December 20, 2006
James Sakshaug, product tester for Nintendo
NINTENDO OF AMERICA, INC.
The job: For the last nine years, Sakshaug has tested unreleased video games for Nintendo, the video gaming company based in Redmond. He plays each new game for hours on end, tracks any bugs and works with programmers to resolve them.
NWjobs: What sort of background is needed to be a game tester?
James Sakshaug: You really just need a high- school diploma. I was actually in the middle of going to college and took it as a summer job and never left. You need to have really good attention to details, you need to be able to concentrate for really long periods of time and you should have really good written and verbal communication skills.
NW: How many testers work at Nintendo?
JS: Right now, we have about 30 permanent testers and then we'll have anywhere from 20 to 250 contract testers.
NW: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be a game tester?
JS: If you really want to do it, there are a few staffing companies who fill our contractor positions and contractor (positions) for other companies that need game testers. Get your foot in the door that way, get experience doing the game testing and then look for openings in the company. One of the biggest things they look for, other than a good education, is having experience.
NW: What's the best part of the job?
JS: I love the traveling. I go on a lot of trips ... (for) media, buyers or the public where I'm showcasing our software and teaching them about the new products. I travel all over the U.S. and Canada. I also get to play all the games and systems before they come out. Since we can't talk about it outside of work, the mystique of the job is kind of cool.
NW: What's your least favorite part?
JS: The long hours, but once I get my paycheck then that goes away. I did a 24-hour shift once, just testing one game. When it gets down to the end and you're near a deadline, you can work up to 16-hour days for weeks on end -- weekends, too. And our busy time is the summer usually -- that's the other drawback -- but I love to ski so it's not so bad.
NW: You must love video games.
JS: I've been training for this job since I was about 7 years old.
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