December 17, 2006

The Cause

A tester at one of the major publishers commented regarding my "QA Bill of Rights," saying he agreed with it about 80% and that I had "messianic fantasies" regarding my position in the industry.

I wouldn't say that I have messianic fantasies. I will say that I've been trying to fill a perceived hole.

Over the last decade, I've seen quality assurance get crammed lower and lower on the priority list. The tester week-to-production week ratio at has moved from a semi-reasonable 1:10 average to 1:35 and above at some studios. During that time, complexity has increased exponentially, and the industry has answered the challenge of testing this by throwing inexperienced bodies at the problem rather than approach it the way they approach every other discipline: with experienced, knowledgable people who are passionate about their work.

Designers, developers, artists, all disciplines have had someone to champion their cause...but not testing. The end result is that testing has turned into a faceless department filled with temps whose sole purpose is to pound on their controllers until something breaks and then hope that the development team doesn't ridicule their bugs and waive them outright.

Long story short (too late), quality assurance in this industry is broken. Nobody disputes that. I hoped to drive some positive change, and I've seen some change happen. It's been at the local level mostly, but it's a start.

Now I'm not going to be able to push for change from the inside for awhile. To be honest, I'm okay with that. But now people in games QA have to make a decision. Is the cause of reform worth pushing for or not? If it is, are you going to champion change in your own organization? Are you going to champion change in your area?

The industry can change for the better, but you have to make it happen. That's what I tried to do.

What will you do?

1 comment:

tryanarnold said...

Well, technically I'm a Mastering Lab Technician...but I was a tester for two and half grueling years, so I'll wear it like a badge of honor. It is a good point you raise about throwing inexperienced bodies at the complexity. Part of the problem is that few people enter QA for the long haul. It is generally seen as a place to "pay your dues" and "move up the ladder to Production". When people do become permanent or move into production roles they tend to forget their roots and certainly don't fight for their former colleagues back in QA. I think that you're onto something with your concept of changing the perception of QA within the industry. Especially your assertion that Artists, Programmers, and Designers are given a lot more respect while testers are generally seen as 2nd class contributors. I guess I've been in the trenches so long it wouldn't even occur to me to question the superiority of other departments...but that'd be selling short our own departments importance and QA's contributions to the project as a whole.