It is the dream of many to work in the video games industry in some fashion. As more and more people grow up playing video games, it seems only natural that these people would consider being paid to play, create, or review video games as a dream job. But is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s take a look at two often sought-after jobs in gaming.
It is relatively easy to land job as a game reviewer these days. There are literally thousands of websites, both big and small, devoted to video games. Obviously the bigger and more well-known the site, the better the pay. But putting payscales aside, reviewing games is still hard work!
For example, most sites want timely reviews of newly released games. It’s not going to do them any good if you submit a review for Dragon Age 2 six months after its been released. This means that you have to play through the entire game as quickly as you can. It is standard protocol in the gaming industry to beat a game before you review it. It wouldn’t make sense to only play the first hour of a game and base your review on that, because perhaps the beginning was slow and it picks up later. Perhaps new features are introduced at the end or perhaps the story takes an unexpected twist.
When it comes to long games, like Dragon Age 2, this means you might be sitting around playing them for hours and hours everyday leading up to your review. Sounds good, right? Well it is…for awhile anyway. As much as you might love video games, everybody eventually gets bored and wants to go do something else. Or what if you don’t like it? When you’re on a deadline to complete a game for review, you don’t really have a choice but to play it. This can be very unpleasant.
Another factor is that you can’t really take your time to enjoy everything. Sticking with the Dragon Age 2 example, I personally like to draw out my gameplay over several weeks, playing just a couple hours each day, so that I can enjoy it for a longer period of time. You can’t do that when you are playing something for review because it needs to be done in a timely manner. Playing a game to review it ultimately makes it a bit less fun.
Another job that many people often look at is game testing. Just typing this phrase into Google will return over three million results (some of them more legitimate than others). When you do get a game testing job with a legitimate company, it can be really fun at times. It can also be hard work.
As a tester, you don’t always to get play games that you want to play or enjoy. Companies sometimes try to accommodate testers’ preferences but this can’t always be done. For example, would you think that testing the My Littlest Petshop video game would be fun? As a game tester, you might be asked to do just that.
Testing can also be tedious. When you normally play a game, you try to avoid running into bugs or glitches that ruin the game. When you are testing, however, you are constantly trying to find them and/or reproduce them. You don’t just get to play through as normal. In an interview with Destructoid in 2007, one professional game tester said this of the job: “The most important part of this job isn’t necessarily the ability to find bugs, but to reproduce them. If a bug occurs, testers must backtrack every step they’ve taken, and then try to narrow it down to only the essential things needed to trigger the bug. Problem-solving and deduction abilities are crucial to being able to quickly route out a bug and get on to the next.”
Imagine glitching into a rock in Fallout 3 (which is pretty easy to do) and then spending hours trying to recreate the conditions necessary to do it again. That doesn’t seem as fun as the job originally sounded.
According to several postings on gamejobs.com the average pay for a game tester is around $8 an hour or so. Testing isn’t something you can really make a career of but might serve as a nice “foot in the door” so to speak into the gaming industry as a whole.
The important thing to remember when looking at jobs in the gaming industry whether it be game design, programmer, testing, or simply reviewing them is that it is still work. Sometimes hard, tedious work. If you are very passionate about video games, you might want to consider whether or not it is worth risking turning your hobby into work.