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Summer Job Scams

Originally appeared in "The Games Game" column on The IGDA website was massively redesigned in 2013, making old columns unavailable, so select columns are now being reposted here on an as-needed basis.

Summer Job Scams (July 2007)

Dear Mr. Sloper,
My passion is to work in games. For now, since I'm just a high school kid, my best option for jumping in, before I get through college, is... as a tester. I've been doing my homework (researching "game testers" on the Internet) and I came across this website: [URL deleted]. This site says I can earn up to $80 per hour testing games, which sounds really really good to me. I mean, if I can make $80 per hour this summer, that'd be really really good in my savings account as I go into my senior year and start thinking about which colleges to apply to. But here's my problem. This site wants me to buy a membership, in order to be notified of game testing jobs I can apply for.
The cost of that membership may not seem like a lot to a working adult, but it's a lot to me (you know - "just a high school kid"). If I buy that membership, what are the chances that I'll get a game testing job that pays $80 per hour? If they're greater than 50%, that'd be totally worth it to me. So, what's the deal, is that site for real, or is it a scam?
Anxious to get started


Dear Anx,
I'll get the really bad news part out of the way first. Unless you live within a couple miles of a game company that has a lax hiring policy and is very desperate for temporary testers, you probably cannot get any kind of testing job for the summer.
That said... Publishers sometimes want to get a bunch of end users to try out their games in the home, and sometimes they might even pay a nominal fee to get that kind of feedback. I call that "beta testing," to differentiate it from the full-time job of Q.A. (Quality Assurance) testing. If a publisher paid someone, say, $500 to playtest a game for six and a quarter hours, that would come out to $80 per hour. Giving [URL deleted] the benefit of the doubt, maybe this is what they're talking about when they refer to $80/hour testing "jobs."
But I think that at best, sites like that one are misleading. An hourly rate should only be mentioned in reference to a regular job, one that runs for months at least, if not years. $80/hour is more than most game programmers and producers make. If you work a 40-hour week for $80/hour, that calculates out to over $150,000 per year. No way does any company pay testers that much! Another of those gamer testing websites promises "up to $120 per hour" to those who buy a membership. Do the math. $120 per hour calculates out to over $225,000 per year. That's as much as the CEOs of some triple-A publishers make!
X-Files fans say "I want to believe." And Hemingway said, "Isn't it pretty to think so." But if you don't live within easy reach of a game company, and if your local friendly neighborhood game company won't give a summer testing job to a high school kid, then you need to look elsewhere for a job to keep you employed throughout the summer. And it's going to pay a lot less than [URL deleted] would like you to believe. Don't give money to someone who tries to feed you lies like that.

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