play through the entire game, they have to try on every suit of armor in a fantasy game to see if it has any visual glitches, crash into everything in a car racing game or even actively try to cause a glitch or a bug by doing specific tasks. Their role in the game development process is crucial, because without game testers to find problems in the game, the team of developers would not be able to find the issues their game has. Even though a video game goes through multiple rounds of testing, because of how complex they are nowadays, some minor bugs or glitches might still slip into the final product. There have been recent cases like Cyberpunk 2077 or Battlefield 2042 where on release the product had so many problems that it was almost unplayable or at the very least provided a very poor experience for the player. In such events, the testers are not at fault, as they just find the bugs and report them to the developers who are expected to fix them. This may happen due to various reasons like time constraints or poor management, to name a few.

Photo: Yan Krukov/Pexels

What kind of people would sign up to play video games 8 hours a day in this almost robotic manner? Gabriel Cubițchi, a game tester, provided me with answers. He says: “There are mostly two kinds of people that choose this job, the actual gamers who come and do it because they like it and the people that see this as an opportunity to enter the IT industry in one way or another and consider that it’s not that hard to play some games and write some stuff in Excel in English”. Gabriel has been playing video games ever since he can remember, so naturally this job was an easy decision for him. Even though the salary is entry level (according to undelucram.ro a game tester salary can start from just under 1700 lei a month and after a few years of experience can go as high as 3000 lei a month) the fact that you don’t have to wake up to do something that you hate and dread every hour you spend at your job is a very big bonus. On the other hand, he says that non-gamers will find it difficult to keep up with everyone else because they lack terminology and game knowledge.

A problem emerges eventually though: this job will drain the joy of playing the game you are working on. “A side effect of this job is that you can get fed up with video games, because you are doing the same thing again, and again, and again. That’s why I didn’t get to play games that much in my free time lately,” says Gabriel. At first, many believe that it’ll be exciting to test the newest upcoming releases, but if you are assigned to a project and you have to stick with it from the very beginning until the moment the game is ready to be sold, you are going to know every nook and cranny of it. As a result, this steals your feelings of new and wonder towards those games and you have nothing left to play in your free time, or don’t feel like playing more games since that’s what you’ve been doing the whole day already.

Photo: Soumil Kumar/Pexels

The process of testing a game can get very boring. A team of testers is assembled, and they receive the game in its earliest stages and sometimes a list of tasks they have to do in order to find out any problem that might occur. Other times, the team is allowed to go ham and try to break the game however they see fit. The second, says Gabriel, “is fun just for a short while, because there are only so many things one can do to break the game so you can’t do a variety of things, compared to when you have a list of tasks that walk you through the whole game, so you have some diversity, not just doing the same thing over and over. It spices things up.”

Just like any job, this one can also be stressful, and Gabriel had the chance to experience this side of it firsthand during his time as a lead tester. When you are put in this position you don’t get to play the game as much if at all. Instead, you get to manage a team of testers and make sure everyone does their job correctly and that the needs of the client are satisfied. As anyone can imagine, this will put you under a lot of pressure since you are responsible for the actions of the whole team, so if someone makes a mistake, it’s your mistake too.

A very interesting aspect of game testing is how secretive the whole business is. As an employee, you are not allowed to divulge any information about what you are working on. Even the sanctions for doing so are not meant to be known by outsiders, but Gabriel assured me that in the case of information leaking, the repercussion is very pricey. This is a very serious matter because leaking anything can hurt the sales of the game meaning the company that is making the game will lose money because of you.

Photo: Alena Darmel/Pexels

But the people you are going to meet in this line of work can make it worthwhile. Everybody knows the importance of a good work environment, and you can find exactly that here. Most of the people working in such a job are gamers, so naturally, if you are one, you’ll fit in perfectly. But even if games don’t interest you that much, you can still have fun while working. One such occasion has stuck with Gabriel: “One day we were tasked to see if we can break the multiplayer component of the game. So, we had the whole team split into several smaller teams and we had to play against each other. What was before a calm and peaceful Friday morning, transformed into an all-out war. From colleagues we became enemies, we started using tactics to distract the other teams, doing everything we could so that we were the winning team.”

At one point, Gabriel had a colleague who was in his 40s, which is unusual because people don’t usually tend to stick around game testing that long. Most of the time, after getting some years of experience in this field you would start looking at other career options. “Working as a game tester, as I said before, opens the doors to the IT industry for people with no previous experience in the industry. I’ve met people that went from being a game tester to a game developer, concept art designer, environment designer, or any other position available in a game development team.” Such a situation often occurs while working in a company that also develops games, such as Electronic Arts or Ubisoft. Gabriel also mentioned a more straightforward path, continuing on the testing side of the industry and reaching a position in software testing where you will test various websites or applications or a position of automation, which consists of creating ways to test a product with as little human input as possible. “I want to accumulate as much experience as I can here in this company, and later on try to apply for another QA position in a company that also has in-house development, later on applying for a game designer position. I also try and learn as much as I can regarding this field in my own free time,” says Gabriel.

Main photo by RODNAE Productions

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