Do’s and Don’ts of Becoming a Video Game Tester: Getting Your Foot in the Door Part 1

So, you want to get your foot in the door in the video game industry? You want to be a video game tester? You love video games? If you answered yes to all three of those questions than this Do and Don’ts guide will help inform and prepare you for that first step. The first of a two-part series.

DO: Check Out Company Websites. What better place to look than directly to the source? Find out what companies are located in your area by going to sites like gamedevmaps.com or gamasutra.com. Apply to job listings directly at the companies’ websites.

DON’T: Choose a company that does not suit your gaming style. If you hate Facebook games why would you apply to a company that makes them? Also, some would argue against this, but never spam email a company.

If you don’t hear back it is ok to send one follow-up email. Then, if there is no return contact, move on. This is hard for some people, but you have to know when to let things go and look forward to another day.

DO: Know the company. Learn about the company’s products in case that big interview is scheduled for the next day! What have they recently released? What game have they already published? Have you played them? What other companies have they worked with? What platforms do they publish on (eg PC, Consoles, Social Networks)?

DON’T: Send a generic resume. Cater the projects and Cover letter to that specific company. There is a difference between “I like your company because they make good games” and “I like Firaxis because games like Civ 5 have inspired me to become a game developer”. Would you hire someone who never took the time to learn about the company? That is just plain lazy. Anyone can sit behind a computer and send out 30 resumes a day looking for any job that comes along, but gamers must have passion and drive. There are thousands of other great testers besides you waiting in line.

DO: Network. I preach this message loud and clear every day and every time I give a speech. As much as I know you aspiring game developers love creating and playing games in the safety of your home, you MUST get out into the real world and meet people. Yeah, I know it can be a scary world with all the big buildings and fast moving cars but you must understand that the game industry is a community. Go to local IGDA Chapter meetings if your town has one, join the forums, find other local meet-ups, such as tech meet-ups, and participate in Game Jams. Don’t go with a resume in hand but with the mindset to learn and make new acquaintances. One of the best and worst things about the gaming industry is that sometimes it’s who you know. Friends hire friends.

DON’T: Bad mouth a company or person.  Again, the video game community is so small that word of any bad seeds travel fast. Keep it professional. Here in Baltimore, we have many local events that attract anywhere from 20-150 developers from all the local studios. We might work next door to one another! Remember, you are here to make friends. Share some stories, drink some beers (if you are of legal age), and play some games. Keep your personal quarrels to yourself and if someone pushes your buttons, there is always someone more inviting and who wants to give away knowledge.

This is where I stop for now ladies and gentleman. Part two will be written when I have got enough feedback from the game community. I want to go more in-dept with the next one.

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9 thoughts on “Do’s and Don’ts of Becoming a Video Game Tester: Getting Your Foot in the Door Part 1

  1. TMorehead says:

    Thanks Gabe this is informative for both developers who need reviewers and reviewers who need developers. Great read.

  2. Carrington says:

    Great advice Gabe! Although some of these things may seem trivial to professionals in the field, they are overlooked way to often by people who want to get their foot in the door. Networking, as you have emphasized, is the greatest tool one can cultivate. Overall great points Gabe…Keep them coming.

  3. David Yuer says:

    I’ve read other articles like this before but you hit some stuff more accurately like contacting companies too many times and just taking a job because it’s there. Students fall prey to this and end up at companies that they will want to leave within a couple years.

  4. Bob says:

    Am I allowed to disagree? “Don’t choose a company that does not suit your gaming style.”

    I would reply, take any opportunity to get structured game testing on your resume. The game companies are in the drivers seat. They have a lot more applicants than positions. Do whatever it takes to get your foot in the door anywhere. Everyone in the business knows everyone else, so do what you can to distinguish yourself whether you play that genre or not. Not everything in the industry is fun. It is a job after all. Proving yourself is what it is all about.

    • All suggestions, and comments are welcome.

      Everything written here is straight from the local community and tips come from both sides of the coin. I did (and still do) some freelance work/ internships for companies while also working QA for years. Although it wasn’t my dream job, I know that it will pay off in the end.

      I guess what I should have elaborated on was the experience versus long-term goals. Some industry vets talk about motivation because you are not 100% into the work. You might be excited the first couple of months until you hit a wall and start realizing you have no interest in the companies project. But that sounds like a question of work ethic?

      Thanks Bob for the reply.

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