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Getting a job as a QA Tester

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Hello, I have been researching on how to get a career in the game industry and one of the main suggestions I've gotten is to start at the bottom as a QA Tester and work your way up. What I was wondering is how would one go about getting a position as a QA Tester? Do game development companies regularly hire QA Testers and what do they look for when hiring? I have no experience in the game industry which is why I'm looking for a job like this so I can begin to get some. Thank you, Alex alex@farfromwords.com

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I live near the EA studio that does Madden and what not, and its common knowledge around here that they go through testers like crazy. That being said, it seems that it's one of those positions that always has the 'Now Hiring!' tag next to it.

I dont know if thats how you want to get into the gaming industry though. Maybe its different at smaller studios, but the testers there actually are only allowed to talk to the others through email (actually through their bug tracking software). Its up to you if thats the path to take, but in all honesty, I feel the more important thing is to just work on getting your game programming skills up. DirectX/OpenGL/etc. If you have all those skills and want to make contacts, it might not be a bad idea, but look into maybe finding other local talent and become buds with them to meet some contacts.

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Most studios staff up QA positions as they approach the ship date of their projects. I don't actually think QA/testing is particularly good place to start, especially if you want to be a programmer.

Read this page, by a frequent and well-respected member of these forums. In particular, this item addresses you question specifically.

The question to ask yourself is, what do you want to do in the industry? Programming or art? You'll want an internship as a programmer or artists, ideally (and this need not be in the games industry). Design? You might find in roads there through QA, but it isn't guaranteed and may not be possible at some studios. A better option might be to find an internship as a level design or scripting monkey, if "design" is your thing.

Do you have a degree? As the information in the links I provided notes, if you have a degree in a related field or are working towards one, there is absolutely no reason to get a QA job (in fact, it may end up being damaging to your career).

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I would definitey not suggest starting in Quality Assurance as a tester. Unless it's a small, close knit company you probably won't move up from that position. If your a programmer with litle or no experience then I would suggest making your own game or getting a job programming (though it probably won't be in the gaming industry) then moving to a game programming job once you have experience.

Good luck.

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QA tester has always been one of the best paths for being a game designer with no programming or artistic skills. Then again, "Game Designer" positions arent exactly brutally common. That, and your odds of actually pulling it off are closer to zero then any other number.

From a programming perspective, I wouldnt bother. Alot of the time, the "foot in the door" position being advertised is often for tool development. Those positions they will often take someone with less game programming experience and can be a good starting point. That said, its a shame, as good tools are very important.

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I'm actually not interested in becoming a programmer in the industry as I have tried it and it's not something I'm interested in. I am more looking for the game design positions and that's actually where I heard the suggestion of trying to get a QA Tester position. I'm not expecting it to be a guarentee of getting a position I'd want but at least working for a game company will get me infinitely closer to where I want to be than from working somewhere else.

Also, I am a couple months away from my associates degree if it matters.

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Let me preface this by saying that my company is probably atypical in how open and egalitarian it is, given its size. That said, I can think of more than ten people who have moved on to seats in game systems, content, sound, and even one person to the core tech team(!). Most of them are still here. So it's absolutely possible to find a QA job that will help you progress in the industry. You have to be careful though; there are plenty of "kleenex tester" contract positions that come with zero chance of advancement, zero respect, and only modest opportunities to make contacts and learn professional gamedev methodology.

Since I've had an excellent vantage of the opposite scenario, where QA has an almost silly level of upward-mobility (as in, stop taking all our good hires, @#$@#$ devs!), let me list out some desirable traits for you to look for.

1) QA has access to source control


Obviously, you can learn a lot from browsing a AAA project's source tree. Maybe not quite as much as you'd hope; documentation and code comments are bound to be scarcer than you'd like, and no one's going to have time to help you. Even more importantly though, this is a sign that the company is open to exploring internal talent. Also, it creates an avenue where self-motivated employees can practice asset creation and integration with the game (on their local machine sandboxes of course!).

2) You can work with developers, face to face.


Hiring sucks. It's maybe slightly more fun than looking for a job, but only if you have a good HR department to help you filter candidates. If you're the lead designer and you're looking to fill a non-senior position, the choice between sifting through a piles of resumes and phone interviews, or cherry-picking QA tester Bill, who gets along great with the team, is really passionate about doing design, has already learned the principle level-building tool under his own initiative, and could start right away with minimal ramp-up, is not an especially difficult one. Obviously this means QA has to be in the same building as development :-)

3) The QA department is taken seriously


It is an excellent sign if development needs QA's permission for checkin to the project's bug-fix branch. It's an even better sign if the QA Director has the power to roll back checkins that got stealthed in (actually, my company may be unique in this respect :D). If the devs are compelled to take QA seriously, they'll be more inclined to take you seriously should you interview with them.


Also remember that there are many levels of QA internally. Traditionally, Game QA refers to cheap off-the-street labor, whose primary function is to bang on the game from a strict black-box end-user standpoint. More and more though, there's a need in the industry for people with rigorous traditional Software QA skills, people who can do white-box testing, write unit tests, build stress-testing frameworks, or do code reviews. These are individuals who think of QA as a career, and there is not a ton of difference between them and their developer counterparts. I even know one person who gave up development in faver of QA!

Hopefully, that gives some perspective. In case you were wondering, I'm a QA Engineer, and I'm not planning on moving over the fence any time soon, though I fancy I'd like to try development at some point. There's still a ton of stuff for me to learn where I am!

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Check out this article

http://www.edge-online.co.uk/archives/2006/06/a_bugs_life.php


The hours are just terrible as they say in the article, but unlike in the article after the seven months of non stop crunch hours there was no month off, maybe a few days to a week, then you either got fired or moved to another project to start it all over. The equipment is always substandard and often broken. The working situations are always way too cramped. We went even given cubicles; we worked in long rows of tables pressed up against each other so close that 2 people could back up their chairs at the same time.

Using QA as a stepping stone or entry point is no longer an option at all, from what I have seen. Many developers have a very negative image of the people in QA. Out of the 100 people they hired to test probably about 20-40 are actually talented testers, and less then half of that have development skills. Because of this there has been a growing thought that if you work in QA you don't have the talent needed for development work. I have seen people get turned down from a development jobs purely because they currently worked in QA. If you want to make games, you're better off working any normal full time job and making demos/designs docs in your spare time.

Now that I am no longer working for that developer I have much more family/free time, am able to work on my own projects again, and make nearly twice as much as I did while I was in QA (I'm now working in education)

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as far as outsource QA, you can make some awesome contacts with companies and move into a better position that way, but you have to basically be a manager to do that. I would guess that 85-90% of testers never talk to any developers... and thus wouldn't make any contacts

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QA is a great job if you like games and want to earn some money, and its cool to see your name in the credits of an AAA released game [smile].

As to give you an idea of the process, I've uploaded my application form that I used for my current QA employment (minus my personnal info of course [smile]) you can find it here (doc).

After emailing the application form back I got called in for an interview. The usual questions are "Do you work well in teams?", "What could you add to our projects?", "What do you do if you don't get along with the people you work with?", "What do you know about games?", "What do you know about <Company Name>?".

The last question is important, you should show that you know about the company, its previous games, the ones in development etc.

Good luck!

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Thanks for all the info. It appears to me that it really depends upon who your employer is for whether or not QA Testing will get you anywhere. I've heard good stories and I've heard horrible stories. If my main goal is to be a game designer would I be better off creating a full design document and submitting that to companies rather than QA Testing. I just don't get the feeling that many companies are that interested in receiving design docs from random people that have little game development experience.

Thanks again
Alex

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