Working as an Xbox game tester is a challenging, but it comes with the drawbacks of low compensation and high stress. QA testers, as they are called in the game industry, are expected to provide regular reports to the development team about bugs, crashes and exploits that undermine the enjoyment of the game. In addition, they are tasked with reporting on their experience of the game to provide preliminary outside feedback to developers, so that they may try to change aspects of the game before it is finalised.
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Microsoft has a set of Quality Assurance (QA) standards that they apply to any game that they provide a license to. This agreement will differ depending on the game in question. These standards have declined in the era of common patches for Xbox 360 games, but companies still have to keep up a good standard of technical quality or they will find their game panned by reviewers and selling poorly.
The primary requirements for becoming an Xbox game tester are: the willingness to work long hours playing a game, language abilities for writing up reports and a basic grasp of the technology that powers video games. A tester's typical day is mostly made up of testing a specific area or aspect of the game set out by the QA Lead, followed by the creation of bug reports and other feedback documents that the team can understand.
A BA is generally not required for QA positions, but it is an added bonus. Demonstrated language ability is also important, as a tester that can't produce comprehensible reports is not useful to the development team. Experience in the field, whether through the creation of amateur mods, other game-industry work or direct QA experience either in gaming or another technical field all build up a tester's resume.
Xbox QA testers are expected to test every aspect of a game along with its interactions with the console hardware and, if applicable, Xbox Live. In many cases, they can spend hours repeating a single bug to try to assist the development team to find the cause of the problem. Playing the game for fun is relatively rare in QA testing, which is often closely supervised and managed so that workers provide regular feedback.
Articulate, skilled testers who have good professional abilities can potentially be promoted through the QA department into other positions at game companies. The majority of bottom-level QA employees work on a contract basis, working for low hourly wages and potentially not having work for months at a time after they are let go following a product shipment. Developing excellent communication skills along with the ability to discuss game issues with artists, programmers and designers are essential to being promoted through the QA hierarchy.
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