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How to Get a Job in Video Game Testing
Your Goal: Your goal, if you are reading this, is to get a job working in the fast-paced and ever-changing Electronic Video Game industry.
Why Game Testing: Game Testing, or Quality Assurance as it is known in the industry, is a great jumping off point for getting into a variety of other jobs in Gaming. These include, but are not limited to, Production, Game Design, Systems Design, and Audio Design (plus a heck of a lot more that I'm not going to list!) The Video Game industry is one of the few that hasn't seen a noticeably hit in profits due to the recent global economic downturn. In fact, companies are starting up every day and Game Testing is always part of any successful game business strategy.
Before You Apply: Before you even start to look for the job, make sure you know what you are getting into. Game Testing is not sitting around all day playing games and eating pizza. It is hard work and involves a great deal of documentation, meetings, emails, and interpersonal communication. Game testing is not playing through the game over and over which, while eventually boring, seems like fun in general. In QA, you are actually more likely to find yourself playing the same level or puzzle over and over again until your eyes bleed from exhaustion. That's how you get bugs fixed. Rinse and repeat. It's important to know that before you take the first step to apply.
Where To Apply: Obviously certain areas of the country (United States, but this applies to any country with Gaming companies) are more heavily populated with game companies. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle are all great cities to look for jobs, but other cities, such as New York, New Orleans, and Austin, also have Gaming presence. When scouting out companies, you need to look for places that will bring you on as a contract employee for a several month stint. You'll find as you look that many large companies (EA, Activision, Sony, etc.) have more offerings for those without experience to get a foot in the door. While it is harder to get full-time employment in QA in these companies, they allow you to get the experience needed to apply to more experience-based QA groups (Zynga, Treyarch, Bungee). Big companies are a great way to rack up test time and get the skills needed to make it long term in the industry.
Important! This is just a basic guide and there are many ways to actively seek out employment in the game industry. Two things you should keep in mind when seeking a job in Gaming, beyond what has already been said, are: 1) Temp Agencies can be a great asset for finding a job. These companies specialize in contracted labor recruitment and have close ties to the video game industry. They also have job listings online so you can browse possible options for what you want to do. 2) It really does matter who you know at least as much as it matters what you know. You'll hear people refer to the Game industry as being very incestuous, in the sense that people almost always reconnect with others with whom they've worked over the years as they move to new companies. Despite the gigantic profit margins in the industry, the total number of employees is relatively small compared to comparabley profitable industries (oil, high tech, etc). Knowing someone at the company where you are applying is a huge boost in the likelyhood of you getting a job. Recommendations from current employers nearly always get calls for interviews before strangers with not internal connections. The lesson here; make friends and network as much as possible using social media like facebook and Linkedin.