The harsh life of a game tester

Original article: "The Tough Life of a Games Tester . "

Which gamer did not dream of making a living by playing games? Although it may seem like a great profession and a cool way to get your first job in the gaming industry, the truth is not so attractive.

IGN contacted testers from around the world to hear their opinions on harsh reality. We have received dozens of letters from employees of numerous gaming companies. They told us stories about difficult working conditions, low wages and lack of morale among workers.

Their employers are a huge number of companies, including publishers of traditional games for computers, as well as newer organizations that create games for mobile devices.

When applying for a job, testers signed a non-disclosure agreement with their employers and can be fired, they can even be sued for disclosure. All the testers we contacted talked to us on condition of complete anonymity. We came up with pseudonyms to hide their real data. We also checked that all these people are really game testers. We asked for comment on this article by contacting a variety of gaming companies, but never received a single answer.

Tiring tasks


Although work may seem like a dream come true, Ruben says that it’s not at all like you play games all day, you also get paid for it. “Present your favorite movie. Now take your favorite 30 second stretch from this movie. Now scan this section over and over again, 12 hours a day, every day for two months. When you finish, answer me: can you say that what you did was watching movies all day? I bet it’s not at all like that. “They give you a certain section of the game, this is your section and you test everything that comes across it for several months.”

In addition, testers do not get any pleasure from the choice of the game that they have to play. “It's really boring to play a game for children over and over again,” says Rich.

Frank adds: “I saw people who once and for all started playing games because of disappointment in the process of work and the endless monotonous game of the game that you hate, and I myself would never play it. You just get exhausted. ”

Low salary


Although some boring and monotonous jobs can be paid pretty well, game testers don't get a good reward. And all because the game industry consists almost entirely of wage workers, they have no advantages and no power.

Companies often pay wage earners higher basic wages instead of any bonuses or rewards, but Danny only earns $ 10 an hour. From this we can conclude that the average wage of a full-time tester is only $ 20,800 per year. The official minimum fee is $ 7.25 per hour, but game testers are information workers, not sellers of burgers. In order to test and make judgments about games, you need certain skills and knowledge.

Let's say that newcomers without experience in the gaming industry earn quite a bit, but what about experienced testers? Danny says: “I have been working with a guy who, for the past eight years, has only been doing what he is trying to please the leadership: he never argues, he does everything that he is told. But in testing, he is just a genius! After eight years of work, he still receives only $ 14. Damn it, I think we deserve more than $ 10 an hour. " He believes that game developers / publishers should “offer us some bonuses or rewards as they do with the rest of the company.”

We are not respected


Kate told the story of how his employer was greedy to give him a copy of the game he was working on. He wrote that "after two months of playing this game, 40 hours a week, I myself would never buy it in my life."

While cash incentives are just one form of reward, Danny believes that they are not given due respect. “We deserve to be treated as ordinary employees of the company, and not as those whom you would not invite to your Christmas party. There have been such cases. ”

“I'm absolutely not alone in my feelings,” he adds. “Perhaps most people like me would not have expressed their displeasure for fear of being fired; and those who would dare have long left the gaming industry because of the conditions that I’m talking about. ”

Harsh working conditions


Unlike a regular working day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the last months before the release of a video game, when all efforts are made to ensure that the product is on time, the company is called "critical."

According to the tester Pete, he simply forgot to pay for the work a huge number of times. “They make us stay in the office, work overtime, but they never pay extra for it.”

Frank works overtime every day. “This is already on the verge of illegality. It got to the point that by three or four in the morning I was tired to such an extent that I lost consciousness a couple of times. The rest, too, but we did not bother such a person. We just gave him a rest and brought each other back to life only when it became necessary. ”

Losing sleep is not the only thing that physically affected Frank and company. “Our food was just awful! The only establishment that was open at night was McDonald's, located at Chevron Station, and we mockingly called it Chevronalds. I felt like a piece of shit and just wanted to finish it all as soon as possible. ”

Ruben says living a healthy family life is becoming extremely difficult. “As soon as overtime begins, it seems to you that it will never end. The longest processing period in my life lasted more than 7 months, the shortest working week was 65 hours, and the longest - 92. Then we worked on two projects that simply merged with each other. "

Low stability


In addition to the physical and mental stress experienced by testers, companies are completely lacking any kind of stability. “During the training, we were told that it doesn’t matter if you get fired, but when it is important,” says Kate. “They told us with all their strength that a good employee is distinguished by the number of bugs he found and, based on this number, they will decide whether to leave you or not.” However, this technique did not at all take into account the dedication with which the employee is working on the project. “I perfectly documented bugs, went through the same scene again and again and yet I understood why the game is constantly stuck in the tail of a helicopter! I would like other testers to express their opinion on how they like the bugs I found, because I was one of those who was able to document what confused the rest of the staff. But when it came to the final count, it turned out that my neighbor found more bugs, so I was fired, but he wasn’t. ”

