Video Game Tester Jobs Can Jump Start You on Almost Any Game Development Path

Video game QA testing may be low on the game development totem pole, just above “personal projects” you’d never think about including in your resume. But used correctly, both can carry you a long way towards becoming a game programmer, story line creator, or graphics designer.

It’s all about broader experience inventory and growth through progress.

It would seem fairly obvious. Look at anyone in college working towards a career in a high paying field like medicine, and what do you see them doing? That’s right, working at any job in a hospital, clinic, or private practice environment (a relevant environment) which they can find. They know even a role only loosely related to the one they aspire towards in their chosen field serves as a stepping stone towards more relevant positions once the opportunity becomes available.

As is the case in medicine, software development is a industry made up of many narrow roles. If you’re only focused on “qualifying for your desired role”, you may end up short changing yourself in two ways. First, by not recognizing applicable experience you’ve already obtained through non-professional work and personal hobbies. Second, by overlooking potential resume building opportunities while limiting yourself only to the ones not available to you.

Let’s look at the first problem: “not recognizing applicable experience you’ve already obtained”.

I don’t see this problem a lot in sales and marketing, regardless if it’s computer entertainment sales, advertisement sales, or used car sales. In fact, newer “greener” aspiring sales reps often need to learn a page from aspiring software developers about “Never put anything in your portfolio that someone wouldn’t pay you for”. Where the aspiring gaming professional falls short is recognizing what actually counts as valuable to those they present their resumes and portfolios to. They’ll often include what they consider “real job experience”, such as “Manager at Macy’s”, or “Audits and Accounting at Wells Fargo” (neither of which has anything to do with game or software development); but avoid including things like “my dorm mate and I wrote “Squares vs Circles” (an iPhone app) for fun while we were in college, it got 500,000 downloads within a month of release” (so what you are saying is, you wrote, developed, tested, and published popular and successful software on your own for fun?)

It’s as if those aspiring to game development roles almost seem to have an “inferiority complex” when it comes to the kinds of experiences relevant to the gaming field. While considering any work they think of as “from a real company” with “a real paycheck attached” automatically more important. The thing is: the person looking over your resume doesn’t care about any of that. They’re not your dad who thinks you should get a “real job”, or your mom who worries about you’re “spending too much time on the internet”, they are people looking for someone with experience that has to do with games. Don’t discount experience because it was “just a personal project”. If you want to be hired in the area of game development you need to show how you have already performed successfully in game development. Whether or not you got paid, and regardless whether or not it resembles what you or your peers think of as “a real company”, “real work”, or “real professional”. What matters is that it was developing a game, and you completed the project as defined – or better. That’s what people want to hear about.

Now take a look at the second problem: “overlooking potential resume building opportunities while limiting yourself only to the ones not available to you”.

This one is a little trickier, because it requires a balancing act. You see, another important thing to remember is “Build your portfolio around a single focus”. I’m not going into detail about that here, as it mostly goes beyond the scope of this article. But, it needs to be mentioned as it’s the other end of the spectrum in so far as: on one level, you don’t want to overlook potential resume building opportunities, but at the same time, you don’t want to build a portfolio of non-relevant experience and garbage either.

The best way to look at it is, if you have an opportunity to work in a position which is highly relevant to your desired role in gaming – say for example story line creator – by all means favor that work over work that’s less closely related. But when such positions are scarce or highly competitive, don’t overlook opportunity to work in any game development role – even if it falls outside the scope of the game development area you ultimately aspire towards.

The reality is, jobs in game development are places where many come – but few may enter. There simply aren’t enough positions to fill in any one role for everyone who applies at the door. And even experience outside the role you aspire towards can help you as it gives you familiarity, exposure to a variety of technology, and broader experience with the roles of others you might have to later work with.

The lowly and relatively low paying Video Game Tester Jobs.

Compared to other gaming industry roles, video game QA tester is the lowest paying. According to The Game Developers 12th Annual Salary Survey (conducted in 2013), freelance and temporary assignment video game QA testers, with less than 3 years’ experience, earn an average of $22,000/yr., roughly equivalent to $10/hr. – assuming a 40 hour work week. This is because of the much lower amount of education needed to enter video game QA testing.

