When you talk to many gamers about what the most important job is when developing a game, you'll get many answers. Few people will bring up game QA testing.
It's an important job, though, and the testers have it tough: those poor folks who spend their days and nights locked in some basement trying to find all the ways they can break a product. Jump into every wall, play one level for twelve hours, play one part of one level for fourteen hours, this is the sort of thing you can expect. The hours are terrible, the pay is lousy, and no one will likely know who you are. You think the crunch time for developers is bad? Listen to this storyfrom a QA Lead.
At one company, I stepped into a vital role as the only senior tester, and my managers did everything to keep me on site and organising the test team. My boss bought me a hammock, which he installed while I was at lunch, that I would sleep in almost every night. When I complained about needing clean clothing they had the secretary buy me a new wardrobe. A cell phone was bought for me, to get a hold of me whereever I was, even in the bathroom; when I complained about not seeing my girlfriend in two weeks – I lived with her – they paid for a hotel room for us twice a week to see each other. I did this almost straight seven days a week for seven months… when it was done I spent three months decompressing from the ordeal.
While people often see testing games as a way to get into a more creative role in game development, the article has a lot to say on that topic, and most of it isn't positive. Most game testers I've talked to had the same reaction to the time they spent in the trenches: they have a sort of nostalgic longing for it, along with the realistic notion of never wanting to have to go through it again. They were thankful for the experience,and glad it's over. None of them are in game development anymore.
Many gamers think they'd like to take a crack at game testing, and for that reason conditions will probably never improve. There's a line of people wanting to do it, and if you land in a job that pays overtime, the paychecks can be impressive. You also get to feel like you're involved in making a game. Is it a grind?Of course, but like any boutique industry the amount of people willing to do it will alwaysoutstrip the number of positions. Game testing will probably remain gaming'sdark little secret for forseeeable future, but one thing is clear: it's not a job for the happy-go-lucky gamer. It's tough and often thankless.