Video Game QA Engineer

Patrik_Degerman+Playstation

There are so many different titles that can be applied to a video game tester. As a video game tester I was called: Game Tester, Video Game Tester, Lead Tester, Video Game Test Engineer, Video Game QA Engineer, QA Tester, QA of Video Games, Manager of Video Game QA, and QA Manager. These are the many name titles for someone who tests video games. It makes me laugh. I don’t know of any other position in the video game industry that has so many titles. It’s as if video game testers are trying to reinvent themselves.

Whatever the title is it still boils down to the same thing, you test video games for a living. Though that may seem like a cool job to play video games all day, it’s really as diverse a job as all of the name titles. The biggest misconception is that you get to play video games all day. Not true! You spend a lot of time testing one or two aspects of a particular section of a video game or spend hours doing one particular thing to reproduce a bug. You also spend a lot of your time, about 40% writing and re-writing bug reports and test case scenarios.

BEST WAY TO DESCRIBE WHAT TESTING IS ALL ABOUT

I read an article from another veteran video game tester that described the video game tester experience perfectly. He said, “Imagine your favorite movie. Now take your favorite 30-second clip from that movie. Now watch that 30-second clip over and over again, 12 hours a day, every day for two months. When you’ve done that, tell me if what you’ve been doing is watching movies all day. I’m willing to bet you’ll find that it’s not quite the same thing…You get an area of the game, that’s your area, and you test everything about that one area for months on end.”

Staring_eye

That describes video game testing perfectly! You are constantly staring at the video game screen at the same scene over and over again trying to find a problem, What makes that scenario even worse is that you could be testing a game that is not in your favorite genre. Imagine that your favorite genres were shooters and sports games. But now you are testing a Barbie dress-up game all day, every day for months. Does that sound like fun to you? I have had people come up to me and beg me for a job to be a video game tester and I would always warn them, “it’s not as fun as you think it is.” They always say that they know and they can handle it. Then two weeks later they are looking to quit. LOL

Being a video game tester or any other title you want to attach to your profession is NOT a fun and cool job in the sense of sitting all day and testing a game. Yet you see and read these ads online or in magazines making it sound fun and glamorous. It’s a job! A very stressful, time consuming, low paying job! You better be mentally strong with good writing and grammar skills before you apply for a career as a video game tester otherwise you will be looking for another job real soon. Just because you are good at playing video games doesn’t mean you are video game tester material.

RACING GAME 2

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

The picture above is a close example to what kind of view the game I describe below had. This is not the same game. The game I describe below is no longer on the website. – Here’s a Q and A example of how you would go about testing a racing video game that is at Beta stage. Beta is when a game is complete and ready for testing.

Q: How do you think the game should be tested? – Race around and see how many times you can win the race?

A: No! Race around once and see if it registers an ending of the race. If you saw no glitches while racing then start another race and keep crashing your car into the wall (if it is a track that has walls or a guard rail). Keep doing it in various areas.

Q: Why should you do that?

A: Because you might be able to drive through the wall and cause the game to crash. I was testing a NASCAR style racing game for the ESPN Arcade website once and I started doing that and I found 3 areas along the outer wall where you could drive through. Then all of the graphics turned to all pink with just my car in the center of the screen. After about 5 seconds of that the game crashed.

Q: How would you go about testing collisions with other cars?

A: The obvious way. When passing another car turn into it and body slam it. Or ram into it from behind. See if you can push the car in front or next to you into the wall or another car. Then there is my favorite. Turn around and race into oncoming traffic and hit the cars head on at full speed. I found two bugs in that same ESPN Arcade racing game doing this. 1) I was able to drive straight through the cars when hitting them from the front but not from the rear or sides and 2) I was able to complete a 4 lap race by driving the wrong way.

Q: If there is an accident with two race cars up ahead in the track right at the Start/Finish Line, how would you test that scenario?

A: Either drive around them…duh or plow right through them. Better yet if the game has a Pit Area, most tracks in real life with a Pit Area have them adjacent to the Start/Finish Line, drive through the Pit Area to avoid the accident. I did this in that racing game and when I crossed the horizontal line of the Start/Finish Line while in the Pit Lane it recorded me as crossing the actual line. That was another bug I found. The game should not have registered me crossing the line while I was in the Pit Lane.

GAME CONTROLLER
Photo by Magnus Fröderberg

THE POINT OF THIS STORY IS…

So my point is that when you test a video game you have to do the stupid stuff more often than the normal stuff. Don’t sit there and try to play the game normal and see how many times you can come in first. There will be time to do that later after you find all of the other bugs like I just mentioned above.

Always think outside of the box. Be as diverse in your approach to testing as there are diverse name titles for being a video game tester. Those are the kind of testers I would hire because there is always going to be some end users (consumers) that will try stuff like that when they buy or download a video game. Don’t give them the satisfaction of finding a bug that you should have found first, especially since it is your JOB to find bugs like that. That kind of testing mindset will make you a very good and thorough Game Tester, Video Game Tester, Lead Tester, Video Game Test Engineer,…

If you have any questions and/or comments, please leave them below and I will gladly get back to you within 24 hours. Thank you for reading my blog and come back again soon.

About Robert Prescott 18 Articles
My name is Robert and I have been in the video game industry for 25+ years specializing in QA

8 Comments on Video Game QA Engineer

  1. Hi Robert – I love the post! My only suggestion is I think the Q&A questions and answers are really interesting and I have to wait too long to get to them in the post. I’d consolidate the point of the post about how being a video game tester isn’t what you’d think and get the Q&A info up in the post more so the reader can get to these cool stories faster. Good job!

  2. Wow, I never thought of Game Testing in this way… Now I am glad I didn’t get into it, lol. I appreciate the time and review here, definitely opened my eyes a bit today.

    • Yes it takes a mind to think outside of the box when testing a video game. Your goal basically is not to play to win but play to lose. It’s amazing the types and amount of bugs that can be found when not playing the game the way you are supposed to play it. People might say, No one is going to play the game that way. True but when you submit your code to Sony or Microsoft or Nintendo, they are going to do exactly what I did and if they find something wrong they will deny your game from going into production and in the video game industry, “time-is-money”. So it’s better to find those bugs and fix them before sending your code in. – Thanks for reading and commenting on my post.

  3. “QA Engineer” seems to be the most popular label when searching for a testing job.
    You make a great point in this posting and I agree with you. To find the most bugs, you don’t want to play like a Pro to win, but rather play like an idiot doing unexpected game play.

    • You always have to think outside of the box. I remember the programmer saying to me when I told him that I was able to drive through cars if I made contact with them from the front, that he didn’t think that the users car would ever make contact with the front of the computer controlled cars so he didn’t set up collision detection on the front of the car. – That’s why I do stupid stuff like that because that’s when you can find some really serious bugs. – Thanks for your comment!

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