However, consider those “working towards a career in a high paying field like medicine”, who I described at the beginning of this article; the ones taking “any job in a hospital, clinic, or private practice environment (a relevant environment)”. They’re doing this for a few good reasons. It helps to offset college costs, gives them a chance to gain experience and familiarization within a related work environment, and the jobs they take are often the “lower paying roles” due to lower entry-level education requirements – which equates to ease of entry. High turn-over rates as people in these positions attain the qualifications to move on to their desired careers, make these jobs readily available. And those who later move on to higher positions will have previous industry relevant experience to add to their resumes if needed. If needed being the key. If they don’t need it, or feel it would distract from experience more relevant to a particular job, they can always make less mention of it or leave it out entirely.

Which bring us to the real question – why are those seeking software development careers so averse to including video game tester jobs along the way? Think back about the “inferiority complex” among “those aspiring to game development roles” which I spoke of earlier. And the corresponding “superiority complex” among those becoming “material” for higher paying, more respected roles such as graphics designer or programmer. When people think of, for example, becoming an environmental art designer, they often think of highly sophisticated technical skills, and expensive but well-worth-it college degrees – leading to well-earned and well-respected salaries. When people think of a QA tester job, they often think of someone who was lucky enough to get paid to play games.

Video game quality assurance testing is seen by many as almost a kind of “red-headed-step-child”. Some treat it the same way one might treat a cheap book promising the secret to unbelievable income sold on a poorly done website alongside thin porn, payday loans, and mesothelioma related attorney services.

The reality is – a video game tester job can provide the same things to the soon to be 3D character model designer that a clerical position with a small clinic provides to the soon to be medical technician, nurse, or doctor. Video game tester jobs are readily available, industry related, work with which you can offset other costs while in school or training for your desired role, gain experience and familiarity with the software development process, and which comes with relatively low entry requirements.

Video game QA positions require only that you have a high aptitude for basic skills applicable to any job, such as attention to detail, ability to follow instructions, diligence, and being able to write reports. Yet they provide game industry experience, familiarity, and exposure to a wider variety of related technologies. Also, while QA testing may be “low paying” compared to other development roles, it’s actually on par with many part-time jobs that aren’t even career connected which people typically take while working towards their desired career path.

The key is, don’t look at QA tester work as a job you “don’t take seriously”, consider it instead as a useful tool in a strategic plan. Consider those too good to be true offers you see promising “$4,000 a month playing games” for some small monthly fee. These offers are usually made by assignment aggregators. Assignment aggregators are companies in the business of offering a central location for freelance video game QA testers to find temporary video game QA assignments. Whether the promises of easy money come true or not, you could use those to get work (resume experience) handed to you even though you have not yet attained any work history or qualifications, in addition to some extra income. What you really want is for the assignments to serve as documented work history in QA Testing to support obtaining a regular entry-level position with a gaming company. You want to be able to say “I’ve completed projects in the gaming field”… as opposed to the other applicant who hasn’t.

From here it depends on the options available to you, and your desired career path. If you’ve already chosen a career path in another game development role, then I’d recommend NOT moving all the way from freelance to full-time QA testing – as you want to focus your efforts on obtaining a job closer to your desired role. Until you do, you may wish to simply remain a freelance tester. Despite the lower hourly pay, this will give you the greatest flexibility and control over your time. Should you decide to become a regular part-time tester with a gaming company, the pay could actually outstrip many other non-career connected part-time jobs.

If you’re still deciding when it comes to what role you want to have in game development, you may want to consider that QA testing does become more lucrative with experience – all-be-it not as quickly as in other development roles. It rises to just under $40,000/year as a full-time job with 3 years’ experience, and “maxes out” around $70,000/yr. Not as much as the $85,000/yr. you could be making as a programmer, but still fairly decent compared to other professional roles.

Video game QA testing may be the lowest paid type of work in game development. However, those aspiring for such roles as game programmer, story line creator, or graphics designer would be wise to look beyond just work related to their desired role in game development.

Developing Original Humor for Your Talk

Most humor in the business setting is unplanned. It just happens. Spontaneous events with clients and co-workers create the surprises and uncomfortable situations which call for humor as a coping tool.

We all have differing abilities to recognize, appreciate and create humor. How’s your HQ (humor quotient)? Do you work with people who are full of wit?

Regardless of where you are now, you can increase your humor skills. When you study humor, it’s obvious there’s more to it than just spontaneous laughs. There are times when you may want to deliberately use humor, maybe even plan it in advance.

Perhaps you want to spice up a training session or a planning meeting. Maybe you want to lighten up a sales presentation. You can learn ways to administer a dose of laughter to help you connect and communicate.

There are three elements which can help you understand and structure your humor: surprise, tension and relationships.
First, humor is based on the element of surprise. Humor often comes from something as simple as someone saying the unexpected. The surprise twist creates the humor.

