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.
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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.
Perks and Challenges of Being a Video Game Tester
Video game testing, like any job, comes with its own set of perks and challenges. Understanding these aspects can provide a more comprehensive view of the overall compensation package.
- Early access to new games: Testers often get to play games before they are released to the public, allowing them to experience the latest titles firsthand.
- Influence on game development: Testers have the opportunity to provide valuable feedback, contributing to the improvement and overall quality of the game.
- Networking opportunities: Working in the game industry provides opportunities to network with professionals and potentially open doors to other career paths within the gaming world.
- Repetitive tasks: Testing games can involve performing repetitive actions and meticulously documenting bugs, which may become monotonous over time.
- Tight deadlines: Testers often face tight deadlines as they work towards identifying and resolving issues before the game’s release, which can lead to long hours and high-pressure situations.
- Limited job stability: Contract-based positions or project-specific roles may offer less job stability compared to full-time employment.
How Much is Video Game Tester’s Salary?
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?
It is important to note that video game tester salaries can vary significantly. The figures mentioned here are rough estimates and may differ based on the factors mentioned above.
- Entry-level testers: $20,000 – $40,000 per year
- Mid-level testers with 2-5 years of experience: $40,000 – $70,000 per year
- Senior testers with 5+ years of experience: $70,000 – $100,000+ per year
It is worth mentioning that these figures are not set in stone and can change depending on the specific circumstances. Some testers may negotiate additional benefits or bonuses, while others may have the opportunity for career advancement within the company.
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.
Experience and Skill Level
As with any profession, experience and skill level play a significant role in determining a video game tester’s salary. Obviously, the longer you’ve been in the industry and have worked as a video game tester, the more you can expect to make.
Entry-level testers with little to no experience may start with a lower salary, while those with several years of experience and a proven track record of finding critical bugs and providing valuable feedback may command higher pay.
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.
Location can have a considerable impact on video game tester salaries. Major gaming hubs such as California, Texas, Washington, and New York often offer higher salaries due to the concentration of game development studios in these areas. On the other hand, salaries may be comparatively lower in regions with fewer gaming companies or a lower cost of living.
Type of Employment
The type of employment also affects a video game tester’s salary. Testers can work as full-time employees, contractors, or freelancers. Full-time employees typically receive benefits such as healthcare, retirement plans, and paid time off, which may compensate for a potentially lower base salary. Contractors and freelancers, on the other hand, may have higher hourly rates but are responsible for their own benefits.
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.
Company and Project Size
The size and reputation of the game development company and the scope of the project can influence a tester’s salary. Large, established studios with high-budget projects are more likely to offer competitive salaries. Testing for a highly anticipated AAA game with a large team and complex mechanics may come with a higher compensation package than testing for a smaller indie game with a limited budget.
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.
While the allure of playing video games for a living may be appealing, it is essential to consider the various factors that influence a video game tester’s salary. Experience, location, type of employment, and the company and project size all play crucial roles in determining compensation. Despite the challenges that come with the job, video game testing can be a rewarding career for those passionate about gaming and the development process.
Remember, video game testing is not just about playing games; it involves meticulous attention to detail, problem-solving skills, and effective communication. So, if you aspire to become a video game tester, equip yourself with the necessary skills and knowledge to increase your chances of success in this competitive field.