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Careers Guide: Testing and Localisation

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Rounding up our long running careers series is perhaps the most traditional route into games; that of the tester.

Or at that least that's what many will tell you testing – also known as 'quality assurance' or 'QA' – serves the industry as. Certainly, it can provide a great entry level job, and traditionally QA work has beeb a way to get into working in other specialities in games.

But as games have grown, so has what testing includes; especially when you consider that today 'localisation' is part of the discipline. Localisation includes translating, but also much more than that; a game might need the script edited to make jokes work in a distinct culture, or even have its screen layouts reshaped to make space for new longer words or phrases. Sometimes game mechanics even need reworking to make them functional or appropriate in another country.

The role:

Traditionally, testing means playing a game – and usually an unfinished one – looking for mistakes and errors. A tester might find that a game crashes at a certain point, has an inconstancy in its script, or that a character can walk through what should be a solid wall. Testing often involves playing games, but it can also be laborious; going through a game testing that every wall is solid isn't as fun as playing a game for fun's sake. But it can be a great way to get a job at or a studio – or a company providing game testing services – letting you learn the process of games being made, and increasing your chances of finding the contact that helps you level up your games career.

However, increasingly game testing – and the craft of localising games – is a great life-long career full of challenge, technicality and creativity.

The opportunity:

As mentioned above, testing is a great way to get close to the game development process. By the same breath it also lets you get published game titles on your CV or portfolio, and puts you right in an industry where you might find other work or future employers.

Testing work is one of the lower paid jobs in the industry, but it still provides a great wage for starters. According to the most recent Develop Salary Survey, a QA tester earns an average yearly wage of £20,866 globally. A QA lead, meanwhile, averages £33,016 annually across the world.

The challenge:

Testing is a great opportunity to get involved with the industry and the game development process, and you'll find yourself playing secret game projects well ahead of release, so – especially as an entry level career – there's little to complain about, beyond the slightly lower than average industry wage. But some will tell you that testing can be a bit of a grind at the junior level. Certainly, playing games to find problems rather than have fun utterly shifts the experience of tackling a game. Testing certainly isn't just 'playing games for a living'.

The qualifications:

As with most games roles, traditional education will be a great foundation even if there's just a general spread of decent grades in core subjects. The likes of computer science and design might help at GCSE-level and equivalent. Beyond that, a game design or game-related degree will be a huge advantage. But it isn't essential. A demonstrable willingness to work hard, enthusiasm for games as a medium, and a eye for detail will be a great boon. And, of course, if you have a genuine passion for testing and localisation as a career, you'll stand out from the many wanting to use it as a route in to another role.

And if you worked on a student or game jam project, and provided testing services on that project, make sure you included the in any testing job application as a starter portfolio piece. It may not have been a published game, but working examples open doors in the world of the games industry.

Of course, if you speak other languages well, that can significantly bolster your chances in translation. And if you have studied or lived in a culture other than that of a game's country or countries of origin, you'll be a boon to any localisation of a game.

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Will Freeman