The gaming industry has been booming over the last few years with more and more people wanting to get involved in some way, shape or form. Everyone immediately thinks about those who create and develop games. Or even those who play them professionally within eSports or streaming. However, it can sometimes be overlooked that these games need to be tested rigorously before they are released to the world. This is where those with QA tester jobs come in.
In this article, we’ll explain how you can become a QA tester and work your way into this ever-growing industry.
Be sure to stick around until the end so you don’t miss out on any key information!
A QA tester, or Quality Assurance tester, is tasked with looking at and testing a software product. They look specifically at locating and highlighting any defects, issues or bugs.
QA testing is vital to the entire process of releasing a new product. Additionally, it is an important part between the manufacturing and the distribution of it. Whether it is testing a new game, a new program, or a new device, extensive QA testing allows a company to better reduce and minimise performance issues on release.
QA testers are needed to use a keen eye and pinpoint even the smallest or most obscure of potential issues or bugs.
A QA tester is a somewhat understated role, but they certainly contribute immensely towards the whole process. Not having one involved could have catastrophic consequences. The variety of things that must be looked at, analysed and tested repeatedly is staggering.
Despite this volume, it is all necessary in ironing out any creases in the leadup to getting the final product.
It is important to note that the QA tester role generally has the same basic responsibilities across all fields. However, a software QA tester may have more in-depth and subject-specific criteria than a games tester. Let’s go into a bit more detail.
First and foremost, a QA tester needs to try out the product in question. With software products, the tester will run various tests to ensure the software meets that all specifications and requirements.
Any issues that are encountered are to be flagged and fixed by running debugging programs. This process is generally repeated several times until all issues are fixed.
With video game testing, this requires repeating every aspect of the game and perhaps adapting to different play styles to check everything.
The mindset that a QA tester should have is that they need to think outside the box and essentially try and break the game.
When encountering issues, bugs and defects, a QA tester must record all the details. QA testers must provide an outline is of all the issues they face and the steps they take to resolve said issues.
This information can then be stored and applied in the future. This prepares them incase similar problems arise again, so they can resolve them quickly.
This is the same with video games testing, noting error codes and reporting them to bug tracking software. If you are starting from entry-level, this would likely be the part of the role that would be new to you. However, it is easy to get into a system of managing it.
Experienced QA testers can also be a valuable asset when it comes to the software development process.
Working with developers and alerting them to potentially problematic situations regarding issues and risks. Having someone to highlight these before they become too much of a problem, can make for a more efficient process.
Slightly misleadingly, game testing isn’t necessarily as straightforward as just identifying your game and playing through to test it.
There are actually several types of QA testing, different ways of approaching the whole testing process.
Certain companies will either use all of or specific combinations of these testing checks in order to meet their goals.
Functionality testing is essentially working to identify bugs or errors, ensuring the game is working according to the specifications. It involves looking at gameplay, graphics, and audio-visual issues, which can be quite time-consuming.
However, determining what makes a game freeze, crash or suffer issues in performance is something that needs to be identified as soon as possible in the game-making process. This is so that it can be fixed by the time the final product is released.
Combinatorial testing focuses on errors that generally arise as a result of two or more parameters being used together.
It is important to identify distinct attributes that can be varied and to recognise the various potential combinations.
Other techniques tend to be more specifically focused or structured. On the other hand, Ad Hoc testing basically involves testing random parts of the product, with no pre-planning involved. You can only meticulously plan something so much and sometimes a fresh, simpler approach can help identify new results.
The randomness of it can mean it might be difficult to reproduce the defects once solved. Despite this, it can still prove useful and effective.
Compatibility testing is a bit more self-explanatory. It focuses on the product and whether it meets the requirements of software, hardware, and graphics.
For games that are designed for multiple consoles, compatibility testing is vitally important in determining that all versions are at the same level of quality.
Clean room testing is essentially ensuring that the gaming software is all working consistently and is reliable. Cleansing the product of errors and defects is its main concern.
While testing is usually focused on new additions to a product to assess functionality, regression testing looks at consistently retesting unchanged parts of the software. It might seem like wasting time but you should never underestimate the fact that new changes elsewhere could impact parts that have already been perfected.
This technique is all about repetition so you should be aware of what bugs and defects could arise so solutions can be applied quickly.
Then comes the performance testing. Attempting to run the product in an environment as if you were a user in real-time scenarios can help you understand if the product is functioning smoothly.
