The following blog post was written some time during my year-long stint as a game tester.
Game playing and game testing are very much connected. This is probably the reason why it’s very easy for gamers to think that working as a game tester is all fun and games. After all, if you like playing games then testing games must not feel like work at all right? Not really.
Playing games is obviously a part of game testing, but it is not synonymous with testing games.
When one plays video games, you only care about one user’s experience – your own. In game testing, the primary consideration is how others would experience the game. If a normal player encounters a bug in a certain game, the player might give it relatively little attention and then move on (since more often than not, players mostly care about how they could progress through a game). Game testers on the other hand will explore every possible way to reproduce this bug and examine how the bug affects other parts of the game.
As a gamer, I play games to enjoy the experience that a game offers. As a game tester, I play the games to find out if the user experience is enjoyable.
Playing games normally also means playing games as they were designed. In a basketball game for example, say the now dead NBA ELITE 11 (killed by the infamous Jesus Bynum bug), a normal play-through would see players getting points if they score in the opposing team’s basket since that that is how the game of basketball was designed. A game tester would play the game and check if players can do things that go against how the game was designed (basically things that players should not be able to do in-game). If a game tester is to play-test NBA ELITE 11, one of the things to check is whether the player can intentionally shoot the basketball in his own basket and if they get points for doing so (they shouldn’t).
Another misconception when it comes to game testing is that “all game testers do is play games”. This cannot be further from the truth. Game testers also document game errors/bugs by listing steps on how to reproduce them and what bugs actually do. It’s also a game tester’s job to record game footage and take screen shots for further documentation. Game testers will also spend time writing reports and studying hardware configurations.
Lastly, as I previously said, game testing can be fun but this isn’t always the case. There is little to no fun to be had in repeatedly playing specific parts of a game or playing games from start to finish multiple times (sometimes all in one day). Like a lot of other jobs, game testing gets tedious and laborious. However, there’s also the satisfaction one gets by playing a game and finding out what works and what doesn’t, and ultimately, what would make the game good.