Playing Video Games For A Living Is Just As Terrible As It Sounds

Game testing and QA positions can be really rough jobs, as previous lawsuits and even a webcomic attest.

Though the testing process is vital to good game development, not all developers or publishers necessarily consider their testers to be vital employees, it seems. IGN spoke with several, recently, seeking to discover where, on the spectrum between dream and nightmare, the job truly lies.

Repetitious tasks and low compensation, the first two major issues IGN delves into, are sadly endemic to many a profession. But other issues raised by the interviewed employees don't just describe unpleasant working conditions, but occasionally dangerous ones:

For Frank, this meant mandatory overtime every day. "It got borderline illegal. It got to that point when I was so tired at three or four in the morning that I passed out a couple of times. Others did too and not anyone of us disturbed that person. We just let it go for a bit and brought each other back to life when we needed to."

Can workers in these positions agitate for change or switch employers? Not often, it seems. It's a small world and temporary employment contracts work in the employers' favor:

Reuben adds, "If management doesn't like someone, they just refuse to renew their contract, thus avoiding any hassle at all. This leads to people who start asking questions about workload and length to be branded as trouble makers and their contracts are simply not extended."

"The part that really hurts is that the industry is so small that if for some reason you are let go, most companies in your area know about it and won't hire you."

The combination of low pay, long hours, tedious tasks, and poor job security would naturally seem to drive away applicants. But particularly in recent years, unemployment has been riding high and even a crummy job can be better than no job. What's more, gaming is a very popular and competitive industry, and many workers want in. The allure of "playing games all day" will always attract new employees, even into high-turnover positions.

However, as in any other industry, some companies are better to work for than others. IGN cites organisations like Blizzard and Valve that value both the QA process and the contributions of the employees who make it work. If every publisher out there felt they had the time and money to devote more resources to testing, we'd not only have better working environments out there -- we'd probably have better games to go with.

The Tough Life of a Games Tester [IGN]

(Top photo: Shutterstock)

Comments

    Games testing doesn't seem so bad to me. Although I guess I'm still fairly new at it, so don't get asked to do the more complicated stuff some of the more senior guys do and/or stay back yet.

      I hope you dont mind me asking but how did you get into that sort of position/employment?

        Chance, really. Came across a listing on Seek, applied and scored an interview.

          cheers for replying. Wow, i figured you were a US commenter or something. Can you recommend any pointers to someone interested in this sort of work.? It is something that has intrigued me for a long time.

            Heh, don't think you'll find US commenters wandering around these parts too often :P

            I wish I could tell you something, I don't really feel like I'm all that helpful. I'm generally known for my joblessness, so I'm not exactly one to be giving out tips on how to get one. I guess in terms of performing the job itself, it helps if you're the kind of person who always picks at the little details in things and/or complains about them even if most would consider them inconsequential. Also some degree of meticulousness or a methodical nature would probably lend itself to the more monotonous tasks.

            I know I used to come across a few QA jobs on Seek now and then (back when I was actually bothering to look :P), I guess if you got a hold of one of those it would give you some idea.

              Thanks for the reply & information. I honestly believe I would fit into those sort of tasks/situations!

    I've always been told to stay away from games testing since I tend to go insane with repetitive tasks. Also probably the fact I think it would be something like "Grandma's Boy" doesn't help.

    I do software testing at work. While game testing might be more fun, I doubt it...

    I've got a long history of both game and software testing across many different companies in varying capacities (I'm also a software developer and do unit testing) and they're both pretty much the same in terms of what's expected of you and how the position is seen by the rest of the company. It's very rare to find a company that sees QA as more than just a necessary evil, and the animosity between developers and testers is often a very real thing.

    Some survival tips for the new tester:

    - Know a bit about everything. It does wonders for people's opinion of you as a tester if you can keep up with the conversation and provide intelligent input. It also makes you more valuable if you have other skills the company can use.

    - Write informative bugs. This is perhaps the most important thing. If your bugs are poorly written and no one can reproduce the issue then you aren't helping anyone. Be constructive and never, ever, ever be negative about a person or issue. It really doesn't end well.

    - Make sure it's something you love. I've tested a lot of different types of software and you will never enjoy crunch times or the day to day grind if you don't have a passion for what you're testing.

    - It's not playing games all day, it's playing the *same* game every day. Even then, it's the same section of a game for days in a row.

    Tips for developers:

    - Testers are a safety net, only for when you fall. Quite often the attitude is "Testing will catch it", so you are less likely to check for bugs before handing over a build. This overloads the testers and often builds will come back with obvious failures, leading to days being lost due to back and forth that could be avoided by doing a few simple tests before handing it to QA.

    - Have unit tests and CI. This way, as the codebase becomes more complex, you will catch bugs earlier and reduce the amount of regression testing that QA needs to do, reducing their workload and also allowing them to test your new code faster before you've moved on.

    - Make tools available to testers. Often code can be tricky to test because it relies on certain setups, or observing behaviour on a level lower than what the end user sees. If you devote a little effort to providing tools to the testers to allow them to test this functionality, they will be able to work more efficiently and provide more detail about what is really going wrong.

    - Testers are there to help. The most important thing is to take the viewpoint of testers being there to help you. When they report a bug, take it as a challenge to improve yourself and learn from your mistakes. Also, take the time to provide feedback to the tester so they know for next time what to look out for and other things they can look at. Testers aren't the little brother you have to take along because Mum said so, they are your sidekick and backup when things go wrong.

      Thanks for the information! As i stated in the above filed i have been intrigued by this line of work for some time now. However I dont know where to start :/

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