Additionally, it will help identify any performance issues with graphics, which can be addressed later.
Acquiring a QA certification could be your way to start, although it doesn’t give you any guarantees. While it would certainly help you stand out and push up the queue, you don’t necessarily need a QA testing certification to become a QA tester.
Personal traits and skills can be enough in some cases and additional qualifications certainly give you an increased chance of landing the QA testing job that you want.
With the higher-paying software QA testing jobs, employers seem to prefer candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree. This should be in something relevant such as Computer Science or Engineering. It is rarely labeled as a necessity but possessing a degree in a related field would definitely stand you in good stead.
Video game alpha testing and beta testing tend to be a bit more accessible. In some cases, employers may want a GCSE or A Level in IT but generally, computer and analytical skills alongside a passion for video games are what they look for.
However, there are still viable options if you wanted to go down the education route before pursuing game testing. Ultimately, the resulting qualifications could be the determining factor of getting you a job over someone else in the future.
One option could be looking at doing a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree course in computing games design or programming. This would likely need relevant A levels or equivalents from college courses.
A software testing course could be a good place to start. Or perhaps an A level in Computing, a level 3 Diploma in a subject like Creative Media, or a T level in Digital Production, Design and Development are all examples of qualifications that could help to move you on to a university of course. Alternatively, it could even stand you in good enough stead to start as a junior tester.
There are even more alternatives, with taking a QA testing course from a site such as Udemy being a viable option. This provides you with some great background knowledge from someone normally who performs at an expert level.
So what analytical and other skills do you need if you don’t have any qualifications? For QA tester jobs in general, there are a lot of traits and skills that you need to possess or at least be able to develop in order to achieve and thrive in the field.
Attention to detail and problem solving are the main vitally important skills that you need. The whole purpose of the job is to assure quality. This can only be achieved if every aspect is thoroughly analysed and overturned. Searching for errors, bugs or anything that it isn’t good enough to make it in the final product.
Successful QA testers are detail-oriented in this regard and are very self-motivated which are the skills required for system testing. In addition, they are adaptable enough that they can work closely with others but also thrive working independently.
That could be enough to earn you an entry-level job within video game testing, but to get into a higher-earning role without a qualification, you will definitely need to have some more experience with testing programs, generating reports and identifying bugs.
A typical salary for QA tester jobs can vary drastically based on specifics in the role or more importantly experience amassed with testing. In the UK, the average annual salary for entry-level video game testing is anything between £15,000 – £18,000. However, there is plenty of room to grow from there, with more experienced game testers earning around £40,000 annually.
There are two kinds of contracts available for freelance testers: an hourly rate, or a fixed cost per project. In the USA, numbers suggest that a beginner tester will be on $8 – 10 an hour but this can go up to as much as $40 for experienced professionals.
A fixed cost will more often than not depend on the difficulty of a project and how much work needs to be done. The tester must always consider this before taking on or applying for such a job, as ultimately it needs to be worth the time and money.
QA testing within software development is where the big money is, with many software publishers being among the top paid in the industry in the USA. California is one of the top states in the USA for QA tester mean annual wages (reportedly $120,000 – $128,000).
As with most job-searching, the internet is your friend. Setting up a LinkedIn is the logical first step and making sure you get notified about any relevant available jobs. Communities within LinkedIn and forums, in general, are also a great resource to find and meet others.
You can connect with people either looking to break into testing like you or looking to help out like-minded individuals. Should you happen to already have any friends or acquaintances that work or have worked in the industry, definitely seek them out and ask them for advice.
When first browsing sites like Indeed and Glassdoor, narrow your search criteria so you are looking for exactly what it is that you want. Do you have prior experience in testing, or should you be realistic and apply for entry-level QA tester jobs? Do you want to look at remote QA tester jobs or do you want to apply to somewhere that would require you to travel? A working from home QA tester job is a great way to ease your way into the industry.
Keep an eye out for each QA tester job description and read it thoroughly because it is more than likely that each company’s role will differ slightly.
Whether you have dreams to make your way into the games industry or to try your luck with climbing the ladder within software testing, you should now have an idea of where and how to get started.
It all starts with you and how much you want to work for it, but it is achievable. Good luck!
If you liked this article, why not check out another on our blog! We recommend, Game Designer Guide: How To Become A Video Game Designer, Esports Team: Our Guide On How To Make An eSports Team, and What Musicians Can Learn From The Video Game Industry to get you started!
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