Jun 6, 2013
It’s already June now, and the QA & Localization Forum is just weeks away. With that in mind, I would like to write about my hopes and suggestions for the future of QA testing. There are, as I have addressed in some of my previous posts, some problems with QA testing today as I see it – mainly it being less attractive and harder to fully comprehend than it should and could be.
One thing I would like to see is a possibility for personal development as a QA tester. It should be seen as a career choice just like all other professions in software development. This could be achieved by a more distinct ladder for the testers, by for example adding junior and senior titles with clear benefits and responsibilities for each step. Feeling that you’re actually going somewhere would make the tester feel more important and thereby do a better job. I shouldn’t even have to mention that firing the whole QA team after a title is released is ludicrous and should never ever happen anywhere – especially not when the whole dev team gets luxurious trips abroad to celebrate (based on a true story).
Another possibility is defining more clearly the areas for which each team member are personally responsible. This would encourage testers to specialise more and become subject experts. Depending on the size of the QA team it could be bigger or smaller parts of the game – a small studio could have ‘sounds’ as an area of expertise, while a big studio that already has a whole team for audio QA might give responsibility for something specific like the sound of steps. This gives a feeling of being needed, rather than a highly replaceable goon, which might make people more likely to stay focused and dedicated. I for one find it a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning if I feel that what I do each day makes a real difference and that I am an important part of the machinery.
Furthermore, I think it’s important to hire the right people from the beginning. That is of course always going to be a hard task, but there are a few things in particular one should focus on when hiring a tester.
Many people seem to regard QA as a stepping stone to other professions in the gaming industry such as producer or game designer, and people who are aiming for another job generally don’t do a very good job in their current one. Also, whether the QA path is actually a good one to take or not if you are aiming for something else is a matter of debate, and someone who finds themselves stuck in the “QA Swamp” will certainly not perform to the best of their abilities. However, there are truly dedicated testers out there – who want nothing more than to test the living hell out of those games – and are great at it. That’s the kind of people you want in your team.
But as long as people remain so misinformed about how QA testing really works, we will always have this pit that potential testers fall into – even though they could have been great testers. What I mean is that every time I hang out on a forum where people are discussing a title and QA testing comes up, the people arguing about it clearly have no idea how it nor game development in general works (“I reported this bug in my Let’s Play three months ago but that lazy QA team hasn’t fixed it yet”/ “well at the end of the development the titled gets shipped away for QA and then the developers have nothing left to do, really”). If we, as I mentioned in my last post, were to make QA more transparent and show who we are and what we do, I think we might get a much better dialogue with our fans as well as our future employees. If people truly understood QA testing and hopefully find it attractive, they would make better testers right away. And better testers means better testing, which in turn means better titles.
Finally, there’s the matter of salary. It might sound selfish, and well of course who wouldn’t like to have more cash to spend on games, but my point is how could we ever make people want to stay as QA testers if they keep getting such low pay? Some of my friends back from university, where we all studied game development for three years, got 50% more pay than me when initially entering the business, without breaking a sweat. But then again, they are programmers. “Important” people. Not QA testers, who can be replaced by any other kid if they’re not happy with what they get. I think you understand what I’m getting at here…
Anyway, I think it’s time to wrap this up now. Feel free to share your own hopes for the future in the comments!
– The Secret Tester