Remote Playtesting
(Penny Arcade, January 2010)

Ahh, playing games for a living.

The dream: kicking back and playing near-complete beta versions of awesome new titles from the biggest developers before anyone else gets to see them, pausing occasionally to scribble your piquant and trenchant observations in a notebook.

The reality: running the main character of the licensed Cars 3 game into every possible wall texture in a level and recording in detail the approximately 600 bugs and glitches that result. For 12 hours a day 6 days a week.

If you still really want to do this, however, there's some good news; you no longer have to move to expensive places like Seattle and San Francisco to get these near-minimum-wage jobs. There are now opportunities to playtest at home and get paid for it.

Now, fair warning; traditional in-person playtesting still dominates the industry. You'll see certain companies (like traditional-ass Nintendo) flat refuse to do it under any circumstances. Given the realities facing companies who need testers (it's not a very desirable or well-paying job, their headquarters are always in places where it costs 11ty billion dollars per month to live in a studio apartment, testers have much less potential upward mobility than they did in the old days), however, some are opening up to hiring remote workers for this and I would guess you'll see even more loosen up over time. Probably not Nintendo though.

So, what are the options and where are the opportunities?

1) Game Testing Agencies

As with most freelance internet-based gigs, a lot of "agencies" have popped up using a centralized clearinghouse model to take contracts from a variety of different game companies. They maintain a fleet of remote workers to handle the grunt work as it comes in.

VMC is one of the big ones. They're a more generalized software QA contractor, but apparently game testing is a big part of their portfolio. They aren't real transparent about the pay or terms though. An old GAF thread says that in 2014 they were offering 10.50 an hour. Also, a 2016 Reddit thread corroborated by more recent Glassdoor reviews suggests that they don't pay anyone testing a game until that particular testing cycle is complete ... meaning it could be months before you see your money. You can apply online at their site if that doesn't scurr you though.

Some companies that operate on a similar model: Player ResearchCrowdsourced TestingPlaytest Cloud19Studios and VG Market.

2) Working Direct For Game Companies

As mentioned, for the companies that still hire their own in-house playtesters, they usually want you to move to where their headquarters or one of their major corporate offices is and show up in person every day. Partially that's due to controlling the software and preventing leaks.

But there's also simply the issue of there being a lot of people who will do this for free. A whole bunch of companies get away with operating on the "we won't pay you but you can have a copy of the game for free or a shirt or something" model for remote workers; these include MicrosoftActivisionUbisoft and 2K.  

If you want to work for a specific company and actually make some sort of a wage, at this point you're pretty much stuck with moving to where they are. I don't have any specific examples but I would guess you would have more luck finding direct remote work with smaller mobile-focused publishers than with the larger AAA console/PC companies.