Apr
28
2011

What in the world is QA?

Wow, this is my first blog post huh?  Some might say it is dangerous and stupid giving me a forum to talk about the video games industry and QA as a profession.  Partly because I’m not the most regimented when it comes to blog posts (as my consistently dormant WordPress blog will attest to) and also because my musings often spill into incoherent ramblings, as exemplified by my twitter feed (@DarrenTBennett – cheap plug #1 :P ).  Either way I’m going to give it a shot.  Wish me luck!

 

For my first blog I thought I’d give a brief blurb on who I am, set the scene and tell y’all about what we do in Quality Assurance here at Big Blue Bubble, and explain what QA’s overall goals are, in the hope that it will help provide you with a better understanding of what it is like to be a ‘Video Game Tester’.

My name is Darren T. Bennett, I am 31 years old and I am QA Director here at Big Blue Bubble.  I moved to Canada, and started working at Big Blue Bubble 5 years ago and have been working in the video games industry for the past twelve years.  Yes, this means I am old and yes it means I remember VCR’s, ‘record players’ and when video games came out on tape cassette (ask your parents or Google it).

Throughout my career, the majority of my work has been centered on ‘Quality Assurance’ (as a heads up, this is often shortened to ‘QA’ and also commonly referred to as ‘Video Games Testing’ – note that down as I’ll use all these terms at some point).  What this job entails is making sure the games that we make as a company, go to market with as few flaws or defects as possible.

The doyen of knowledge that is Wikipedia defines the task of game testing as the following:

The primary function of game testing is the discovery and documentation of software defects (aka bugs).’

Now some of you reading this might not really understand how video games are made or how they work.  That’s cool!  I won’t judge.  Hell, I just learned how to make meatloaf for heaven’s sake, so we are all new to something right?  Well, to put it in a nutshell, making a video game is a long and sometimes arduous task, often involving thousands of hand created images and hundreds of thousands of lines of code all combined to create the game that you, the player, see’s on screen.  I may be an Italian plumber jumping up and down hitting mushrooms, a soldier running through a field shooting terrorists or a flame burning through a rope in an innovative game featuring over 100 exciting levels on your iPhone (Burn the Rope, now available on the iTunes App Store – cheap plug #2 :P ) .

As I’m sure you can imagine, with all of these elements coming together, they don’t always function in wondrous harmony.  Sometimes the graphics on screen might not look quite right or the game might not play the way it should and have weird things happen when you perform certain actions.  Now, everyone in the team that makes a game, has their own role.  Designers are the ones, with their limitless imaginations, who define how a game will play and what actually will go into a game.  The programmers, with their immense knowledge of their craft and unshakable dedication, create line after line of complicated code.  The artists draw and develop the beautiful images and graphics you seen on screen and that visually bring a game to life.  Finally, producers are the generals that bring all these elements together and make sure that this multi-faceted process runs like clockwork.

Question is, who finds the flaws?  Who hunts down the bugs like a rabid band of nerdy Sherlock Holmes impersonators?  Who diligently searches, hour after hour for those defects that, if they were to remain in the product that goes on sale, would hinder, ruin or just plain stop the enjoyment that you, the player, would get from the game?  Well that is where ‘Quality Assurance’ come in – we attempt to assure the quality of the game that you play (clever naming eh?).

Let me guess, you are probably saying to yourself ‘Yeah, yeah Darren, that’s just a long-winded way of saying you play games for a living’.  I’ll admit, to a certain extent this is true but we, as video games testers, play games in a different way that you might at home.  We run into walls to make sure they have no gaps or holes.  We check every line of text in the game to make sure there are no misspellings or rude words.  We are the ones that play the game, from start to finish, over and over and over again for weeks on end, just to ensure the game doesn’t break.  It’s sometimes a thankless and boring task (and I’ll get into this in a future blog post), but there is a reason I have been doing this for almost half of my lifetime: because I love this, I love video games and to be a video games tester you have to.  Every great tester is driven by an innate curiosity to explore and push a game to its limits; a desire to make sure that every game they get their hands on exudes the utmost quality and, above all else, has a huge passion for video games.

Hopefully now you understand what a video games tester is and what it is they do.  In future posts I am going to open the door of Quality Assurance a little wider; telling you the ups and downs of the job, letting you know exactly how we go about testing a video game and, if you are lucky, I may even let you in on a ‘day in the life’ of a tester (minus the ‘stuffing our faces with donuts’ and ‘going to the bathroom’ bits).  Thanks for reading!

 

About the Author: Darren

11 Comments + Add Comment

  • Darren
    I enjoyed your blog post and really like your writing style!
    It is an interesting job and I would like to hear more about it. I also don’t mind some incoherent ramblings.
    Please write more!
    L

    • Thank you Leah! You are far too kind. From these comments I can assume one of two things:

      1) You had a liquid lunch.
      2) You have exquisite taste.

      …lets assume it’s #2 ;)

      I have another blog post coming up soon detailing the ups and downs of being a tester so keep your eyes peeled.

      Thanks for the support!

  • Awesome post, Darren! I can’t wait to hear more from you!

    • Thanks Amanda!

      …although you were telling me at lunch I was (and I quote) ‘boring’…whatsupwidat?

  • Good introduction to QA & I’m looking forward to more specific information about your day/job!

    • Thank you!! I didn’t know people would be so interested!

  • D – great post. Sounds like a very hard job, whilst I love video games, whether I could do it day in day out is another thing. Thank you for assuring we have quality in our games. Keep it up. K

    • Thanks! :) See, I told yoo I dun right gud! :P

      I don’t want to make out like I have the worst job in the world…far from it. I love my job, I love the company I work for…hell, I wouldn’t have dedicated almost half my life to this career if I didn’t. I am just hopefully opening the door a little to either people who are interested in getting into the industry. Hopefully, if people know what to expect a little more, perhaps it will even raise the profile and ‘quality’ (no pun intended) of the profession itself.

  • [...] for us so we have no glitches in our play time. Find out what being a QA Director for BBB is like here, also check out their latest app Burn the Rope. LikeBe the first to like this post.▶ No [...]

  • Darren, I thought this blog post was really really cool. I was wondering if I could apply to be a part of the team at BBB. Specifically in the “QA” department.

  • [...] for us so we have no glitches in our play time. Find out what being a QA Director for BBB is like here, also check out their latest app Burn the [...]

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