If you love video games, chances are you’ve thought about how you could make them a bigger part of your life by making them into a career. It’s easy to understand why. Everyone says you should do what you love and what would be better than getting paid to enjoy video games all day? Fortunately for many, “video game tester” is actually a very real position. Keep reading to learn more about what it entails and, perhaps most importantly, what you can expect in terms of your salary.
What a Video Game Tester Actually Does
Despite what most people like to believe, a video game tester doesn’t just sit around all day and play video games. As fun as that would be for you, you can probably imagine that it wouldn’t provide very much to the company paying you to do this. So while this job will play to your love of video games, you should expect that it will also involve some very real work.
Typically, video game testers play early versions of a certain game with an eye for bugs and defects. Often they’re actually told what to look for. Other times, they’re expected to be able to go out and find it. This means exploring every nook and cranny of a game, not just playing it through for pleasure.
The Basics of a Video Game Tester’s Salary
Alright, let’s get down to the important part. How much can you expect to make as a video game tester? The low-end tends to sit at around $18,000 a year. At the other end of the spectrum, salaries generally sit at about $55,000. This latter number, however, is not entry level. Rather, it’s for experienced testers who can also take a bit of a leadership role.
We’ll delve into this a bit more in a moment, but you also need to consider that many video game tester positions are strictly temporary positions. So even if you are making the higher amounts in terms of your salary, you’ll also be asked to pay for your health insurance, handle your own taxes as necessary and provide any other benefits you may need.
Other Factors to Consider
It would be impossible to generalize an entire career in terms of the salary and testing video games for a living is no different. So there are other factors to consider in order to give you a better idea of what you’ll actually earn per year if you land this type of job.
Obviously, the longer you’ve been in the industry and have worked as a video game tester, the more you can expect to make. Companies know that those with years under their belt will do a better job at finding bugs and in less time. Experience also provides a tester with instincts regarding popular gaming systems, platforms and engines, which make them even more valuable. This gives them quite the advantage over other testers just getting started in the industry.
On top of often being temporary positions, many testing jobs are also per hour or “non-exempt.” While this means you can receive overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week, it also means companies may cut your hours in order to save money. At the very least, don’t depend on overtime as a way of paying your bills. Video games tend to get made on very strict budgets and your overtime always needs to be approved anyway. So chances are you won’t see much of it.
Even if you do get a fulltime (i.e. “exempt”) position, it’s important you appreciate the difference between “FTE” (full-time employment) and “FTT” (full-time temporary employment). Generally, the latter isn’t afforded as many benefits as the former position. People in those roles may also be denied the chance to partake in certain employee bonus programs and other beneficial perks. So when you’re looking for jobs in the industry, be sure you consider these key areas. Otherwise, a FTT position may look far better than an FTE one until you realize what’s really being offered.
Let’s now consider some common scenarios video game testers see in terms of their salary to better flesh out your understanding.
For example, the low range we mentioned above could go as low as $8/hour, which would only net you a little less than $16,000 a year. Granted, this would be extremely low, but it’s possible. While it could be a lot higher, for an entry level position, $14/hour is toward the other extreme and will pay you close to $35,000 a year.
If you do the math, though, you’ll find that the annual dollar sums are always more, albeit marginally, than the hourly pay amounts. That’s one more reason why you want to aim for full-time, exempt positions (the other being benefits).
When it comes to experience, you can expect to see little growth within your first three years, depending on where you started. On average, video game testers will hit the ceiling at $37,500 within their first three years. After that, they can hope to hit $41,000 within the three years following that if they become a Lead. However, take note that the increase isn’t an altogether substantial one.
Getting More Salary for Your Services
There’s a lot you can do to get more money for your video game testing services aside from showing up and proving yourself. For one, look for larger companies as they make games with larger budgets. This also means they have more to spend on you. However, for most people, this will definitely mean relocating.
You should also look into their bonus program. While a company may not pay you a lot of money upfront, they may have a bonus program in place that can provide you with plenty in commission on the backend.
Though it might be your dream job, consider the above information about being a video game tester before taking the plunge. No matter how much you love a career, money plays a significant role in everyone’s life, meaning you need to mull this information over before making a decision.