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need to make yourself available at specific times The company will probably also ask you to fill out surveys or provide written feedback about the game A minimum age Many beta tests require that participants sign a nondisclosure agreement or some other kind of contract that prohibits participants from making copies of the game or even talking about it with friends In order for these contracts to be binding, the player must be over 18 In cases where there is no contract, publishers may still set an age limit of 13, because the Children s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prohibits the collection of personal data on anyone younger than that Here are some tips on being a good beta tester the kind that makes the manager sit up and pay attention: Take careful notes A bug report that says game crashed is worthless When a problem occurs, write down exactly what you were doing and what you saw on the screen at the time Don t write a novel, but try to cover thoroughly everything that could have a bearing on the situation If you have the ability to capture screen shots, definitely do so if they help to illustrate the bug Take ownership of problems You can simply report bugs as they occur, but your reports will have more value if you try to get some understanding of why they occurred, especially if you re having configuration problems Try to track down the source of the problem Turn off some features of the game and see if it still happens Get involved! Be patient Remember, you re playing with unfinished software; it s going to have bugs in it If you get 90 percent of the way through a brutally hard level and the game crashes, well, that s why you re testing it Take a deep breath, count to ten, then report the bug accurately and try again Be courteous and constructive Don t send reports saying, This is the lamest piece of junk I ever played, even if it s true First, that isn t helpful; second, it s bound to annoy whoever s reading it and make her discount whatever else you have to say The company will look more kindly on useful suggestions for improvement, although you have to realize that by the time a game reaches beta, it s too late for any substantial changes If you can develop a positive, constructive relationship with the testing manager, establishing your intelligence and dedication, then you can open up a dialog about working for the company Don t rush this, however Beta test is a rough time, and everyone is extremely busy trying to get the product out; they don t have much time to think about hiring Demonstrate your usefulness first and make your pitch later, after the beta test period has ended
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Think of beta testing not just as a hoop to jump through on the way to a job, but a means of building up experience That s what it really is
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Attend Focus Groups
When companies want to get some feedback from their customers about a product they re working on, they often hold a focus group This is a gathering of anywhere from 4 to 20 or 30 people whom the company believes are representative of their target market for the product They get you together for three or four hours, usually at their facility, show you the product, and ask for your reactions Then they take the results back and make adjustments to the product accordingly If there s a game development or publishing company in your area, find out what they make and try to get in on a focus group or two Call the company, ask for the marketing department, and let them know you re interested If you have any credentials like having done beta tests, or reviewed games for a school newspaper, say be sure to mention them Participating in focus groups isn t doing game development, but it will enable you to meet some of the people in the company, and get an idea of what a work-in-progress is really like
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