Computer Games Tester

The Job and What's Involved

Computer games testers play games in a systematic and disciplined way to ensure that bugs and flaws in a game are identified and addressed before it reaches the market.

The work involves:

  • Playing a game over and over again.
  • Testing different levels and builds (incomplete versions of a game used during the design process).
  • Anticipating different ways the game could be played.
  • Comparing the way the game plays with the designers' original intentions, and suggesting improvements.
  • Evaluating the game against those already on the market.
  • Testing for bugs and problems with graphics and audio.
  • Trying to work out what is causing particular problems.
  • Checking for spelling mistakes and copyright issues (such as logos on clothing or equipment).
  • Checking different versions of the game designed for different geographical regions.
  • Working with other testers to test multiplayer games.
  • Prioritising any issues that arise.
  • Documenting their findings using a software quality management system.
  • Working to strict deadlines.

As the work involves playing a game many times, even before the novelty has worn off, it can be repetitive. Strict deadlines mean the work can be pressurised, especially as the launch date approaches.

Games testers work in teams with other testers as well as programmers, artists and designers. Once the game is launched they may liaise closely with customer support teams.

Games testers work on average 35 hours a week. However, as deadlines approach they are likely to have to work long hours, including early mornings, evenings and weekends. Some jobs are offered on a short-term contract or freelance basis.

Testers are office based and spend much of their time sitting at a desk using a computer.

Starting salaries may be around £12,000 a year and the average salary for a games tester is approximately £14,000.
With experience this may rise to £18,000 or more.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Around 8,850 people work in the UK computer games industry. Computer games testers are employed by specialist outsourcing companies that test games for a range of clients in the UK and overseas. There are also opportunities with games publishers and games development studios.

Around half of the people working in the games sector are based in London and the South East, but there are also important centres in Manchester, Liverpool, Warwickshire, Dundee, Sheffield and other parts of Yorkshire, and Newcastle.

Over half of all males and one in four females play games regularly, and the market is likely to expand as new technologies are introduced that make games more exciting and realistic.

Candidates looking for their first job in the industry should be aware that competition is strong.

Vacancies are advertised through specialist recruitment agencies, on company website's, and in specialist games publications. The Skillset website has useful links to recruitment agencies and job website's (at www.skillset.org/games).

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements to become a computer games tester. A good standard of English is important, and many employers ask for GCSE's (A*-C) or equivalent in English and maths.

Knowledge of programming is useful and some employers prefer candidates who have a degree in computing or a related subject. The usual requirements for a degree are at least two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), or equivalent qualifications. Entry requirements may vary, so candidates should check with individual colleges or universities.

Testers working on games for overseas markets may need language skills. Candidates must also be able to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of computer games and the games industry. Relevant work experience can be an advantage.

Apprenticeships, leading to an NVQ Level 2 in computer games testing, are available. Contact Skillset for further details.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

The Diplomas in information technology, and manufacturing and product design may be relevant for this area of work.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most computer games testers train on the job through a combination of self-learning and mentoring from more experienced colleagues. There may be the opportunity to attend short courses to learn about technological developments and new software packages.

It is very important for anyone working in the computer games industry to keep up to date with technological developments and market information, and to update their skills throughout their career.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A computer games tester should:

  • Have excellent written and spoken communication skills.
  • Be persistent, patient and willing to play games for long periods.
  • Be analytical and methodical.
  • Pay close attention to detail.
  • Be tactful and have good negotiation skills, as not all of their suggestions will be welcomed by other team members.
  • Be confident using a range of software packages, including databases and spreadsheets.

Your Long Term Prospects

Becoming a computer games tester is a popular way of entering the computer games industry and skilled, experienced testers may be able to choose from a number of career development options.

It is possible to progress to quality assurance team leader or quality assurance manager, managing a team of testers and organising the schedule for testing.

It may be possible to move into other roles including level design, production management or marketing.

Testers with relevant skills and qualifications may be able to move into more specialised areas such as 3D modelling or programming.

Get Further Information

British Computer Society,
1st Floor, Block D, North Star House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1FA
Tel: 0845 300 4417
Website: www.bcs.org

e-skills UK,
1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR
Tel: 020 7963 8920
Website: www.e-skills.com

Skillset, Prospect House,
80-110 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1HB
Careers helpline in England: 08080 300 900
In Wales: 0800 0121815
Website: www.skillset.org

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