In short, yes, you can be a full-time video game tester. The "dream job" for button-pushing fans all over the world is likely not what they envision, however. For example, the job is usually a contract job that doesn't provide benefits or long-term security.
What's Involved in Video Game Tester Jobs?
There are meetings, developmental planning sessions, and focus groups to attend. The testers definitely don't just "play all day," and when they do play, they don't play the way "normal players" play. Instead of power leveling and quest completing, testers try to "break" the game. They try to create bugs or other situations that exploit game loopholes. Then, they report these problems to the coders, whose job it is to correct any problems.
After that, the testers go back and try to create both the same problems and other problems. If the original problems aren't fixed when they retest it, then they send it back to the coders. Other problems are also reported.
What Do You Make?
The short answer is: not much. In many cases, entry-level jobs pay minimum wage or slightly more. Experienced candidates for video game tester jobs might earn as much as $20 an hour once being hired.
How Do I Get Hired?
You must be able to communicate effectively. You have to be able to perform under pressure regarding both results and tight deadlines. You also have to know where to look. Having an "in" is extremely helpful in finding a position. You also have to realize that many times, your first job in the industry will be a temp job. The game developers want to find the best people who can work the fastest and provide the best results. Treat a temp job as an extended tryout. Always give your best. Put the job before everything else.
Even if you do that, you might still be "there one day and gone the next." Don't take it personally. Temp jobs are just that: temporary. They don't have to translate into semi-permanent jobs. Remember, job security largely doesn't exist in this industry. If, however, you work hard and make a name for yourself as a sensational tester that helps bring games to the market, you will most likely be able to find work again after one job ends.
You should also realize that you might have to test games you don't like. If you're a fan of first-person shooters, you might find yourself having to play a game designed for 5-year-olds. With most jobs, although you have some input on which games you get to test, remember that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other aspiring game testers out there who would love to test any game if they were given a chance in your place.
The best way to approach a video game tester jobs is to treat them as a way to get involved in the industry. If all you want to do is test, great. If you want to use your experience in testing to begin designing and move up the ladder, that's equally great. Good luck in your career!