Despite the activity being relatively new, the professional video game tester is already a vital part of the video game industry. There’s a ton of fruitful possibilities within the Quality Assurance business facet.

In this article, we’re going to explore some of the real responsibilities around this job, and try to shed some light on both past and present video game quality assessment – and maybe suggest a bit of how the future might look like?

If you ever wonder if QA Game Testing is really playing games all day, or just arrived here looking for tips on how to land your first gig in the gaming scene, then search no more! Strap your seatbelt, get locked and loaded, and let’s ride.

The First of Us

Game testing is a critical part of conceiving a game. Believe it or not, it can be traced back to as early as the first computers, in the late years of 1940’s and early 50s! That’s right. Back then, games were one of the best ways of demonstrating a computer’s logic capacities – thus, the demo games also deserve their rightful credits for that part of History.

Of course, we’re not talking of an era of multiple AAA launches for a vast number of platforms on a given year, but hey, there was a spark. Such spark was recognized by some of the greatest minds of that period, like Alan Turing (yup, the Alan Turing, who some refer to as the father of AI) and fellow mathematician David Champernowne. Theirs was the idea of using chess as a means of measuring the usefulness of a computing machine, for example, with the Turo Champ. Proper shoutouts must also be given to Bertie the Brain and OXO, from 1950 and 1952, respectively.

As one could guess, the machines’ prowess was much more limited than today’s multiple core processors and dedicated video cards. But all this ‘boomer energy’ was responsible for bringing great ideas forward on this field, and by the end of the 60’s, Japan was already home to companies like Sega and Namco, which already had secured partnerships with other world-famous companies such as Disney. The world was already seeing companies like the legendary Atari, completely focused on video games, emerging from the depths of a yet unknown pixelated fantasy.

Level Up, kiddo!

Considering the lack of complexity back then, game developers were also the ones to act as game testers of their own games. They only needed one or two folks with knowledge around that simple coding and a few hours to go through it all without too many hassles. There simply wasn’t any need for hiring other people to test their games. That is, until the 70’s came kicking the door in, revolutionary style.

A rather progressive and transformative era, the decade of 1970 gave birth to a hobby known as home video gaming. Rewinding our time machine to that moment in History, fiddling with brand new technological advancements were among one of the favorite experimentations of many — such as Allan Alcorn, one of Atari’s finest O.G.s – who presented Pong to the gaming world in 1972, to an instantly phenomenal success. Then came Odyssey, another household hit to amass a crazy amount of love in no time.

As ‘gameplays’ started to get more intense and complex, the industry saw new companies arise and new jobs started popping up, diversifying the range of activities around newer products, promoting a so-called ‘golden age of arcade video games’ (Space Invaders, Defender, Galaga, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong – thank you for your services!). More people started joining video games studios, companies started growing their business and more and more professionals were joining the ranks.

If you are still following through the spider webs and dust, congrats. You must be thinking “Okay, okay, this all sounds fun, all smiles and giggles and games – and you get paid?! Sign me up!”, right? And you are kinda right. Because even though the video game industry was becoming a hot topic and financial interest was on the rise, in certain ways it was still relatively easy to develop, test, and then ship a video game. Especially because quality control wasn’t much of an issue. Well, my friend, time to hop into the 1980s era. Don’t forget your shoulder pads.

The 1980’s flashing neon lights at arcade facades weren’t the only thing bleeding profusely. Meet the new gaming scene: oversaturated markets, cheaply made games with higher price tags, sketchy programming, money-grabbing products, lack of complexity, and customers with an increasingly demanding taste, eager to challenge the next big boss the industry could throw at them.

Time to Put Those Skills to the Test, Rookie!

After conquering the U.S. and European markets, as well as dominating youth and family entertainment in Japan, the video game market experienced a generational jump to more complex titles. Now, quality started to be of the essence – imagine thousands of customers spending their hard-earned coin on a console with the freshest, latest, hottest titles in the market right before Christmas, just to be greeted by a nasty game-breaking bug in your first gameplay hours?! (Let me tell you, it couldn’t be me!)

As we move forward in time, the process of creating a video game started to evolve into some sort of multidisciplinary practice, in which multiple layers of data converge, involving an astonishing amount of coding, level design choices, conceptual art, audio recording and treatment, user interface experience development, writing, localization (translating while taking into consideration a wide set of cultural and linguistic references and rules – even memes, a lot of  memes – go check Rockstar’s latest trailer, GTA 6’s announcement, it’s memefest as its best) to several languages – and countless more. And then, obviously, exhaustingly testing it all to ensure everything’s tight and the show can run smoothly like a well-oiled machine.

Game Tester, I Choose You!

Today, when we think of testing a video game, perhaps all the mystique around that ‘whizz kid’ flair, which was built throughout decades of development of the coolest entertainment industry ever ends up culminating on a misconception about the role of a game tester.

As a matter of fact, game testing involves one of the widest scopes in regard to different stages of a game life as a product. Some testing activities barely involve any playing, being very analytical, applying automated tools and test plans, and much closer to what regular software QA does. Other game testing processes aim at functionalities – tracking down interface issues, gameplay road-blockers, or visual bugs — or technicalities, ranging from the more repetitive regressions and certification processes to playtesting and ad hoc testing.

People tend to assume testing a game consists of simply playing it and checking what’s on the screen. Actually, game testers need to stay alert and maintain a keen eye for detail, using their experience in testing to understand complex test plans and detect more uncommon bugs. This could mean finding a way to ‘cheese’ your way into an off-limit area in the map to avoid players wanting to exploit it for unfair in-game advantages or assuring that a skill’s effects match their description. For example, in my experience as a tester, it always felt good when I was able to notice what we call a “bug pattern” – basically, detecting the root for an issue that can be present in multiple instances (sometimes thousands of them).

