The video gaming industry is a £32 billion a year sector of the entertainment market, and it can be hard for a creator to break into it. Many of the specialists who create video games started off as professional video game testers and, with a little direction, so can you. Understanding what it takes to become a professional video game tester is an important step toward turning a pastime you love into a career opportunity.
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Set your goal. You need to be certain about where you want your career choice to take you. Are you using a testing job (quality assurance, or "QA") to become a programmer, designer or business manager with the developer or publisher, or do you have no degree and just want to get paid to play video games? If you have a degree, then you'll want to apply to the human resources departments of several developers or publishers for whom you want to work. If that's not your goal, then you need to locate one of several game testing labs across the U.S. and apply for one of the positions they may have.
Apply. When you apply for a position within a company's QA department, be sure that you have done your homework and have a good resume. By homework, I mean, you should know the company's history, plans for future games, personnel and criteria for a QA applicant. Some of the most important skills are non-gaming skills--the ability to communicate effectively verbally and in writing, the ability to be social and to get along with other QA people and developers, a thorough knowledge of the games and platforms and (most important of all) a well-written resume and cover letter. Without those, it doesn't matter if you're the fastest twitch gamer on the planet with a million hours of gaming under your belt; no company will hire you.
Relocate. Despite what some websites may tell you, chances are you will not be able to work from home and get paid. Most QA jobs are given to full-time employees who must go to work on a regular basis. This means that to access some of these job opportunities, you may need to relocate. After you've applied to a publisher, developer or testing lab and you are offered the job, only then should you relocate, however. Do not relocate unless you have a backup plan (such as working somewhere else in the meantime).
Interview. Video game developing, publishing and testing is a very informal affair, but the business aspect is not. Though you are applying for a job as a QA tester, you have to treat interviews seriously. You probably should not wear a suit, but clean (and wrinkle-free) clothes, casual slacks (no shorts or trousers with frayed edges or holes in the knees); also you should be well groomed (this includes deodorant). Be yourself but on your best behaviour; there are literally dozens of people vying for your job, so don't blow it by being rude, crude or repulsive.
Network and follow-up. After the interview is over, be sure to send thank you note(s) to the manager(s) who interviewed them; make it personal but tasteful and be sure to address the person by the name by which they introduced themselves in your interview. Also, be sure to participate in the company's forums or other development websites to get your name out there.
Do not fall for scams. There will be several websites and individuals on the Internet who will try to sell you the idea that you can work for Atari, Rockstar Games or EA from your home in Topeka or Cincinnati. All you have to do is pay a small "membership" fee for a peek at their exclusive list of QA tester openings. The truth is, these sites are only set up to separate you from your hard-earned money and offer very little in the way of success and cannot guarantee that you can play-test video games from your La-Z-Boy in your underwear. Professional play-testing and other unconventional jobs seem to attract these kinds of scams more than most and, as far as can be determined, these sites can't do for you what you can't do for yourself for free.
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