I’m seeing more video game kickstarters offer “beta testing” as a part of their rewards. As an occasional professional game tester, I see this as a further degradation of an already weakly regarded profession.
Video game QA is a hard road. Your work is downplayed as “playing games for a living.” People discount your long hours and late nights as just playing around. “That must be fun!” they say, not understanding the frustrations of broken levels and gameplay, the careful diplomacy of pointing out flaws in other people’s work, or just the banal repetition of spending 40-60 hours a week on the same unfinished game over the course of months or even years.
Even within the game industry QA is often considered a lesser position, something your neighbor’s kid can be brought in to do for minimum wage. Just as good programmers are significantly more productive and effective, so is it with QA. A skilled quality assurance technician will be able to find more and better issues, and write them up in a clear, consistent and unbiased manner.
And this brings us to the problem. By offering beta testing as an “award” you further reinforce that it is not a job that should be paid for, and doesn’t require any particular skills. You also put yourself in the hands of untrained testers, and can have no confidence in the results of their testing. Without a proper vetting and testing process, you will be swamped with poorly written opinions masked as bugs. Also, because they have put in the time and work writing the bugs and having paid for the privilege of doing so, they will expect those issues to be addressed, even if they are not actually bugs.
So I urge you, hire competent testers, pay them appropriately, and I look forward to playing your game when it comes out.
I am also available for contract QA, by the way.