Once an issue is detected, the tester must create a bug report with all the information needed by the gamedevs to follow, aiding the dev team to reproduce and patch the bug. A bug report must show the observed result, preferably suggesting how to correct behavior, how to trigger the issue, together with any additional material (screenshots, videos, text files, string IDs, and so on). After that, it’s either rinse and repeat a few more times, or time to move on to the next issue.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

I could bet that by now, that idea about game testing being ‘all-fun-and-games’ is probably disappearing into thin air, right? The reality is that testing games is a rather repetitive process — every time a new build patches some issues, it probably still will contain bugs (or even worse, add more issues while failing to solve the previous ones!) and must be tested thoroughly once again.

This doesn’t mean that the purpose of QA is to eradicate all bugs from a client’s video game. You can (and should) ask people who are already in the industry, the answer will be the same: there’s no way of eliminating all issues from a game. If you keep digging, you will probably find out that game testers are among the people who work the hardest for a title to land on the shelves as neatly as possible and are part of the most passionate ones about what they do. Often, many bugs that were caught by QA teams end up not making the list in the priorities of a team of developers.

However, we must always remember that behind all these stages of production or post-production, are teams made of people. The human component is of great importance in these tasks, but sometimes ends up not receiving enough respect or recognition for the amount of dedication these people show. Next time your favorite game gets hit with a pesky issue, make sure to spread some love and not hate on the game devs! (Especially if it’s launch day.)

How Many Worlds Can Fit in a Video Game

Remember that deal Namco had with Disney in the 1960’s? Well, that was kid’s play, if we decide to play it unfair and compare it versus today’s market, where internationally known powerhouses work together on a regular basis. LEGO has entire video game collections of collaborations with Marvel and Star Wars, both now living under the ever-growing Disney’s brand umbrella, and all three maintain a successful collaboration with the cultural phenomenon called Fortnite. That’s only one example of how these big players roll nowadays.

Globalization has played a huge role in expanding the video game industry potential – and as it happens in any win-win relationship, video games played their part in being a key element of globalization as a shaping force from the years 2000’s forward.

Today, Localization testing has become essentially important when a game is targeted for different markets across the globe. Assuring the quality of translation of game titles, story, achievements, items, settings, and so on is not an easy feat. Each character’s line of text spoken in-game is crucial and needs to be not only translated, but understood and transported in a soulful manner, respecting the feeling and personality in a wide range of different languages and cultures. Each quest and quest item requires special attention: even if no functionality issue gets in the way, a bad localization can — and will – break the game for an entire group of players who rely on that language to enjoy an immersive, perhaps life-changing experience. And, of course, it all must be tested – in a plethora of platforms, and in multiple languages.

When it comes to LQA (Linguistic Quality Assurance), many testers come from different areas. Some testers didn’t land a position as Game Tester because they came from a programming/computing educational path, but rather from areas such as translation or linguistics. The issues which can arise from localizing a game are sometimes closer to what translating a novel would feel like, or subtitling/voicing over a tv show or a movie. For example, East Asian languages usually rely on double-byte characters. Others, such as Arabic localization will require the entire game to support right-to-left text. Time and date formats, currency and address formats, pluralization/gendering are also examples of what must be taken into account when assuring the localization quality.

Can I Join the Team?

Absolutely. Game Testing as it is today might still be one of the best ways to land an entry position in the video game industry. If you already quit the idea that it revolves around just playing your favorite games the whole day, then good — you’re starting to grasp it a bit better.

QA Game testing, be it Functionality or Linguistic, requires a good amount of reasoning, logic skills, great attention to detail, and endurance. It’s not always funny, or always your favorite genre. The builds are, at best, at 60/40 chance of not working. You’ll play the same act for 200 hours.

It gets dull. Assuring that all the pieces are together and well-connected sometimes will require countless repetitions. Sometimes you feel like you’ll never want to look at ‘that’ game again, yet you’ll always remember some lines from it by heart. I guess that’s how you aim for perfection, even when you know it’s unattainable.

If you give it time and show persistence, you might realize it is also a very rewarding job. It is welcoming to everyone skilled enough wishing to try their luck. Even more if you are fond of gaming. Every QA game tester knows that there is this special moment, when you finally see an issue, one of those you battled against like a major threat to fall and cease to exist. Get it right and your name might be part of the credits on an AAA title eventually, with great memories of the people you met on your way and had the pleasure to team with – and a nice paycheck.

Game testing is a great way of making your way into the video game industry. If you plan on establishing a career in this business, there are opportunities for growth as you become more experienced. Senior Tester, Project Support, Project Coordinator, QA Lead, and QA Manager are all good examples of opportunities that can open later.

Adding a good educational layer to your skill set won’t hurt either. Lots of testers learn by craft and end up enrolling in programs focusing on computing, game coding, visual arts, VFX/SFX, translation, linguistics, and so on. This enables the tester to potentially specialize in another area down the road, and potentially earn more as well.

I do not wish to conclude this nicely prepared piece about how game testing evolved into something great by throwing shade on the current situation for workers in the video game industry. But we cannot part ways without noting that, if we were to continue talking about the opportunities available in the video game industry of tomorrow, we’ll undoubtedly have to address the current state of things. As much as I would love to add more to it right now, that’s for another time, as it requires another whole article to make justice to the subject.

For now, I hope you found enough food for thought and topics to keep researching about all those things that are part of creating and assuring that we always receive more great video games to play!


Helder is our go-to guy, handling a bit of everything. Apart from that, he specializes in SEO Translation. Lately, he has been deeply involved in the video game industry, something that was quite restricted by his parents when he was younger.