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Dream Job? What it's really like to test games for a living

By Jos
Aug 4, 2015
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  1. For a very long time, people have imagined the life of a video game tester, not as 9-to-5 job but as the fantasy of teenagers everywhere. Who wouldn’t want to sit on a comfy couch and play games all day. Reality is a little different. Video game quality assurance (QA), as testing is called, is a low-paying, occasionally rewarding, often frustrating job that has both more and less to do with the quality of today’s games than you might expect.

    A professional QA tester doesn’t just sit by the television and saunter through level 5 of the latest shooter; he or she spends 14 straight hours running into different walls to see if they’re all solid. Proper video-game testing is more akin to abstract puzzle-solving than it is to getting a top score in Donkey Kong.

    But when a big game ships broken, is QA really to blame? How could testers possibly not find some of the bugs that show up in the games we play? Why do so many servers break all the time? Just what do QA people do all day, anyway?

    Over the past few months I’ve had extensive conversations with several dozen current and former QA testers—many of whom spoke anonymously in order to protect their careers—in an attempt to explore the world of video game testing and try to explain what it’s really like to play games for a living.

    Read the complete article.

     
  2. thorpj

    thorpj TS Enthusiast Posts: 90   +14

    Jason this is a fantastic article. It's well researched, and has been a real eye opener. It's easy for consumers to look at a game and think *how did they not fix that bug*. Well now I know.

    Also, the treatment of QA testers, it's just disgusting...
     
  3. insect

    insect TS Evangelist Posts: 315   +114

    Sounds like it's time to unionize.
     
  4. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,555   +2,361

    Because devs are really going to get serious about QA if they make it more expensive.
     
    ikesmasher likes this.
  5. Nero7

    Nero7 TS Booster Posts: 167   +48

    The excuses are really out of place. The casual consumer doesn't have to understand what QA really is, if the games quality is bad then the QA is bad. Its that simple. Now the QA being bad could be because of lack of funds efforts knowledge time whatever, the people of the QA might not be the ones responsible but in the end the QA failed and thats all that has to interest the consumer, the question why it failed is up to the dev/publisher.
     
  6. agb81

    agb81 TS Booster Posts: 77   +38

    Because rea$on$. They just need to pass certification, whatever comes after that is irrelevant.

    Of course you can dedicate additional resources to QA, but who would sacrifice profits for the sake of a good product?
     
  7. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,555   +2,361

    Putting out a bad product sacrifices more profits. Just ask Warner Bros.
     
  8. Jerimy AG

    Jerimy AG TS Rookie

    Excellent article, I love to see the other perspective (Day to day from game development)
     
  9. Kevin82485

    Kevin82485 TS Booster Posts: 159   +41

    Great article. Seems as though the solution to a lot of these problems found in games upon release is that they need more time in development to address bugs that were found, but ignored due to unrealistic/tight deadlines.

    However, adding more time to development adds to the cost of the game. I guess it's a lose-lose scenario. Maybe there just needs to be some revolution in QA and development that makes things easier.

    I liked what one QA tester said in the article about Nintendo. That Nintendo asks for video evidence of the bug to go along with the report and that this contributes to their reputation for having quality games. I couldn't agree more with that statement. Nintendo does have very high quality games. There are hardly ever any problems with games they developed.
     
  10. SirGCal

    SirGCal TS Maniac Posts: 365   +136

    The problem is companies like EA don't care. You paid for the product so after the fact you can (pick your derogative). That's also why they buy out all of the decent gaming companies so they can remove competition. Repeatedly voted worst company in the world and for good reason, they now even take that as some sick badge of honor... One reason I avoid all titles with them on the label. There's always other options out there and others act the same unfortunately. I have however had a lot of luck and support from indie developers. And honestly better games then the AAA garbage being put out today. Hope that continues.
     
  11. Misagt

    Misagt TS Booster Posts: 100   +43

    I worked for a short period for an EA company. I was excited at the possibilities that I thought were there. I figured I would work my way up, but here is the fact. This article is dead on in it's assessment. Nobody cares about QA, it's an annoying thing that companies feel forced to use. It's draining and time consuming. One day I spend 10 hours just trying to reproduce a game breaking bug where the NPC I needed to proceed didn't spawn. I had to sit there 2 hours at a time waiting to see if he would spawn clock the time the system I was using the type of character I used. It's grueling and painful. Unless it's something you truly love and can put up with piles and piles BS by those who perceived themselves better then you it's not worth it. I personally went back to my previous profession made way more money and had much more respect. it's not always about doing something that's cool, but does the job give you the life you desire outside of the job.
     
  12. risc32

    risc32 TS Booster Posts: 197   +87

    Interesting read, thanks.
    with a low entry requirement and people out there willing to work hard for little pay just to have their name listed in the credits I can't say I'm surprised. It reminds me of the photography industry. " sure, you can have my photos if you maybe mention my name somewhere" they work for free, and there are millions of them!
     
  13. tonylukac

    tonylukac TS Evangelist Posts: 1,310   +56

    My mother test food for a living, sometimes cheesecake and ice cream.
     
  14. dennis777

    dennis777 TS Enthusiast Posts: 285   +33

    That is a harsh working environment. I know that a border line exist in any developer and QA but in gaming I did not know that it was so bad.
     
  15. BenDover

    BenDover TS Rookie

    I worked for Zenimax for a while as a tester. Pretty much everything in this article is accurate. As temp employees we weren't invited to extravagant Christmas parties and things like that. When you ate lunch in the cafeteria you would see the development team, including higher-ups like Todd Howard eating lunch and while if I were him, I'd hate it for Temps to come up to me while I enjoy my lunch and bother me about who knows what, it was pretty much a rule that those guys are gods and shouldn't be acknowledged by the QA Temps. The pay was low and the work was extremely tedious to the point that you don't want to play games at home, but on the bright side, I gained some invaluable in site into game development by seeing how each build sent to us for testing changed all the way from a pre-alpha state to a polished, finished product. It's also true that the QA team may find several bugs that never get fixed because the devs decide it isn't important enough.

    It was a cool experience, but I wouldn't do it again.
     

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