Because of the element of surprise, when we are deliberately structuring a piece of humor (perhaps for a speech) we don’t want to telegraph the joke. A line like, “a funny thing happened to me on the way over here,” signals your listeners that a joke is coming. This will lessen the element of surprise.

To enhance the surprise, it’s best to place the punch line at the end of the joke. And within the punch line, the punch word is usually given last. The punch word is the word that makes the humor work. It’s the trigger that releases the surprise.

If your humor falls flat, do what professional humorists do. Pretend you are serious. Since the listeners didn’t realize you were making a joke, you never need to apologize or explain it. Turn your surprise into a secret.

It’s no surprise to people who work in pressure-packed work environments that humor is also based on this second principle: release of tension. Laughter is a pressure valve which releases muscle tension. Uncomfortable situations, fear and pain are all tension builders that cry out for humor. We find ourselves laughing at risqué humor and embarrassing situations because they make us uncomfortable. We release the tension they create with humor.

People who intentionally and frequently use humor know tension can be used deliberately to heighten the impact of the humor. A pause placed just before the punch line or the punch word builds a sense of anticipation, a form of tension, which makes the joke stronger.

In most jobs, daily challenges give you the opportunity to purposely use tension in setting up your humor. Simply by sharing a real life humorous situation, you can recreate the spontaneous circumstances which generated the laughter in the first place. Although there’s nothing like “being there,” you can improve on the actual event by embellishing to create a little more tension in the set up. You can structure the punch line for maximum effect by putting the punch word last. And you can pause to add impact.

As we plan our humor, we also notice that the third principle of humor is relationships. Most humor is based on how things are related and not related. We can create humorous twists when we play with relationships.

Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons are well known for twisting relationships. One of his frequent tools is giving animals human characteristics. For example, the cartoon shows a car driving down the road. Driving the car is a bull. Sitting next to the bull is a cow. And in the back seat is a calf. They’re driving past a field with humans standing in the pasture. The picture, by itself, creates a funny picture by twisting the normally expected relationships. The calf sticks his head out of the car window and says “Yakity, Yakity, Yak!”

Understanding the principle of relationships, you are able to create your own, original humor. You can create “shopping lists” from which you search for humorous connections.

Let’s say you had an idea for building some humor. We’ll call this idea a seed from which the humor can grow. Perhaps, on a difficult shift at a hospital, someone made a comment that working in a hospital was like working in a war zone. This is the starting point for developing some humor.

You’ll begin by creating two “shopping lists.” On one list you’ll put “hospital things.” And on the other, you’ll list “military things.” It will work better if you choose “military” rather than “war zone” because it’s a broader category which will give you more options when looking for relationships.

Your first step is to brainstorm by making the lists as long a possible. The more items you have on each list, the more likely you’ll be able to make some humorous connections.

As you make your lists, you’ll look for opportunities to branch out and create sublists to multiply your chances of finding humor. For example, if the idea “basic training” comes to mind, your sublist should contain everything you can think of relating to basic training: drill sergeants, marching, inspections.

The next step is to search for connections between your two lists which might lead you to humor. Play with it. Then set it aside and come back to it later. Once you find something with humorous possibilities, you’ll massage it to maximize the humor impact.

To see what this exercise might produce:

“Why a Hospital is Like the Military.”

1. In the military, soldiers take orders from people with silver and gold on their shoulders. In a hospital, nurses take orders from people with silver and gold in their wallets.

2. When discharged from the hospital after a Lower GI Series, you get the GI bill.

3.,Nurses, like soldiers, see a lot of privates.

4.mWhen filling out a hospital shift report, you sometimes resort to the policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

5. Nurse training is like boot camp. Never before had you seen so many bald body parts.

6. In the military, a fatigue is what you wear. In nursing, it’s what wears on you.

7. Soldiers get combat pay. Nurses don’t…but should.

Whether you’re creating a list or a slogan to go on a poster, looking for a monologue to open a speech or training session, or just searching for one joke to make a point, you can use these lists to create your humor. It works.

These three principles of humor are illustrated by the classic slip on the banana peel. The slapstick spill illustrates surprise because we weren’t expecting someone to fall. We also experience tension. When we see someone get hurt we get startled, and react with tension. It also twists relationships. Seeing a distinguished person sitting on the sidewalk is something our of the ordinary. Surprise, tension, relationships…we laugh!

Natural, spontaneous humor is one of your greatest tools for coping with stress as you work. By understanding what makes the humor tick, you can become better at planning and deliberately using this powerful adjunct to your success arsenal.