All words presented in this blog are purely opinion, not fact - unless specifically stated otherwise in the post.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

I don't think that means what you think it means...

Don't you hate it when someone criticises your work but doesn't give you any advice on how to fix it? Like a football fan shouting at a player because they missed a shot.
Yes? Well then if you were in the games industry you would probably hate me, because that is effectively what a QA Tester's job is. We're the guys who say "you're doing it wrong." and walk away, like that was enough.
So for that, games industry, I'm sorry, but you did ask what we thought.

Over my three years as a QA tester I've had a variety of responses when giving up my job title to people I've just met, ranging from condescending looks that imply that I'm not really working to excited exclamations of "Oh, wow, that must be awesome to play games all day!" and to both I offer the same response, a passive smile while I clench my teeth and try not to let out my true anger.
I've decided to clear up a few things about the role of Quality assurance in the games industry, at least from my point of view.

In every industry there's that job that nobody wants but at some point everyone has to do. That job where you get paid less than half of the next lowest paying rung of the industry, that job that requires more of you than any other job, but gives less credit or satisfaction.
For film and television it's being a runner, for legal offices it's being a Paralegal, or many offices it's that guy who makes the coffee, and for the games industry it's us; the testers.

I've seen testers asked to do code work, art work, engineer work, even heavy lifting -which our gamer bodies are not designed for dammit! - I even worked with someone who was asked to temporarily fill in for someone in art and then was made to train their replacement before they returned to the QA dungeon, all because of a simple clause in almost every contract, under services required 'Such other services as may be reasonably requested by the company.'
This means, in my experience, that so long as it's not beyond your capabilities they can ask you to do it at no extra pay.

What QA testers actually do is go through the subject game that the studio or publisher they are assigned to is working on and locate any problems with it. This means playing through a game from start to finish an innumerable number of times during their contract - just to put it into perspective, I've been working with my current company for 4 weeks now and I've probably completed the game about 350 times. it sometimes even means just playing through one section - usually the most tedious and boring section - a hundred times to make sure that it works.
We test it and test it, wracking our brains for the most complicated and unique ways of finding bugs and hand them off to developers and producers who, invariably choose not to fix them and when the game comes out as buggy as... a bee hive they blame the testers.
The game will change so many times between the first time you touch it and its release that, while you started excited, the finished product will reduce you to a grumpy mass on the floor

It's tedious and boring work that often has testers working north of 36 hour shifts - 49 hours was my record - and longer than 7 day weeks - 32 day week is my record, closely followed by me being ill for a fortnight. Often testers don't get paid overtime, instead getting 'time in lieu' that when requested is often denied, and rarely do they get bonuses. Most testers are on temporary contracts that allow companies to fire them at will, and the studios I've been in have done everything in their power to skirt laws that make it so that their employees have any sort of legal rights.

Older people say to me that their computer game loving kids would love to do what I do. I have this mental image of them running home to their kids’ and explaining how I came to my job and I just cringe.
Yes some people might like my work, but before you move onto that path please ask yourself this:
Does your child play the game, staring at every menu for inaccuracies, then, after maybe twenty minutes of gaming randomly restart it?
Do they like to play games that they have no interest in whatsoever? (your kid loves call of duty? first off how old is he? less than 18 well then stop buying 18+ games for your kid, second would he like to play Barbie’s princess adventure for forty hours this week?)
What about sleep? They don't need sleep do they?
If all the answers you gave were yes, then they're probably the ideal tester, if not then maybe you should make them focus for their GCSEs.

But then we come to the people. The funny, awesome, glorious, likeminded people that make it all worth it.
Sure the works awful, sure the hours are long and arduous, sure you don't get paid enough to eat food so you do overtime with the sole purpose of getting dinner for the first time in a week, but oh the people.
You will never find anyone quite like a tester. Sometimes that is a bad thing, but not from the point of view of another tester.
You'll never find a more likeminded, funny, intelligent group of people than in a QA studio. It's like going to work every day with your friends and just hanging out, and that's why I keep doing it. If I won £138m on the lottery Friday I would still go for the jobs, solely for the company.

This whole thing pissed me off, it was insulting, degrading, unrealistic, irrelevant to the feild of testing and offensive to me... tube
- James

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