If to be fired is already very bad, the subsequent job search became even worse. “Everyone is trying to break into positions that are currently unavailable and will not be released,” says Phil. While this may apply to other industries, and not just the gaming industry, he believes that the problem only worsens, because testers most often get jobs through recruitment agencies, and not on their own. Many publishers are simply not ready to offer you. A large proportion of testers are not officially arranged.

Ruben explains: “Most people get a job, say goodbye to their“ external ”life for six months, and then they tell him to leave. It’s very sad to see people being fired with whom you spent so much time. ”

While downsizing is an integral part of any profession, he adds that this process is quite cold. “This is how my employer did this: he mailed a notice of the meeting. You come to the meeting and someone enters our office, where employees who were not invited to this meeting are still sitting, and simply say: “If you were called here, then you are fired. Pack your things, we will lead you to the exit "... You always hope that you will be one of those few who will be left."

You can't change anything

Since people mistakenly believe that the work of the tester is that he plays games all day, companies never have a shortage of people who want to get such a job. “Anyone in testing is easily replaceable,” says Frank. Ruben adds: “If the management does not like someone, they simply refuse to renew the contract with him, thus avoiding any difficulties. This leads to the fact that people begin to complain that their work has become more loaded or longer, they are called scandalists and simply do not renew the contract with them. "

Frank says: “Once the product is released, you have no job. No rewards, prospects, or promises that you will be hired full time. I have worked with so many really talented people that I’m just ashamed to watch their talent depreciate. ” While some companies offer some kind of retention measures, “there is no union for testers,” he adds.

Can testers organize their own union? Although theoretically this is possible, Ruben believes that this is unrealistic. “The formation of such a union at the level of testers is almost impossible due to the horrible treatment of employees. If you try, your contract will not be renewed. The most annoying thing is that the gaming industry is so small that if for any reason you are fired, most companies will be aware of this and will not agree to hire you. ”

The tester is to blame

Even after passing all the tests and approving the game for release, today it is not uncommon that very big bugs and shortcomings remain in the game anyway. Take at least Bethesda's Skyrim version for the Playstation 3. If the testers really worked so hard on it, as stated, then how did it end up with so many technical flaws?

According to Phil, the truth is that "a lot of bugs found will not fix." Even more - developers often simply ignore the advice of testers. Frank says: “They just let our remarks pass our ears, not even dignifying them with the slightest attention. They simply spend money and resources. ”

“Sometimes game companies just randomly choose those bugs that need to be fixed,” Trent says. “The trick of testing is that not everyone plays the same game. The game has millions of combinations that a player can take advantage of, so a team of 100 or even fewer people just can’t find all the flaws, and all this pops up in the final product. ” Combined with the fact that some bugs are not repeated, this explains why such catastrophic problems can leak into the game. “A thousand times you could find a bug, but if you cannot explain in detail how it should be fixed, you cannot take it into account, even if it is critical for the game ... For it to be finally taken into account, it needs to be constantly repeated ".

Even when developers listen to the testing team, problems can still not be avoided. Trent adds: "Sometimes developers swear that they fixed something, but in the next build of the game, something else that worked before breaks, or sometimes fixing them does not solve the problem at all."

And although testers are not at all to blame for many of these problems, Sol, who refuses to name the company for which he worked, claims: "The company blames us for ALL the bugs that are found in the final product." Pete observes that "Producers no longer listen to testers ... but if a bug pops up when the game is already released, testers are to blame, even if they reported this problem before."

To avoid delays in the release of the game, Sam says that publishers “intimidate” their testers with the fact that “if the product does not go on sale by the appointed time, it will be fraught with long delays at work.” He described one employer as “very totalitarian” because of his attitude towards the staff of the testing department. Among all testers contacting IGN, this complaint was common to many employers.


While the prevailing opinion about the work of the game tester is a misconception, there are still alternatives to work congestion, and testers should achieve this. Companies such as Valve or Blizzard are famous for spending their time finalizing the game and fixing bugs, although for some reason this luxury is not always available to companies that depend on the expectations of shareholders. Some companies are opening their games for beta testing, which leads to a new round of problems.

History shows that when testers are an integral part of the game development cycle, game companies produce better products, they have better sales, and, most importantly, in the end they create more human working conditions.

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