Am I Doing It Wrong?
The tales from the trenches are tales of woe. Constant refrains of “The hours are long. The pay sucks. Everyone misunderstands that we do much more than get ‘paid to play games all day.’”
This is all true.
But I’ve never been happier.
Being a game tester is almost exactly like being a waiter/waitress in LA. Most of us dream of something bigger, better. This is what you do, until you can prove you can do better. And I knew it was going to be terrible. I did my homework—I read the horror stories—I thought I knew what to expect. But what I didn’t expect was for it to be actually really awesome in a lot of ways.
So many jobs in this wide world are in the service of others. You sell people things, or you cook their food, or you transport their goods. But as a game tester, you’re simply helping to create. It’s not the noblest creation, sure. At best you’re helping to create a multi-million dollar franchise that people will fondly look back 20 years from now as the birthplace of teabagging. At worst, you’re giving people something to entertain themselves while they hide in a bathroom stall to avoid their actually shit job. But it’s still extremely fulfilling, seeing all your hard work sitting on a store shelf or on an online marketplace.
Yeah, we’re the bottom of the totem pole. We’re scapegoats, we’re peons, we’re the first on the chopping block when funds have run dry. You have to wait 20 minutes to find our name in the credits (don’t blink), if we’re even there at all. But we are also critics, loud-mouthed nightmares of the lazy designer or programmer, and the last line of defense between money-hungry suits and the unwitting consumer.
I guess everything I’m writing isn’t really a tale, so here goes: I moved some two thousand miles, and got a game testing job. I make enough money to pay rent in the middle of a metropolis, with enough left over to eat, buy video games, and subscribe to a gym. I work at a place where everyone knows, loves, and is passionate about my primary interest: video games—definitely not something I found all those years working fast food, retail, or at a factory. My boss is
awesome, and her boss is awesome, and…well frankly I’m not really sure who his boss his but everyone in a position of real power has been honest, good people.
Sure, I still have my horror stories. I’ve worked 70 hour weeks in a game that I wasn’t credited in. I’ve had countless days of genuine, mind-numbing work be thrown back in my face as a Won’t Fix without so much a word as to why. But when I put it in perspective and look at how many friends I’ve made, how the games industry is growing and QA’s role is expanding, and how many far worse jobs are out there, I know how fortunate I am. The trenches are tough and unforgiving but if you’re smart, competent, and good-natured, then you can easily thrive here.