QA testers (often referred to colloquially as "games testers") are responsible for providing essential quality control during the games development process, through the performance of various functionality tests.
There is no standardized testing methodology within the games industry; each individual company may employ different testing methods and criteria. However, developers must ensure that their products meet various industry expectations, such as the compliance requirements of hardware manufacturers (e.g.: Sony's Technical Requirements Checklist for platforms such as the Playstation 3) and regulatory bodies (such as the ESRB and PEGI), as well as ensuring maximum compatability with various hardware components (e.g.: graphics cards and peripherals, such as joysticks and control pads).
Games Developers may employ a full time QA staff, or hire freelance staff during the later stages of their game's development; some developers (particularly smaller studios) may rely on outsourcing to third-party testing labs (for example, Babel Media), or require their staff from other departments to also perform testing. Testing is also carried out by Publishers, who usually employ their own QA department. Beta testing is often performed by individuals from within the gaming community, players who may be brought onto the project by invitation to a closed beta; alternatively, software may be released in an "open beta" format and rely on feedback generated by preliminary users (a method often used by indie developers due to budget constraints).
Senior/Lead QA Testers
Lead or senior QA testers are, in addition to their roles as functionality testers, responsible for additional tasks such as:
- Maintenance of bug report databases (e.g.: Test Track Pro)
- Producing report templates, test plans, and other documents
- Managing the test team, co-ordinating testers and ensuring that bug reports are up to company standards
- Maintaining communication between other departments (such as programming and design) and the test team, chasing up bug fixes
- Compiling samples of gameplay footage for submission to regulatory bodies for certification, such as PEGI and the ESRB
- Management of test team resources, ensuring testers have the right equipment
Whilst the majority of QA testers are paid an hourly rate and employed on a freelance basis, more senior staff such as lead QA may be offered fixed-term or even permanent contracts; salaries vary considerably (based on qualification, amount of experience and responsibility), but according to UK government careers advice can reach around £30k per year for senior testing staff. Lead QA testers often progress towards other management-related roles (such as in marketing and as producers) within the industry.